Scottish champions Rangers saw their hopes of a successful title defence all but ended when they were hit with a ten-point penalty for entering administration today as the 140-year-old club battles for its financial survival.
Rangers, who were 15 points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League table earlier in the season, now trail leaders and arch-rivals Celtic by 14 points following the penalty handed down by league chiefs.
They are awaiting a tribunal verdict which could leave them with a bill of up to £75 million, should they lose a dispute with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the British tax authority, that threatens financial meltdown for the already loss-making Glasgow giants.
Rangers remain second, but with their lead over third-placed Motherwell cut to nine points. Craig Whyte, the Rangers owner, said in a statement: "The club did not want nor anticipate having to take this course of action today but had no option. We had hoped that continued dialogue with HMRC would mean a decision on administration would not have to be taken for 10 days while all other avenues were explored.
"Due to its cost structure, the club has been loss making for many months," he added. "These liabilities combined with the threat of the outcome of the first tier tax tribunal left the club no option but to formally restructure its financial affairs.
"At no stage has a solution been sought where my personal interests were put before the club's. The club and our supporters come first," he said. "As chairman and a Rangers fan, it is very painful to see the club being deducted 10 league points but I would urge all Rangers supporters to rally round (manager) Ally McCoist and the team in these difficult times."