Rangers' fans threaten protest campaign against SFA's 'shameful' punishments

Angry supporters ready to launch boycott ofleague sponsors over 12-month signings ban

The Rangers Supporters Trust has accused the Scottish Football Association judicial panel of trying to "cripple" their club as they consider a series of protests and boycotts. On Monday, Rangers were hit with a £160,000 fine and 12-month embargo on signing players aged over 17 after being found guilty of five charges in relation to their finances and the appointment of Craig Whyte as chairman.

Fans' groups will now consider protests including a boycott of the SFA's sponsors and the national team.

The club's administrators have warned the sanctions could seriously undermine attempts to rebuild, with the two interested parties still to submit finalised bids. Duff and Phelps also said they would appeal the sanctions.

A statement from the trust read: "This is a shameful decision that has been taken with the sole purpose of crippling Rangers Football Club. It is completely unacceptable and fans' groups will be meeting to explore how we jointly express our opposition to this decision in the strongest possible terms.

"This could include protesting at Hampden on on the day of the Scottish Cup Final as well as boycotting SFA sponsors William Hill, Carling and Vauxhall. All options are on the table and no Rangers player or supporter can credibly play in or support the national side until this ridiculous decision is reversed."

The trust also hit out at the timing of the SFA action. The governing body wrote to Rangers on 1 December, asking for clarification over Whyte's declaration 24 hours earlier that he had previously been disqualified as a director, a fact which emerged almost six weeks previously in a BBC documentary. The SFA announced it was launching a full independent inquiry on 17 February, three days after the club went into administration. The findings of the inquiry led to several charges against the club and Whyte, who has been banned for life from Scottish football and fined £200,000.

The trust statement read: "Despite calls to delay this action, the SFA persisted with this case while the club was not in a position to adequately defend itself and had the SFA done its job in the first place on Craig Whyte then this entire saga could have been avoided. Rangers supporters are appalled by this decision, which brings shame on the SFA and the national game."

The Rangers Supporters Assembly made a similar point: "Just when the club needs the SFA to help it... they kick us when we are down. Why did the SFA not investigate when they said they had suspicions before Christmas rather than wait until the club went into administration?"

Duff and Phelps, have requested an immediate expedited appeals process over the sanctions. David Whitehouse, the joint administrator, said: "The decision of [the] judicial panel is in our opinion quite extraordinary. Not only in our opinion do the panel fail to have properly apportioned culpability between the club and Craig Whyte, they appear to have rendered a penalty which could have a very detrimental effect on the ability of the administrators to achieve a sale of the business or a Company Voluntary Arrangement. This, in turn, cannot be in the interests of Rangers Football Club or Scottish football."

Administrators said news of the sanctions could delay further their attempts to named a preferred bidder to take over the club. The former Rangers director Paul Murray's Blue Knights have requested more time to finalise their plans prior to any announcement on a preferred bidder, while the American businessman Bill Miller had asked for written assurances that there would be no football sanctions next season.

Whitehouse, who fears the process could be hampered further by last night's verdict, said it had already been held up by the Scottish Premier League's plans to vote on Monday on financial fair-play proposals. He added: "The football authorities are fully aware that we are in the throes of an extremely complex insolvency situation. There has been widespread support across the political spectrum and in the football world for Rangers to be saved as a club and a viable business, and last night's decision can only hinder rather than help."

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