Rangers faced losing the five titles they won between 2000 and 2011 (Reuters)
Rangers faced losing the five titles they won between 2000 and 2011 (Reuters)

Rangers Football Club will not be stripped any of its titles following an investigation by an independent commission into undisclosed payments to players.

However the company which ran the 'oldco' club before it was liquidated will now face a £250,000 fine from the commission, chaired by Lord Nimmo Smith.

The commission, appointed by the Scottish Premier League, ruled that the club did breach SPL rules after it failed to fully register and disclose all the payments made to players over an 11-year period.

However, in his ruling, Smith said: "Rangers FC did not gain any unfair competitive advantage from the contraventions of the SPL rules in failing to make proper disclosure of the side-letter arrangements, nor did the non-disclosure have the effect that any of the registered players were ineligible to play, and for this and other reasons no sporting sanction or penalty should be imposed upon Rangers FC."

Rangers can appeal the fine through the Scottish Football Association.

The club faced being stripped of the five SPL titles it won between 2000 and 2011 if the commission had decided these players were ineligible to play. If a player is deemed to have played in a game without being properly registered, the result of any game in which he has played can be declared void.

During 2010 and 2011 Rangers players were paid primarily through traditional means, but additional payments were channelled through an Employee Benefit Trust (EBT), a tax-avoidance scheme run by former Rangers owner Sir David Murray's company Murray International Holdings.

In November, the 'oldco' Rangers won an appeal over its use of EBT after it was ruled the £47.65m of payments to players and staff were repayable loans. HM Revenue and Customs had claimed the EBT was illegal.

'A great waste of energy, time and money'

Following the ruling from Smith, chief executive Charles Green said: "It is abundantly clear from the ruling there was no attempt by Rangers Football Club to secure any unfair advantage or to cheat, as so many people asserted without giving any regard to the actual evidence.

"I would re-iterate that at no stage have I, nor anyone now involved in the running of this club, questioned the integrity of the Commission members. What I did question was the creation of a process which some people had predetermined. Every Rangers fan will be delighted that the Commission refused to get carried away on this agenda.

"It is fair to say that there was, at one stage, a very unhealthy desire to press on with an investigation into this matter when cool heads and clear thinking was required. Instead, there was a frenzied atmosphere around Rangers caused by the club's insolvency situation.

"This issue could have and should have been dealt with by the board of the SPL rather than embarking on an unnecessarily grand and expensive process. At the end of the day I am left with the impression that this has been much ado about very little and a great waste of energy, time and money.

Ranger manager Ally McCoist added: "I am delighted in many ways by the decision today. As a former player, I know how hard it is to achieve success on the pitch and the suggestion that somehow Rangers sought to gain unfair advantage was deeply insulting to me and others who had worn the Rangers jersey with immense pride.

"I found the whole approach to this matter by the SPL utterly bizarre and misguided."