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Lawlord Nimmo Smith has judged that Scottish Third Division side Rangers "did not gain an unfair sporting advantage from their use of EBTs," according to Keith Jackson of the Scotland DAILY RECORD. This is "the crucial factor behind his decision not to strip the Ibrox club of any of its 54 titles" -- despite handing out a £250,000 ($380,000) fine. Smith -- who has been heading up the three man independent commission, which has been probing alleged breaches of Scottish Premier League rules -- "has found the club guilty only of failing to submit details of the tax avoidance scheme to league bosses" (DAILY RECORD, 2/28). The BBC's Chris McLaughlin reported the commission found that the "oldco" management "did not take professional advice on disclosing the payments." The commission stated: "Oldco through its senior management decided that such side-letter arrangements should not be disclosed to the football authorities. The board of directors sanctioned the making of payments under the side-letter arrangements without taking any legal or accountancy advice to justify the non-disclosure." The commission also said: "The scale and extent of the proven contraventions of the disclosure rules require a substantial penalty to be imposed" (BBC, 2/28).
NEWCO NOT RESPONSIBLE: The PA's Lisa Gray reported the commission confirmed its earlier decision that "newco Rangers could not be held responsible for any breach of rules by the oldco." The decision "is set to conclude a lengthy process begun by the SPL on March 5, before Rangers were consigned to liquidation and were relaunched as a new company." Some of the delay "was caused by administrators Duff and Phelps' failure to release documents, for which oldco Rangers were 'admonished'" Thursday. The commission was appointed on August 2 (PA, 2/28). The Scotland DAILY RECORD reported Rangers CEO Charles Green claims his refusal to "surrender" SPL titles has been vindicated by the outcome of an investigation into undisclosed payments to players. Green previously claimed that "he was offered a deal to trade titles for membership" of the Scottish FA after the club was consigned to liquidation in the summer. Green said in a statement: "It is a matter of fact that people within the SPL wanted me, at first, to surrender titles as part of a deal to enable Rangers to play again as a member of the SFA. I rejected and resisted that suggestion and today's decision vindicates the position of the board and the supporters" (DAILY RECORD, 2/28).
League Championship Club Cardiff City Owner Vincent Tan said that the club "will not be changing their name," according to Jamie Gordon of the London DAILY MAIL. It "was mooted that the club would be rebranded the Cardiff Dragons" -- also the name of a gay amateur team in the city -- but the Malaysian owner has denied this. In a statement Tan said: "I can assure all supporters that we will not be changing our name from Cardiff City Football Club, a club I am very proud to be a part of. Our name is our identity and remains at our core. I would not want any of our supporters to be concerned that the change would be made, hoping that this personal commitment from myself removes any fears" (DAILY MAIL, 2/28). Earlier the BBC reported "Tan said that promotion to the Premier League could trigger further 'rebranding' and did not rule out using the name Cardiff Dragons." The Malaysian billionaire has already insisted upon a color change from blue to red, "as well as a new club crest." Tan, who has an estimated wealth of $1.3B, wants Cardiff to maximize "all possible revenue and marketing opportunities in Asia" (BBC, 2/28).
Chelsea Coach Rafael Benitez believes that he has "earned a stay of execution" at the club after stating that he has an "excellent" relationship with Owner Roman Abramovich and that he expects to remain in charge until May, according to Oliver Kay of the LONDON TIMES. Benitez’s tirade Wednesday night at the club’s hierarchy and the supporters "seemed likely to hasten his departure from Stamford Bridge, perhaps even before Saturday’s match against West Bromwich Albion." However, in an interview with BBC Sport Thursday, he insisted that he "will be in charge until the end of the season." Benitez had already confirmed that he will leave Chelsea at the end of the season, suggesting that the supporters should stop “wasting their time” on him. But on Wednesday he accused supporters of "undermining the team by peddling an 'agenda' against him," saying that they would be responsible if the club miss out on Champions League qualification (LONDON TIMES, 2/28). In London, Dominic Fifield wrote while a number of former players on Thursday "led calls for Benítez to be relieved of his duties immediately," the board is focused on the game against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday and ensuring a top four finish this season (GUARDIAN, 2/28).
SPECIAL ARRIVAL: Also in London, Johnson & Olley reported Jose Mourinho is being "lined up to make a dramatic return to Chelsea in the summer, while Avram Grant has emerged as a serious contender to oversee the rest of Chelsea's season following Rafael Benitez's outburst." While the current interim manager will be in charge for Saturday's match against West Brom, "it could be the Spaniard's last game at the helm at Stamford Bridge." Should Benitez be let go after this weekend's game, he would become "the third manager in a row" to be fired by Abramovich following a fixture against the Baggies (INDEPENDENT, 2/28).