Rangers escape financial 'penalty' for exit

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Rangers' European exit will not have severe financial implications for the debt-laden club, according to a leading football finance analyst.

The Ibrox side needed a draw in their final Champions' League game against Panathinaikos to book their place in the third round of the Uefa Cup and remain in Europe beyond Christmas.

Their place in Friday's draw seemed almost certain when Michael Mols opened the scoring to put Rangers in the driving seat in front of 50,000 ecstatic fans.

But Rangers' European dream was ripped apart when Raimondas Zutautas, Angelos Basinas and Michalis Konstantinou all netted for the Greeks to hand them an unlikely victory - their first of the Champions' League campaign.

The club is labouring under debts which peaked in the summer at £68m. A seven-figure sum from a post-Christmas run in the Uefa Cup would have been secured by avoiding Tuesday night's 3-1 home defeat by unfancied Panathinaikos in the final Champions' League group game.

But David Glen, of PricewaterhouseCoopers, is convinced the six Champions' League fixtures have been far more significant. He said: "I'm not sure it will have a huge effect on them. They have already had the run in the first stage of the Champions' League, which was certainly needed. That normally brings in around £10m and anything beyond that is regarded as a bonus so I don't think it is a huge financial disaster.

"It would have been great for them if they had progressed as every penny counts. But I wouldn't have expected them to have budgeted beyond the Champions' League group stage."

Rangers' are known to be keen to sign the French defender Jean-Alain Boumsong and the Sheffield United midfielder Michael Brown on Bosman deals in the summer, having first tied up pre-contract agreements next month.

The Auxerre defender Boumsong has been tipped as to play a key role in the French national team, and the promise of a big-money deal, brokered by honorary chairman David Murray, may be the incentive to lure the player to Scotland. But Glen believes reports of a £40,000-a-week offer are wide of the mark.

Tuesday night's setback means Rangers' manager, Alex McLeish, now has only domestic horizons to scan and his immediate priority is to claw back Celtic's five-point lead at the top of the Premier league table, starting at Dunfermline on Sunday.