Scottish Football League (SFL) clubs have decided that Glasgow Rangers, which sought bankruptcy protection earlier this year, must play in the lowest professional level, the third division (fourth
tier). The 30 clubs, which don't include those Scottish Premier League teams that expelled Rangers from their ranks last week last week, took the vote Friday.
Rangers went into administration Feb. 14 following court action from UK tax officials. Businessman Charles Green purchased the club's assets for £5.5 million ($8.55 million) and they were transferred into a new company in June. Twenty-five of the 30 clubs had voted for Rangers to start the 2012-13 season in the SFL Third Division. The clubs ignored pleas from SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster and his Scottish Football Association counterpart Stewart Regan, who had lobbied for Rangers to be placed in Division One (second tier).
"It has been a very, very important day for Scottish football," SFL chief executive David Longmuir told a press conference. "We have voted to willingly accept Rangers as an associate member of the SFL. The only acceptable position will be to place Rangers FC into the Third Division from that start of this season, 2012/13. This decision followed a tried and tested process. Today's decision has been one of the most difficult for all concerned but it has been taken in the best interest of sporting fairness, which is the fundamental principle of the SFL."
The decision will have severe financial implications for Scottish soccer, which is heavily reliant on games between Rangers and archrival Celtic for sponsorship and television revenue. Derby matches between Rangers and Celtic, which traditionally battle for the honors in the SPL, are the main attraction for fans and viewers. Reports have suggested that a new five-year TV deal worth $124 million may founder if a certain number of Old Firm cames cannot be guaranteed.