His contention was that Rangers would be breaching the terms of the SFA player registration rules by registering its new signings on 1st September, which is the day after the “registration embargo” accepted by Sevco Scotland Ltd (as it then was) as a condition of SFA membership. He stated “The intention was that the new club would be unable to register players until January 2014 (albeit after giving them the summer 2012 window to build up their squad for the assault on Division 3).”
He suggests that “The basis for this belief is that clubs can register “free agents” from September 1st, and that as Bell and Daly’s contracts with their previous clubs expire on June 30th, they will be free agents.”
He then refers to the SFA’s registration procedures here and especially Article 1.2 which reads:-
“A professional player who has failed to find employment during a registration period may sign and be registered for a club outwith the registration periods.”
He suggests that the fact that the “free agents” signed by Rangers “have found employment” means they cannot be registered outwith the transfer window, and thus cannot legitimately play for Rangers until January 2014. Is this then another alleged instance of the Scottish football authorities bending over backwards to Rangers, as some accuse them of doing?
Sadly, at least for for some, the answer is no.
Mr O’Connell’s point is a fair one in that the SFA regulations seem unduly convoluted at times, and open to numerous different interpretations. However at least on this point the authorities are in the clear.
The SFA “clarified” the registration embargo in July 2012, saying:-
“… the company directors of Sevco Scotland Ltd have chosen to accept the 12-month registration embargo. This embargo will begin on 1st September 2012 and end on 31st August 2013.”
One interesting factor in the whole Rangers saga has been how things have been accepted as “facts” when they have not. So, here Mr O’Connell has fallen into the error of saying that the registration embargo was designed to prevent registration of players until January 2014. That was NOT what was agreed. It was a twelve month “embargo”.
And as far as the registration issue itself goes, there are two reasons for saying that Mr O’Connell is incorrect.
Firstly the FIFA Regulations on the Status of Players, which are incorporated into the rule books of domestic football regulations, says:-
Players may only be registered during one of the two annual registration periods fixed by the relevant association. As an exception to this rule, a professional whose contract has expired prior to the end of a registration period may be registered outside that registration period. Associations are authorised to register such professionals provided due consideration is given to the sporting integrity of the relevant competition.
There is no doubt that the free agents Rangers have signed are players whose contracts have expired “prior to the end of a registration period”. Accordingly they can be registered outwith the registration period, and as such on 1st September 2013.
Secondly, even under the SFA regulation quoted above, it would be a manifest injustice to say that the fact that the players had “found employment” but that they could not be registered until September meant that they could not be registered until January!
After all, they cannot be employed as “registered players” yet.
So, at least on this issue, there is no need for the SFA to jump through linguistic hoops to find in Rangers’ favour. (Which is not to suggest necessarily that they have done so before).
Posted by Paul McConville