‘Sporting fairness’ leaves Rangers to play in Third Division

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Rangers newco were yesterday voted into the Irn-Bru Third Division in a day of drama which leaves huge questions over the future of the Scottish Premier League.

An overwhelming majority of Scottish Football League clubs – 25 to five – who met at Hampden decided to place the Ibrox club into the bottom tier with SFL chief executive David Longmuir claiming it was a decision based on “sporting fairness, the fundamental principle of the SFL”.

It was a massive blow for the SPL and the Scottish Football Association, who were hopeful that Ally McCoist’s side, who had been denied admittance into the top league, would be parachuted into the First Division, with SFA chief executive Stewart Regan claiming that putting Charles Green’s club into the Third Division would bring financial catastrophe and a “slow, lingering death” of the game.

After the historic vote Inverness revealed they would be holding an emergency board meeting today to discuss the financial implications of the decision which is certain to lead to a loss of revenue to all SPL clubs and put the future of several of them in jeopardy.

SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster forecast that SPL clubs would lose £16m next season if the Ibrox club were not admitted into the First Division.

The prospect of an SPL 2 – a possible contingency plan to keep Rangers within one season of a return to the top flight – was flagged up by the official Light Blues’ website with a statement which said: “It was mooted last week that plans for an SPL2 would swing into action in the event of today’s outcome but it is not known if this will be the case.”

However, the show of solidarity by the SFL clubs, from which Longmuir took “great succour”, would make it all but impossible for SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster to pull that off.

There was also speculation surrounding the prospect of the Govan club being invited straight into the SPL at its AGM at Hampden on Monday, but that would leave the top flight stripped of any credibility and leave Doncaster’s position untenable, if it is not already under threat.

There were enough cryptic comments from SFL representatives to believe Rangers’ fate has not yet been sealed.

Dunfermline chairman John Yorkston believes there could be another “twist in the tale. I’m not sure it is over now”, while responding to the suggestion that plans for an SPL 2 could now be formulated by saying: “That wouldn’t surprise me.”

Asked if he thought Rangers would be playing in the Third Division on the first day of the season, Livingston chairman Gordon McDougall, said “I don’t know, I honestly don’t know” although he did not believe an SPL 2 was realistic.

But Green and McCoist, who, along with Regan, addressed the SFL meeting, said they would accept Rangers’ fate.

Green said: “We wish to play a constructive part in Division Three and encourage our fans to support the other clubs within the league by attending matches and delivering to them the benefits of having Rangers within their league.”

Football news: Page 3.