Scottish soccer champions Rangers FC were forced to seek bankruptcy protection on Tuesday after a financial meltdown, triggering a 10-point deduction for the 140-year-old club and effectively handing the title to Celtic.
Rangers became the most prominent European club to go into financial administration after a long-running dispute with the tax authorities came to a head, and are now 14 points behind their Glasgow rivals because of the automatic deduction by the league.
“It has been a very disappointing and black day,” manager Ally McCoist said. “Going into administration obviously wasn’t ideal, but it’s the opinion of many people that it might be the best thing for this [soccer] club.”
Rangers are not only the most successful club in Scottish soccer, but their 54 domestic titles are a world record.
UEFA has been warning about the perils of rampant overspending in soccer, revealing last month that the combined debt of leading European sides exceeded 8 billion euros (US$10.5 billion).
Rangers were forced into administration over tax debts of ￡9 million (US$ 14.1 million) accrued in the nine months of Craig Whyte’s ownership. However, the Ibrox outfit are also awaiting the verdict of a tax tribunal over longstanding contested liabilities of up to ￡75 million.
The Scottish Football Association (SFA) described Rangers being plunged into administration as a “dire situation” that reflected badly on the country.
“This is a profoundly sad chapter in the history of Scottish [soccer],” SFA chief executive Stewart Regan said.
“We should not underestimate the potential ramifications for the image of the game as a whole,” he said.
Rangers are now being run by financial advisers Duff and Phelps, whose task as administrators is “to ensure the ongoing survival of the business.”
“We fully recognize the great history of this club and what it means to people throughout the world,” joint administrator Paul Clark said.
“Whilst today is a sad day for Rangers, it also addresses the terrible uncertainty that has been hanging over the club,” he said.
The takeover by Whyte in May last year appeared to be Rangers’ first step toward financial recovery, as he pledged to pay off debts of ￡18 million left over from the tenure of former majority shareholder David Murray.
However, Whyte has been unable to solve the club’s financial problems and tax authorities are demanding the settling of unpaid taxes “over a period of several years dating back to 2001.”
Whyte said the tax authorities could demand ￡75 million.
Rangers, who were formed in 1873, won the now-defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972 and lost to Zenit St Petersburg in the final of the UEFA Cup — the forerunner to the Europa League — in 2008. The team have also won 33 Scottish Cups and 27 Scottish League Cups.
The team’s upcoming games seemed unlikely to be affected.