London: Scottish champion Rangers was forced to seek bankruptcy protection on Tuesday after a financial meltdown, triggering a 10-point deduction for the 140-year-old club and effectively handing the title to Celtic.
Rangers became the most prominent European club to go into financial administration after a long-running dispute with the tax authorities came to a head, and is now 14 points behind its fierce Glasgow rival because of the automatic deduction by the league.
"It has been a very disappointing and black day," manager Ally McCoist said. "Going into administration obviously wasn't ideal but it's the opinion of many people that it might be the best thing for this football club."
Rangers is not only the most successful club in Scottish football, but its 54 domestic titles are a world record.
UEFA has been warning about the perils of rampant overspending in football, revealing last month that the combined debt of leading European sides exceeded €8 billion ($10.5 billion).
Rangers was forced into administration over tax debts of 9 million pounds ($14 million) accrued in the nine months of Craig Whyte's ownership. But the Ibrox outfit is also awaiting the verdict of a tax tribunal over long-standing contested liabilities of up to 75 million pounds ($117 million).
The Scottish Football Association described Rangers being plunged into administration as a "dire situation" that reflected badly on the country.
"This is a profoundly sad chapter in the history of Scottish football," SFA chief executive Stewart Regan said. "We should not underestimate the potential ramifications for the image of the game as a whole."
Rangers is now being run by financial advisers Duff and Phelps, whose task as administrators is "to ensure the ongoing survival of the business."
"We fully recognize the great history of this club and what it means to people throughout the world," joint administrator Paul Clark said. "Whilst today is a sad day for Rangers, it also addresses the terrible uncertainty that has been hanging over the club."
The takeover by Whyte last May appeared to be Rangers' first step toward financial recovery, as he pledged to pay off debts of 18 million pounds ($28.4 million) left over from the tenure of former majority shareholder David Murray.
However, Whyte has been unable to solve the club's financial problems and tax authorities are demanding the settling of unpaid taxes "over a period of several years dating back to 2001." Whyte said the tax authorities could demand 75 million pounds ($117 million).
"Due to its cost structure, the club has been loss-making for many months," Whyte said. "This situation has resulted in increasing liabilities and the club has been in discussion with (HM Revenue & Customs) regarding these liabilities.
"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 ... it remains our firm belief that the club's future can be secured and we hope this period of administration will be as short as possible."
Rangers, which was formed in 1873, won the now-defunct European Cup Winners' Cup in 1972 and lost to Zenit St. Petersburg in the final of the UEFA Cup — the forerunner to the Europa League — in 2008. The team has also won 33 Scottish Cups and 27 Scottish League Cups.
The team's upcoming games seemed unlikely to be affected, however, after the administrators pledged to continue paying salaries and security costs.
"I can assure all Rangers supporters that all aspects of the administration will be carried out with the interests of the club firmly in mind," Clark said. "As a first step, the administration team will ensure that Saturday's match at Ibrox (against Kilmarnock) will proceed as planned and all other routine club business will continue."
Rangers had been four points behind in the Scottish Premier League standings. The 10-point penalty will leave the club in second place with 51 points, still nine ahead of third-place Motherwell.