Rangers doomed to life in Third Division

Ibrox club must start from the bottom after rivals reject attempt to retain their SPL status

Aberdeen delivered the final blow to Rangers' flickering hope of playing in the Scottish Premier League next season, with the Old Firm giants now expected to be demoted to the bottom division, ending a 140-year stay in the top flight.

Charles Green, who bought the Gers for £5.5m earlier this month, was informed that he would have to form a new company following forced liquidation. The newco Rangers had to apply to continue their existence in the SPL. The 11 clubs who currently make up the top flight are due to vote on 4 July, but news came to light yesterday that the application is to be rejected by at least five – meaning Rangers will not be readmitted. They have dominated the game north of the border since the turn of the 20th century – winning the league a record 54 times, coupled with 60 cup triumphs.

Rangers' name was replaced by an anonymous "Club 12" in the fixture list, and they are due to be replaced by either Dunfermline or Dundee. Dunfermline finished bottom of the SPL last season, while Dundee were runners-up in the First Division.

The Glasgow club need to secure an 8-4 majority to have their application passed. Heart of Midlothian and Dundee United had already stated that they would be voting against the proposal, and were joined by Hibernian and Inverness Caledonian Thistle. That meant it needed just one more team to follow suit. Aberdeen obliged, as did St Johnstone later in the day.

"Traditionally we have preferred not to make public our voting intentions, but in light of the level of interest and the fact other clubs have chosen to show their hand, on this occasion I can confirm it is our intention to oppose readmission to the SPL for any Rangers newco," the Aberdeen chairman, Stewart Milne, said in a statement.

Hibernian said that the decision of the five clubs "reaffirms the view of the board that the sporting integrity of the SPL is of paramount importance," and there is little talk of fear as to how much money the division can generate without Rangers. Sky Sports and ESPN, the broadcasting companies which show 30 live games a season for a combined fee of £80m in a deal running until the end of the 2016-17 season, refused to be drawn on whether they are bound to the contract until next Wednesday's final vote.

Clubs who have lived in the shadow of Rangers for so long are now eyeing a more competitive race for qualification to the two European competitions. The SPL currently commands two places in the Champions League, with Motherwell having already capitalised on Rangers' ineligibility to play in Europe next season.

The Rangers manager, Ally McCoist, who said in April that demotion to the Third Division would be "morally" correct, has a huge job on his hands keeping his squad together, with players expected to reject the chance to transfer their contracts to the new company.

First-teamers Steven Whittaker and Steven Naismith turned down the opportunity over the weekend, and are now believed to be free agents, while Allan McGregor, club captain Steven Davis and Carlos Bocanegra could also quit Ibrox.

Strathclyde Police have begun an investigation into previous owner Craig Whyte's takeover of Rangers. Whyte was in charge when they went into administration in February. "The investigation into alleged criminality follows a preliminary police examination of information passed to them in February this year by club administrators," Scottish prosecutors said.

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