The Scottish FA has dropped charges against Rangers over alleged irregularities in paperwork which allowed them to compete in the 2011/12 Champions League.
It had been considering legal action in the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, but has now effectively killed off any prospect of disciplinary action over the long-running issue.
The saga began when “contradictions” were found between information in Rangers’ application for a licence to play in UEFA’s premier club tournament and testimony given during the fraud trial of former owner Craig Whyte.
Rangers claimed in the application they had no tax debts – which must be declared to qualify for a licence – but former directors said in court that the club knew they had an overdue bill.
The Scottish FA brought charges against the club, but due to the ‘five-way agreement’, which allowed Rangers to play in the Scottish Football League after liquidation in 2012, any dispute between the parties has to be heard by the specialist sports court.
An SFA-convened independent panel upheld that jurisdiction agreement 18 months ago, with the governing body sent away to consider its next steps.
After a lengthy internal review and receiving legal advice, the Hampden board has now decided to drop the charges rather than fight a lengthy and expensive legal battle.
The club were originally charged under the 2011/12 rulebook, which only allowed for a standard fine of £5,000 for breaking the rules, or a top end fine of £10,000 in extreme circumstances.
The Scottish FA hierarchy felt the costs of pursuing the case in Lausanne, which could run to six figures, were prohibitive to a charge that would merit only a maximum £10,000 fine. The board were also advised that the prospects of victory at CAS were not high.
A brief statement on the Scottish FA website read: “A Judicial Panel convened to consider a Notice of Complaint raised against Rangers FC in 2018 – in relation to alleged new evidence regarding representations received prior to the awarding of a European licence for season 2011/12 – determined at a preliminary hearing that it did not have jurisdiction to determine the matter.
“Instead, it concluded that jurisdiction lay with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“Following consideration of the implications of such a referral, including legal opinion, it was the board’s unanimous position that this matter should not be referred to CAS.
“The Scottish FA now considers the matter to be closed.”
European football’s governing body UEFA is unable to investigate issues more than five years old, meaning the decision has effectively brought the issue to an end.
Whyte was cleared of taking over the Ibrox club by fraud following a seven-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow in 2017.
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