Glasgow: Crisis club Glasgow Rangers suffered a fresh blow on Monday when they were hit with a 12-month transfer embargo by the Scottish Football Association, as the SFA issued a lifetime ban to owner Craig Whyte from any involvement in Scottish football.
Rangers were also fined a total of £160,000 ($258,000) while Whyte, previously deemed unfit to hold an official position by the SFA, was handed fines totalling £200,000.
But with Rangers in administration for more than two months and desperate for a new owner, it is the transfer ban which, according to their administrators, threatens to "seriously undermine the club's efforts to rebuild".
Meanwhile the controversial Whyte labelled his punishments a "joke", saying: "Good luck collecting the money."
Administrators Duff and Phelps were called in on February 14 after British tax authorities went to court to seek payment of an unpaid bill of £9 million ($14 million) built up since owner Whyte took charge at Ibrox in May.
But, according to a report by the firm released earlier this month, Rangers' total debt could amount to £134m, with the 140-year-old club awaiting the outcome of a tax tribunal case that could cost them £75m.
Paul Clark, joint administrator, reacted to the SFA's latest move by saying: "All of us working on behalf of the club are utterly shocked and dismayed by the draconian sanctions imposed on Rangers in respect of these charges.
"It appears that on one hand the disciplinary panel accepted our central argument that responsibility for bringing the club into disrepute lay with the actions of one individual -- Craig Whyte -- as is evident from the unprecedented punishment meted out to him.
"Given this evidence, it is difficult to comprehend the disciplinary panel has seen fit to effectively punish the club even more heavily than Mr Whyte.
"As everyone knows, it has already been decided he is not a fit and proper person to run a football club and any further punishment on him will have little or no impact.
"However, for Rangers, a ban on signing players will seriously undermine the club's efforts to rebuild after being rendered insolvent.
"Furthermore, we do not know how bidders for the club will react to these sanctions and what affect they will have on their proposals," added Clark, who stressed that Rangers planned to appeal against their punishments.
A defiant Whyte said: "I couldn't care less. It makes no difference to my life whatsoever -- and good luck collecting the money.
"It's a joke."
Entering administration meant Rangers were docked 10 points -- a move that effectively conceded the Scottish Premier League (SPL) title they held at the start of the season to arch Glasgow rivals Celtic, recently crowned champions.
US businessman Bill Miller and the Blue Knights group led by former Rangers director Paul Murray are still vying to buy the club after Singapore's Bill Ng scrapped his £20 million offer last week in frustration at the bidding process.
Even before the SFA's shock imposition of a transfer ban, Miller in particular made it clear his bid was dependent upon receiving written assurances that a 'new' Rangers would not face fresh football sanctions next season.
The SPL teams are due to vote on April 30 on proposals that would see 'newco' clubs deducted money and points for several seasons, amid concerns that otherwise there would be a reduced incentive for sound financial management.