GLASGOW, Scotland - Scottish football was thrown into disarray on Wednesday after indebted Glasgow giant Rangers was barred from competing in the Scottish Premier League following a vote by top-tier clubs.
The decision to reject the bid by a new Rangers ownership to play in the top division following the club's financial meltdown could threaten the economic well-being of teams around Scotland.
Rangers chief executive Charles Green said the 140-year-old club was "deeply disappointed" with the result of the vote and will be applying to join the Scottish Football League, which is made up of three divisions.
"If our application were to be accepted, Rangers will play in whichever division the SFL sees fit and we will move forward from there," said Green, who purchased the club's assets in a 5.5 million pound (C$8.6 million) deal after Rangers went bankrupt in February.
Rangers and fierce city rival Celtic have won every league title since Aberdeen under current Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson in 1985. No other club has finished as high as second since Hearts in 2006.
Rangers, one of the most famous teams in Britain, has won a record 54 national titles.
However, the stranglehold of the so-called "Old Firm" has been broken, with Rangers burdened with tax debts of 21 million pounds ($33.1 million) after entering administration — a form of bankruptcy protection.
Failure to secure agreement with tax authorities led to Green launching a takeover and establishing a new company.
"At today's general meeting, SPL clubs voted overwhelmingly to reject the application from Rangers (owners) to join the SPL," the Premier League said in a brief statement.
Rangers needed an 8-4 majority but St. Johnstone, St. Mirren, Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibernian, Dundee United and Inverness had already declared their opposition. On Tuesday, Motherwell announced their fans had voted to reject the application.
"This time last week, all of us at Rangers were resigned to the fact that we would not be admitted, due mainly to the public declarations of clubs indicating they would not support our application," Green said. "At the weekend, we were approached by representatives from the SPL suggesting our application still stood a chance of success and we should discuss this further with clubs.
"We had asked the SPL whether it would be more appropriate for us to withdraw our application but were advised against this ... Sadly this was rejected by the other clubs and we regret that our club and our supporters were given false hope by this initiative."
A club from the First Division — most likely to be Dundee following its second-place finish last season — could take Rangers' place in the 12-team SPL. Dunfermline, which was the only club relegated from the SPL, could also take Rangers' spot by staying in the top tier.
David Longmuir, chief executive of the Scottish Football League, said last week that should Rangers be entered into the Third Division, 16 million pounds ($25.2 million) in television money would be lost to the Scottish game. Domestic broadcasters are likely to drastically reduce the value of their deals without the attraction of the four Old Firm derbies.
Rangers' financial situation has already sparked an exodus of players from the club, with Steven Naismith and John Fleck the latest players to leave Wednesday.
Fox Soccer acquired United States rights to the SPL in March. With little competition for Celtic, it appears the network would have little interest in Scottish telecasts.
"Options are available to us and at present we're weighing them," network spokesman Lou D'Ermilio said.