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Rangers’ Europa League tie could be what ends talk of “tainted title”

22 April 2020


It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it?

Last week we had accusations that the SPFL and Celtic are trying to end the league now so they can be handed the title immediately.

Deep down, many Rangers fans will want that to happen so they can continue the narrative that the current campaign would be somehow “tainted”, despite Celtic being 13 points clear with eight games to go.

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If the season continues, Celtic will no doubt go on to win a ninth consecutive title – something which’ll hurt rival supporters more. They’d have nothing to moan about then.

Following the resolution vote, the SPFL now holds the power to end the current Premiership season, only if they believe that games cannot be completed.

But at the moment, they are hamstrung – even if they wanted to.

Yesterday UEFA announced plans to produce guidelines for leagues who wanted to end their seasons early, BUT strongly advised all of Europe’s top leagues to complete their seasons when it’s safe to do so.

Associations are mindful that proceeding without UEFA’s permission risks its clubs being prevented from qualifying for next season’s Champions League and Europa League.

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No league which has qualification to the Champions League and Europa League asked UEFA for permission to end their season early during yesterday’s conference call, but that doesn’t necessarily mean associations and clubs don’t want to call it now – everything could change when UEFA’s proposals are formally announced.

The Belgian Pro League was the first major European league to propose ending their season early – and awarding the title to Club Brugge – but a decision by their general assembly has been delayed until UEFA announces its guidelines.

As it stands the SPFL is in a tricky situation – one which is far more complicated than the likes of Belgium and other European counterparts.

As I revealed on Sky Sports News yesterday,

the issue they face at this stage is that Rangers are still in the Europa League.


To complete their second leg tie with Bayer Leverkusen, Rangers need their current Europa League squad, which was registered all the way back in January.

If the Scottish Premiership ends early, player registrations and contracts will expire on June 30 and they would not be covered under the FIFA contract extension rule. Rangers would face losing a number of key players.

Also, the transfer window in Scotland would be expected to operate as normal.

With this scenario, to play the second leg of their Europa League tie, it would require Rangers to operate in two separate seasons at the same time – a situation UEFA are extremely unlikely to support.

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If the Premiership season resumes, Rangers can use the FIFA contract extension rule to negotiate with players whose deals are due to expire on June 30, for them to continue in domestic and European competition.

Ultimately, this is what is blocking the season ending early in Scotland at this moment in time – not that there’s any sign they want to.

This could all change after tomorrow’s UEFA executive committee meeting, but as I have explained Scotland’s situation is a lot more complicated.

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Neil Lennon came out yesterday and said he wants to finish the season on the pitch. An astonishing statement, considering some rival fans were claiming quite the opposite.

Hopefully it can be completed, whenever it is safe to do so, as it will give fans a chance to witness history being made – memories which will last a lifetime.

Completing the season suits Celtic, Rangers, Hearts… and the SPFL’s lawyers. But in the long run it wouldn’t suit some Rangers fans, as it would obviously end any talk of a “tainted” title.

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Anthony Joseph is an award-winning Scottish journalist in London. He is currently a News Editor for Sky Sports News, having previously worked for KICCA Media, MailOnline and Aberdeen Evening Express. He is a regular guest on The Totally Scottish Football Show and is a lifelong Celtic fan and Tartan Army member. 

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