GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — Glasgow Rangers will not be playing in the Scottish Premier League next season as a result of the club's financial meltdown, a move that likely ensures rival Celtic will win the title.
SPL clubs voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to reject a bid by a reformed Rangers to stay in the division. Rangers could wind up being relegated to the third division.
The 140-year-old club has won a record 54 domestic league titles but has tax debts of 21 million pounds ($32.7 million) and entered bankruptcy protection in February.
Failure to secure agreement with tax authorities led to Rangers chairman Charles Green purchasing the club's assets in a 5.5 million pound ($8.6 million) deal and establishing a new company.
Green said the club was "deeply disappointed" with the result of the vote and will be applying to join the Scottish Football League, which is made up of three divisions.
"If our application were to be accepted, Rangers will play in whichever division the SFL sees fit and we will move forward from there," Green said.
Celtic and Rangers have won every league title since Aberdeen under manager Alex Ferguson in 1985 and no other club has finished as high as second since Hearts in 2006.
Americans Carlos Bocanegra, Maurice Edu and Alejandro Bedoya could attempt to leave the club rather than play in a lower leaguer. Several players already have left, including Steven Naismith and John Fleck.
Rangers needed an 8-4 majority in Wednesday's vote but St. Johnstone, St. Mirren, Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibernian, Dundee United and Inverness had already declared their opposition. On Tuesday, Motherwell announced their fans had voted to reject the application..
A club from the First Division — most likely to be Dundee following its second-place finish last season — could take Rangers' place in the 12-team SPL. Dunfermline, which was the only club relegated from the SPL, could also take Rangers' spot by staying in the top tier.
Fox Soccer acquired U.S. rights to the SPL in March. With little competition for Celtic, it appears the network would have little interest in Scottish telecasts.
"Options are available to us and at present we're weighing them," network spokesman Lou D'Ermilio said.