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Rangers charged by SFA over 2011/12 UEFA licence issue

The Scottish FA compliance officer has served the club with a notice of complaint.

NEWS

Andy Coyle

Rangers have been charged by the Scottish FA with breaking the governing body's rules over a tax bill subsequent to being awarded a licence to play in European football in the 2011/12 season.

The governing body has brought two charges against the Ibrox club, relating to their reporting of the 'Wee Tax Case' in paperwork submitted to Hampden.

In September 2017, the Scottish FA instructed its compliance officer to investigate the circumstances surrounding Rangers UEFA licence application in 2011 and its own decision to grant the club permission to play in Europe.

Nine months later, after reviewing documentation from the time and evidence given during the Craig Whyte trial, the Hampden official has decided that Rangers have a case to answer over the "monitoring period".

UEFA rules state clubs applying to play in Europe should have "no payables overdue" to tax authorities, but do allow applications to progress if amounts are in dispute.

Rangers said at the time of their application in 2011 they had no overdue payables but that they were in dispute with HMRC over their liability from a Discounted Option Scheme, known as "the Wee Tax Case", which was in use from 2000 to 2002.

However, in court testimony given during the Craig Whyte trial, Rangers and Murray Group directors stated the club knew the tax bill was overdue in November 2010, months before their UEFA licence application.

Following the court case, the Scottish FA took legal advice from a QC before referring the matter to their compliance officer to investigate whether the governing body had acted correctly when processing the licence application.

That has resulted in two separate charges, due to the change in the governing body's own disciplinary rules from Articles of Association to a Judicial Panel Protocol.

The first charge relates to failing to comply with "the articles and any statutes, regulations, directives, codes, decisions and international match calendar promulgated by the board or by a standing committee, committee or sub-committee thereof, or by FIFA or UEFA or by the Court of Arbitration for Sport".

The second alleges that Rangers did not follow rules that: "All members shall:- (a) observe the principles of loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship in accordance with the rules of fair play; (b) be subject to and comply with the articles and any statutes, regulations, directives, codes, decisions and international match calendar promulgated by the board, the Professional Game Board, the Non-Professional Game Board, the Judicial Panel Protocol, a committee or sub-committee, FIFA, UEFA or the Court of Arbitration for Sport; (f) behave towards the Scottish FA and other members with the utmost good faith."

Sanctions for the second rule breach range from a £1,000 fine up to "£5,000,000 and/or ejection from the Scottish Cup and/or exclusion from the Scottish Cup and/or any player registration restrictions and/or suspension and/or termination of membership and/or any sanction or disposal not expressly provided above".

A response from Rangers is due by May 22, with a principal hearing date set for June 26.

Regardless of the outcome, UEFA are unlikely to take any action over the matter, having a five-year limit on dealing with historic cases.

Today's charges also raise the question over whether the Scottish FA will approve the appointment of director Alastair Johnston.

Rangers director Alastair Johnston has been serving as a member of the club's board since June 2017 but has yet to be approved as a "fit and proper person" by the Scottish FA.

Johnston was Rangers chairman at the time of the 2011 licence application and the Scottish FA board had parked a decision on his fit and proper status until it had clarity on the events surrounding that process.