FIFA warned the SFA it will monitor what action is taken against Rangers after the Ibrox club successfully challenged their transfer embargo at the Court of Session.
And there were fears that a spiralling situation could ultimately end with Rangers having their SFA membership terminated — or FIFA handing down a ban on Scottish clubs entering European competition and Scotland playing internationals.
A new dimension to the already complicated and fraught situation at Ibrox began when a judge ruled that an SFA Judicial Panel did not have the power to impose a 12-month registration ban after finding the club guilty of disrepute charges.
Dark times: FIFA are keeping an eye on the situation at Rangers
Lord Glennie referred the case back to an SFA Appeals Tribunal and stated the available sanctions were a maximum £100,000 fine, a ban from the Scottish Cup, a suspension or expulsion from participation in the game and termination of SFA membership.
That was met with dismay by some Hampden insiders, who believe they may now be backed into a corner where terminating Rangers’ membership — a measure rejected after consideration as too harsh by the original Judicial Panel — becomes a viable option.
The decision of Duff & Phelps to take the matter to the civil courts threatens to have even wider consequences, as FIFA statutes specifically prohibit such a move and insist that clubs who do so are punished by their national association.
Last December, the failure of the Swiss FA to sufficiently sanction Sion for persistently trawling their transfer embargo through the courts led FIFA to threaten a blanket suspension of the Swiss national side and its clubs from international competition. Sion were eventually deducted 36 points in their domestic league to head off the doomsday punishment.
Unhappy ending: Rangers finished the season 20 points behind rivals Celtic
A statement from FIFA, issued just before Tuesday’s verdict, said: ‘We have not received any communication from the Scottish FA.
‘In such a case, FIFA will ask the member association to take action so that the club withdraws its request from the ordinary courts. As a general rule, in case a club is seeking redress in front of ordinary court, as mentioned above, the member association shall take direct action in order to safeguard the principle laid down in article 64 paragraph 2 of FIFA Statutes, which shall be, in view of article 64 paragraph 3, incorporated in the member associations’ statutes.
‘FIFA will closely monitor the situation so that the issue is resolved as fast as possible.’
Dark days: The Ibrox men are facing an uncertain future
The SFA issued a statement in response to the court outcome, saying: ‘We are surprised by today’s verdict at the Court of Session, especially since the original sanction against Rangers FC was imposed by an independent panel chaired by a leading QC (Gary Allan) and upheld by an Appellate Tribunal chaired by a Supreme Court Judge (Lord Carloway). We will now consider our position with our legal advisers before making any further comment.’
Lord Glennie rejected an argument from the SFA’s counsel, Aiden O’Neill QC, that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was the correct venue for deciding on the dispute, as laid down by FIFA. Richard Keen QC, acting for Rangers, argued there was no route within the SFA’s rules for the matter to go to CAS.
Asked last night whether Rangers had sought clarity about whether they could go to CAS, joint-administrator Paul Clark said: ‘I know that discussions took place between our solicitors and the SFA. I don’t know whether that specific issue was discussed.’
Appeal: Rangers manager Ally McCoist
The SFA have three weeks to appeal, although Dan Chapman, of Full Contact Law, told Sportsmail they could simply refuse to recognise the verdict.
Chapman predicted it would lead to Rangers being expelled from the Scottish game if the Ibrox club then tried to impose the ruling on the SFA.
Clark, however, hailed the judgment, saying: ‘The costs for this legal action have been awarded against the SFA and it is our position it is very regrettable that court action was required.’
‘Both we, and the SFA, will have to study the full ramifications of the judgment when it is published and either side has 21 days in which to decide the next course of action or whether they wish to appeal.’