I see a bit of debate on the blog this morning on Lord Nimmo Smith’s SPL Commission, which has retired to prepare its report. In March last year former Rangers owner, Sir David Murray, insisted no Rangers players had “side contracts”, inferring there was no case to answer. This line has not been peddled since. Instead, various excuses are offered in mitigation.
BBC’s award winning The Men Who Sold the Jerseys documentary established that a large number of players received money in connection with playing football which was not recorded with the SPL and SFA. Even Rangers counsel at the First Tier Tribunal conceded tax should have been paid on five of these players.
The real issue for Nimmo Smith is how to impose an appropriate punishment for illegal registration on this scale, which is consistent with punishments recently handed out to Spartans, Dunfermline and others, all of whom were kicked out of competitions, and fined up to a quarter of their annual income, for offences relating to single games.
For a couple of years now we have discussed the toxicity of matters surrounding the Rangers group of clubs. Actions carried out during the Murray and Whyte eras put Rangers into liquidation with vast governance issues plaguing the game and the new club which inherited their player registrations.
On the assumption the SPL Commission concludes Rangers were guilty of fielding illegally registered players in hundreds of games, what would an appropriate punishment be? Forget about stripping titles, or reclaiming prize money, both of which are merely consequences of the facts being established, not punishments.
I have total confidence Nimmo Smith will submit a report beyond reproach on whether Rangers broke the rules, but would he send for a Black Cap before handing out a sentence? I’m not so sure. Spartans and the rest might feel their 25% annual income fine for a single-match offence might become an embarrassment to some of the game’s administrators.
“Without fear or favour” was what we were promised last year. Let’s see.
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