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Rangers old and new urge end to 'witch hunt'

GLASGOW (AFP) –

Rangers -- who are Scotland's most successful club -- play their home games at Ibrox stadium in Glasgow

View of Rangers’ Ibrox stadium in Glasgow, on February 14, 2012. The former Rangers football club have been fined £250,000 ($380,000) for making undisclosed payments to players, but will not be stripped of any titles.

Rangers’ past and present owners called for an end to a “witch hunt” after the company that ran the club was fined £250,000 ($380,000) for making undisclosed payments to players.

An independent commission appointed by the Scottish Premier League (SPL) found the old company or “Oldco” Rangers guilty of failing to make proper disclosure of “side-letter arrangements” between 2000 and 2011.

But the fallen Glasgow giants, Scotland’s most successful club, avoided being stripped of any of the five SPL titles they won during the period after the three-man commission, all lawyers, ruled Rangers “did not gain any unfair competitive advantage”.

The inquiry centred on payments made to players in the form of “loans” through offshore Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) set up by Murray.

It found those arrangements, required to be disclosed under the rules of the SPL and the Scottish Football Association (SFA), were, however, not revealed to the football authorities.

In a separate court case, Murray International Holdings won its appeal in principle against a tax bill surrounding the EBTs but British tax authorities have since appealed against that verdict.

“The problems arising at Rangers brought no credit to Scottish football and have been a tragedy for the club and its fans,” said Murray in a statement issued Thursday in response to the commission’s findings.

“They cannot be condoned.

“Similarly, however, and as stated previously, efforts to bayonet the wounded are equally unjustified and of no benefit to the club or Scottish football.

“It is saddening that so much time, effort and money has been expended in pursuing a retrospective witch hunt against an entity in crisis, as opposed to seeking to promote and further Scottish football for the benefit of the game and country as a whole.”

Rangers were expelled from the SPL because of their financial problems and demoted into the Third Division, the fourth and lowest tier of Scottish professional football before the start of this season, after a new company or “newco” was formed to take charge of the club’s business.

Charles Green, chief executive of the “newco” Rangers, insisted Thursday’s announcement vindicated his rejection of an offer he said he’d received to trade titles for SFA membership.

“It is a matter of fact that people within the SPL wanted me, at first, to surrender titles as part of a deal to enable Rangers to play again as a member of the SFA,” he said.

“I rejected and resisted that suggestion and today’s decision vindicates the position of the board and the supporters.”

Green urged Rangers now be left to concentrate on winning their place back among Scottish football’s elite as a consequence of their on-field results.

“I think I speak for all Rangers fans in saying now, enough is enough,” Green said. “We are looking forward and I urge all Rangers fans to do likewise.”

Better news for Rangers came with Thursday’s announcement of a new five-year kit deal with German sportswear brand Puma that will start next season.

“Rangers and Puma are massive global brands and this relationship will undoubtedly improve the distribution of club merchandise in the UK and overseas,” Green said.

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