Rangers bidders left in limbo by SPL plans to stiffen penalties for insolvency

Administrator Clark said proposed changes were 'disruptive and regrettable'

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The Independent Football

Rangers administrators Duff & Phelps have been forced to delay the announcement of a preferred bidder for the club due to proposed changes to Scottish Premier League rules.

The firm had hoped to declare yesterday the acceptance in principle of an offer for the purchase of the Ibrox giants, with Paul Murray's Blue Knights, the American businessman Bill Miller and a Singapore consortium fronted by Bill Ng still in the running.

However, the SPL has revealed that clubs will vote on a number of resolutions relating to financial fair play at a general meeting on 30 April, which could result in tougher sanctions for clubs in administration and those facing liquidation.

Paul Clark, joint administrator, said yesterday: "As administrators we had hoped to announce the acceptance in principle of an offer for the purchase of Rangers Football Club, which would be followed by a period of exclusivity while due diligence is undertaken.

"Regrettably, this is not now possible as we were informed over the Easter holiday period that the SPL is proposing to consider at a general meeting on 30 April, significant rule changes in relation to clubs which find themselves in an insolvency situation."

As well as being hit with a points deduction, a "newco" would also face financial penalties in the form of SPL payments being slashed by 75 per cent for three seasons.

The statement added: "Resolution 2B proposes revisions to the fee payment arrangements, i.e. SPL fees to any club which has undergone an insolvency transfer event will be reduced by 75 per cent in each of three seasons from the insolvency transfer event.

"Resolution 3 proposes extending sporting sanctions where an insolvency event is suffered by a group undertaking of a member club of the SPL... Resolution 4 proposes updates and extensions to the definition of insolvency event in the SPL rules. Resolution 5 proposes updates and extensions to the definition of insolvency event in the SPL articles and clarifies the process in the event that a member which is the subject of an insolvency event is required to transfer its share in the company."

A transfer embargo would be implemented on any club which fails to make PAYE and National Insurance contributions to Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, under Resolution Seven on the general meeting's agenda.

Liquidation is an option in the event that Rangers are unable to exit administration via a Company Voluntary Arrangement.

Rangers are not the only SPL club to have financial difficulties this season, with wages problems at Hearts. In four months delivery of player and staff salaries were significantly delayed, and the Edinburgh club avoided the prospect of unlimited SPL sanctions after three successive such delays in January only after proving the payment had been made by the required date. March wages were also delayed.

Dunfermline also delayed payment of wages in full to their players and staff after feeling the impact of Rangers' predicament.

This is an issue the SPL is seeking to address. A league statement read: "Resolution 6 proposes a specific requirement in the SPL Rules that clubs must pay their players in terms of their contracts of service on due dates and places a duty on any club to report any failure to pay its players in a timely manner to the SPL. "Failure to pay players and/or to notify such failure to the SPL would be a breach of SPL Rules."

If passed, the amendments could come into force the day after the 2011-12 season ends. The statement added: "Resolutions 2B and 5 require the support of a minimum of 11 clubs to be adopted; all other resolutions require the support of a minimum of eight clubs to be adopted."

The SPL proposals would see a "newco" Rangers docked 10 points for two consecutive seasons, as well as the 75 per cent fees cut, if allowed straight back into the top flight. While accepting the SPL's right to run its own affairs, Clark described the proposed rule changes as "disruptive and regrettable" at a time when administrators are trying to find a buyer.

He added: "The effect of such revised measures being considered at this juncture is that we are duty bound to inform those parties who have submitted bids... We hope to issue a further update by the end of this week."