Rangers manager Ally McCoist condemns SFA threats


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The Independent Online

Threatening behaviour towards members of a Scottish Football Association panel that punished Rangers was described as disgusting by manager Ally McCoist today.

The Ibrox side was handed a £160,000 fine and 12-month transfer embargo by the Scottish Football Association (SFA) judicial panel after being found guilty of five charges in relation to its financial affairs and the appointment of Craig Whyte as chairman.

Last night, the governing body revealed that police had given security advice to three of its members that made up the panel after their names ended up online, as well as SFA directors.

Earlier this week, McCoist called for the identities of the panel to be released and said their decision could "kill" the club.

He told RangersTV: "Who are these people? I want to know who these people are.

"Make no mistake about it, this is an SFA decision.

"They have appointed the panel so therefore they are working for the SFA, but who are they?

"In terms of our supporters, again they have received another kicking and we just feel it's time to start fighting back."

But in a statement issued today, the manager said his remarks should not have been interpreted as a "signal to engage in any form of threatening behaviour".

McCoist said: "I would like to make quite clear my position in relation to the decision by the SFA's judicial panel, which earlier this week imposed sanctions against Rangers which have far-reaching consequences for our club and Scottish football.

"I firmly believe that decisions of this magnitude should be fully transparent and everyone should have confidence in the system that has been created to deliver such a finding.

"When I called for full transparency on Tuesday, I took the view that the decision by the judicial panel should be subject to proper scrutiny. It is unthinkable in any walk of life that such a significant punishment would be meted out without full transparency.

"I fully understand that there are difficult decisions to be taken in football and they will never suit everyone but, in this day and age, clarity and transparency are surely of paramount importance.

"That said, I would not for one moment want anyone to interpret my remarks as a signal to engage in any form of threatening behaviour.

"Such activity disgusts me and anyone who engages in it does Rangers Football Club nothing but harm. No Rangers supporter should get themselves involved in it - not now, nor at any time.

"Our focus has got to be firmly on ensuring that the club's case in appealing the sanctions imposed on us is put forward robustly and in the appropriate manner.

"Rangers Football Club was a victim of what happened during the tenure of Craig Whyte.

"The club was not an accomplice, a co-conspirator nor a perpetrator of wrongdoing.

"We suffered from it and still are. I hope that our appeal can be dealt with by the SFA as quickly as possible as the situation for the club and the possible ramifications for Scottish football are very serious."

Officers from Strathclyde Police have visited the SFA's headquarters at Hampden Park and the football body was told that all the threats are being taken seriously.

An SFA spokesman said last night: "We are deeply concerned that the safety and security of judicial panel members appointed to a recent tribunal has been compromised by a wholly irresponsible betrayal of confidential information.

"The judicial panel consists of volunteers from across the spectrum of sport and business in Scotland. They are appointed on the basis of anonymity, yet all three panel members have reported intrusion into their personal and work lives, including abusive and threatening communication.

"This has been extended to directors of the SFA, whose private details have been published on internet sites and who have, themselves, been victims of abusive communication."

Rangers fans' groups have raised the prospect of holding protests outside Hampden and boycotting SFA sponsors, while calling on players to boycott the national team.

On Tuesday SFA chief executive Stewart Regan clarified the disciplinary process, saying the judicial panel tribunal, which sat in a three-day hearing last week, was an independent body made up of three members appointed from a list of more than 100.

Mr Regan stressed the process was approved unanimously by member clubs last year and the SFA had acted on the advice of clubs to implement a "robust disciplinary system that reflected the demands of the modern game".

Rangers' administrators said the punishment could hinder attempts to sell the club to new owners and they have called for an immediate appeal hearing.

Strathclyde Police Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins said: "There has been a huge amount of media reporting today about the ongoing situation at Rangers Football Club and the decision taken by the Scottish FA's judicial panel.

"I can confirm that we are investigating allegations of threats and it would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment in detail.

"However, what is clear is that we are still seeing far too many people using the internet and social media to issue offensive or threatening messages to people.

"This is totally unacceptable and, in many cases, a criminal offence.

"You cannot sit in your house or pick up your phone and make threats or offensive comments about people without there being consequences.

"The overwhelming majority of people in Scotland are totally appalled by the types of comments that we, sadly, are continuing to see.

"They expect the police to take action. My message today is be assured that's exactly what we will do."