In which I meander round the Rules of the Scottish Cup and look at some questions.
Why is Rangers FC ineligible for the Cup? Despite that the SFA have them included – pre-judging issues or an oversight?
Does the competition start when the draw is made or when the first match is played? This matters.
What round would an SFL3 Rangers enter the Cup in? It is not clear.
Can the Appellate Tribunal eject Rangers from this year’s Cup before the Preliminary Round takes place, or must it wait till after 4th August to have that option available?
Some answers can be found below.
When the SFA disciplinary processes were ongoing earlier this year, and when Lord Glennie overturned the registration embargo, there was discussion about the possible alternative penalties which could be imposed.
On named in the appropriate section of the Judicial Panel Protocol was ejection from the Scottish Cup.
At that stage, back in May, I suggested that ejection implied an ongoing competition, and exclusion from the Scottish Cup, which was mentioned as a penalty for other offences, was the term dealing with being barred form entering the competition. Exclusion was not a penalty competent for bringing the game into disrepute.
Little did I think that the sanction to be imposed would still not be determined in mid July!
We are nearing the stage where, if the SFA approves the transfer of SFA membership to Sevco Scotland Ltd, ejection from the Scottish Cup might become competent.
The first thing is that the most important date seems to be when the competition begins. Is that when the draw is made, or when the first ball is kicked?
Rule 5 on page 124 of the handbook states that the competition shall commence on a date to be determined by the SFA Board. That helps!
The draw for the preliminary round has already been held, on 3rd July, and on 4th August the play in the competition starts with matches between Fort William and Preston Athletic and Keith and St Cuthbert Wanderers.
Rule 6 lists the eligibility criteria. This right now provokes a problem for Rangers FC, owned by Sevco Scotland Ltd. Rule 6 states that “entry to the competition is available to all clubs in full or associate membership of the Association”.
At this point Rangers FC do not have membership of the SFA. That is why they are trying to get the membership transferred.
Rangers Football Club PLC, which holds the membership at present is also not eligible to play in the competition, for the simple reason that it no longer owns or operates a football club!
If the Cup is deemed to commence at the draw, which would be logical, then Rangers FC will not be in it, as stated above. However, by my calculations, they are assumed by the SFA to be in the Cup.
There are 4 teams in the preliminary round. Two qualify for Round one where they are joined by 34 other teams.
In Round two 18 teams have made it through from Round One. At that stage ten teams from SFL3 together with the winners of the East of Scotland League and the South of Scotland League, and the winners and runners-up in the Highland League are added to the draw.
The 32 teams playing in Round two are reduced to 16 for Round three, where the SFL2 clubs, and six SFL1 teams enter.
These 32 are reduced to 16 for Round 4 where the remaining four SFL1 teams and the 12 SPL teams compete.
That seems to me to assume therefore that Rangers FC is in the competition, even though it is ineligible as shown above.
I am sure an organisation such as the SFA would not have made a mistake and not considered the issue of whether or not Rangers would be members of the SFA. Equally it would be wrong, I am sure, to suggest that the issue has been pre-judged and that the SFA knows that they will be members.
We must therefore work on the basis that the SFA intends to decide the membership issue before the competition starts on August 4th, and by implication that is the commencement date for the competition. However, as a club can, in my opinion, only be ejected from a competition where it has started, the Appellate Tribunal would be unable to consider ejection from the Scottish Cup as a penalty until (a) after 4th August and (b) the SFA has decided on the membership transfer.
That means that the SFA must deal with the issue of the membership transfer first. One effect of this is that the “easy way out” for the SFA of having the Appellate Tribunal suspend Rangers FC for a year, for example, which would allow league restructuring and Rangers FC to re-emerge in a higher division cannot work.
Indeed it might be argued that, until the membership is transferred, as long as Rangers FC maintains it is a continuation of the old club, there is no point in the Appellate Tribunal sitting, as the club cannot be suspended form a membership it does not have, nor be excluded from such a membership!
Therefore, by that logical (to me anyway) process, the SFA must decide on the membership transfer before the Appellate Tribunal convenes again. This must happen too before 4th August, if that is deemed the Commencement date of the Scottish Cup. The draw has been made on the assumption that Rangers FC will be taking part.
If the Appellate Tribunal is to have ejection from the competition available as a sanction, it must sit after the 4th August. Of course, at that stage any ejection from the Cup, or suspension or termination of membership will affect the relevant competition, leaving it a team short.
There is another complication too, in the event that Rangers FC play in the Scottish Cup, and are treated as the same Rangers FC as last season, as the owners, management and fans want.
At what stage would Rangers FC enter the competition?
Working on the assumption that Rangers FC play in SFL3 in the coming season, the rules state that, as a current SFL3 club, they are exempt from playing in Round One, and therefore would enter in Round Two.
The exemption for Round Two applies to the current members of the SPL and of SFL1 and SFL2. Therefore Rangers FC, of SFL3, enter the Cup in Round Two.
But here is the problem. The Rules state that the clubs which, in the previous season played in the SPL and finished in the top 4 of SFL1 are exempt from Round Three.
Rangers FC can claim that, as a team which played in the SPL last season, they are exempt until Round Four!
Rule 47 gives the SFA Board the power to amend, suspend or revise the rules as it deems appropriate to facilitate the smooth running of the competition. I suspect that Mr Regan might be looking at Rule 47 sooner rather than later!
Posted by Paul McConville