Can Someone Explain How Rangers FC Fielded Trialists in a Cup Match?

I wrote prior to the Rangers FC v Brechin game about what seemed to me to be technical problems with the match taking place.

There is one further point arising from the game which I know has been raised elsewhere, but, as yet, I have not seen a convincing explanation, apart from the agreement of the SPL, SFA and SFL to “facilitate” Rangers FC’s entry to the Third Division. Maybe someone can enlighten me?


From the BBC report of the Brechin City v Rangers game on 29th July:-

“Receipt of a Scottish Football Association membership, albeit temporary because of continuing negotiations over conditions of entry, had gone to the wire on Friday.

It meant that their first signings – former Hearts midfielder Ian Black and returning forward Little – had to be listed as trialists, while manager Ally McCoist could only muster enough personnel to fill four of the five substitutes places.”


Rangers official website reported the same game and included the following:-

“Rangers took the lead inside four minutes when they cut through the middle of the Brechin defence and Andy Little swept a left foot shot into the net.

Little, who agreed a new contract at the end of the week, had to play as a trialist as his registration won’t be completed until next Friday.”

Andrew Little, or “Newman” or “Trialist” as he should have been named on the team sheet for the Brechin match

Therefore at least Mr Little, but possibly Mr Black as well, played for Rangers FC as “trialists” in the first round Ramsdens Cup match.

The SFL has a set of Rules exclusively for the Ramsdens Cup, or the Scottish League Challenge Cup Competition, to give it its full title.


Rule 8 states:-

“Players taking part in the Competition must be registered in terms of Scottish Football League Rules as appropriate.

Rules 8.2 and 8.3 state:-

8.2 It shall be the responsibility of each Club participating in the Competition to ensure that its players are eligible to play in any Challenge Cup match. If a player participates in a Challenge Cup match, such player being ineligible to play in the Cup match as a result of his suspension by The Scottish Football Association or for any other reason, the Club for which the player participates in the Challenge Cup match shall be liable to such penalty as the Board may decide.

8.3 Any Club infringing this Rule may be disqualified from the Competition and the tie awarded to its opponent.

That seems quite clear. To play in the Ramsdens Cup, a player must be registered under SFL Rules. Indeed the word “trialists” does not appear in the rules for the Challenge Cup.

Maybe though there is a way in which trialists can be “registered”?

Let’s head to the SFL Rules.



A bona fide player (amateur or professional) of a club is one who has signed the necessary Registration Documents (any signature to be witnessed by one person) and has been registered and approved by the League before playing.

115.1 It shall be the responsibility of each member club playing in any match under the auspices of the League to ensure that its players are eligible to play in any such match.

Therefore, to be “registered” requires a player to have signed Registration documents and have been registered and approved by the league before playing.



No more than two Trialists from any grade of football may be allowed to play, or be listed as a substitute for any club in any Championship match up to and including 31st March in any season.

122.1 Each Trialist may be allowed to play in, or be listed as a substitute for, a maximum of three games for any one club, provided he is otherwise eligible to do so. Clubs playing a player in these circumstances must indicate the fact by adding the words “not registered” after such player’s name and address, place and date of birth, previous club, and the country in which he last played, in the list of players in their Report of Result of the game.

122.2 Trialists, in accordance with the terms of this Rule and Rule 123 (Transfer/Temporary Transfer of Registration During Currency of Contract), may not play or be listed as a substitute in any Championship match after 31st March in any season except with the prior consent of the Board.

My reading of that Rule is that a Trialist can only play in a Championship Match, and not a Challenge Cup match. In addition, Rule 122.1 makes it clear that a trialist is NOT REGISTERED.

Now it is possible that, as part of the process of “facilitating” the entry of Rangers FC into SFL3, the SFL Board agreed to permit the playing of trialists in circumstances where they would not otherwise have been eligible.


McCulloch bundles in the winning goal for Rangers FC in extra time

Rule 2 of the Challenge Cup Rules states:-

The Board shall have full power to conduct and control the Competition and amend the Competition Rules as appropriate.

It does not seem fair to Brechin if the Rangers FC could play players who otherwise would have been ineligible, especially as Mr Little scored after only four minutes.

I am sure there must be an explanation for Rangers FC being allowed to play two ineligible players, but I cannot see it in the rules anywhere.

Can anyone help?

Asked perplexedly by Paul McConville



Filed under Football Governance, Rangers, SFL

156 responses to “Can Someone Explain How Rangers FC Fielded Trialists in a Cup Match?

  1. @Paul McConville

    “Good news from a very helpful lady at the SFL. Confirmation that, for the first round of the Challenge Cup only, it is permitted to field up to two trialists.

    I did point out that the SFL Rulebook online has not been updated”

    I suspect this is the same very helpful lady who gave me a long-winded
    ‘explanation’ of why Rangers were included in the draw for the Challenge Cup in the first place. I similarly pointed out that the SFL Rulebook online had not been updated to allow this.

    Guess it’s a case of change the Rules to suit but don’t bother actually enacting or publishing the changes.

  2. mick

    good for you hughmcvey maybe the policie is as a rule is broken and any1 asks about it just say its been changed ???

  3. @mick. It would appear to be the case. If a similar situation arose in the future they might choose to apply the Rules ‘as they stand’ and point any objector to the Rulebook.
    Perhaps we will see a resurgence of Woolworths sponsoring the SFL under their Pick ‘n’ Mix brand?

  4. geddy Lee

    I was happy to cut FC Sevco some slack when it came to receiving money which they were not entitled to as a non member of the SFL3, however, this is a blatent disregard of the rules, although I honestly suspect McCoist and his crew are simply ignorant of the rules, embarrassing as that is.

    It’s pretty toe curling that a side already so much stronger than anything in the SFL feel they have the immediate right to pick and choose what rules they wish to follow.

    A cursory glance at the disgusting “Bear’s den” forum demonstates the hate filled attitude that now infests this fledging new club. At least they have finally removed those embarrassing 5 STARS from their jerseys.

    It’s hilarious how the whole of SERCOVIA is desperately ignoring that fact. LOL

  5. geddy Lee

    I assume no MSM hack was even aware of these transgressions and would never dream of approaching the new Sevco pin-up, Longmuir to ask him for his thoughts on the matter.

    It will be up to Sevco’s rivals from the 3rd Division to complain about this blatent cheating. I imagine had it been one of their minor rivals, the club would have been hammered into the ground. This all needs to be nipped in the bud before it gets out of hand. Their fans are already threatning trouble against Peterhead if any of them are refused entry into the home end.

    Andy, your a sevconian, any idea where your 5 stars have gone? Sally still has them on his track-suit but they are no longer on the tops themselves. The MSM of course refuses point blank to point this change out, in case it sparks a riot, while the sevconian hordes have simply gone into denial mode.

    Fascinating state of affairs.

    • Andy

      Geddy Lee,

      The 5 stars are rightly still on the strip, embroidered at the bottom where stitching runs under the arms.

      I think you are getting a bit melodramatic, there was minimal trouble at the Brechin game, the club, local business all benefitted, in fact the local chipshop had to double his order….We are all simply getting on with it and I’m sure if anyone is refused then they will grump and moan but ultimately end up in a local pub watching the game…

      yes, we have some idiots in our ranks but so do Celtic, hearts, aberdeen….but the majority as with Celtic are decent and just want to watch their team play football.

      You seem a tad obsessed with Rangers despite the fact your own team is on the brink of champions league qualification…..that in itself is a fascinating state of affairs!!

  6. Del

    I stumbled across this unbelievable site whilst searching for information on fielding trialists in a match. I must say, the author of this blog does appear to be rather obsessed with Rangers. F.C. with there being at least 363 articles directly relating to them. The name of your site is a misnomer if ever I saw one, Random Thoughts Re Scots Law…..pfffft aye, right!
    Rangers then, Rangers now, Rangers FOREVER. Get over it, lol

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