KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Rangers players Steven Naismith and Steven Whittaker have objected to the transfer of their contracts to the newco club, issuing statements through their lawyers claiming they are now free agents.
Rangers claim the transfer of all player contracts have already taken place, warning that any players disputing the move could face legal action in the wake of reported objections from Rhys McCabe and Sone Aluko.
But today lawyers acting for Scotland internationals Naismith and Whittaker said their clients would not report for training with Rangers and are seeking new clubs.
A statement from Simon Catto of HBJ Gateley said: "Steven Naismith and Steven Whittaker are formally intimating their objection to becoming employed by the transferee in accordance with Regulations 4(7) and 4(9) of the TUPE Regulations.
"Accordingly, Steven Naismith and Steven Whittaker will not be attending for training or any other meeting next week and consider themselves to be under no contractual obligations to any party.
"They consider they are not employed by any party and are free to consider any employment options they wish."
Naismith, who describes himself as a "lifelong Rangers fan", has scored 28 goals for the club since joining from Kilmarnock in 2007, having originally been a Rangers trainee.
"I have discussed this decision with my fiancee, my family and my advisors. It has been an extremely difficult decision to make but I believe it is the right decision," he said.
"As players we were put in a difficult position by the administrators whereby we were asked to take a 75% pay cut to contracts that we entered into in good faith.
"As players we collectively saw this as the only way to get Rangers Football Club out of administration by way of a CVA and thereby protect the staff jobs and the history of the club and give the creditors who had also entered into contracts with Rangers in good faith the best chance of being paid.
"Both Steven and I and our agent fought hard with administrators during negotiations to insert clauses that offered protection to staff and players at the club. I am extremely proud of the actions we took but I am disappointed and angry that Rangers Football Club no longer exists in its original form."
Naismith thanked manager Ally McCoist and his predecessor Walter Smith, among others, for the success he enjoyed with Rangers.
"I am proud of the success we achieved during my time including three SPL titles, a Scottish Cup and two Scottish League Cups," he added.
"Finally I would like to thank the fans for all their backing. Everyone knows I am a life-long Rangers supporter and so I share in the disappointment and anger of what has happened to the great Rangers Football Club.
"I hope that a successful new Rangers can emerge and wish everyone connected with the new club, including Mr Green and his consortium, the very best for the future."
Defender Whittaker, who joined Rangers in 2007 from Hibs, said: "It has been really difficult time for all connected with Rangers Football Club.
"And this has been such a difficult decision to make. I have discussed it at great length with my wife, family and advisors and believe I have made the right decision to object to joining Sevco.
"I am extremely proud to have played a part in the success during my time at the club including winning leagues and cup titles and a Europa League final appearance.
"It has been a pleasure to work with Walter Smith, Ally McCoist, Kenny McDowall, Ian Durrant, Jim Stewart and the rest of the backroom staff, especially the medical team and all the staff at Ibrox and Murray Park.
"I will always have a great deal of affection for the supporters who have shown me great respect throughout my time at Ibrox, I will always be grateful for the support they have given me as a Rangers player.
"I am, like Steven Naismith, proud of the players for taking a 75% pay cut, arguably against our own commercial interests. I believe we did the right thing as we could have refused which could have brought about liquidation earlier and/or resulted in significant redundancies.
"I am glad that the staff
have the opportunity to TUPE over or not and that if they choose to their conditions are protected. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the staff, the players and especially the supporters. Whatever form the new club takes, I wish everyone connected with it the very best for the future."
Today's move came after the newco's chief executive Charles Green last night warned of legal action against any player seeking to force a move away from Ibrox.
Green, responding to news of McCabe and Aluko's objections, said a scheduled meeting with PFA Scotland tomorrow was intended to satisfy players' concerns.
However, he warned there was no legal avenue for players to end their contracts.
"The transfer of contracts has already happened and the club's clear legal advice is that players' purported objection is ineffective," he said.
"Rangers would like to make it abundantly clear to players, agents and the chairmen and managers of other football clubs that we will take whatever steps necessary to challenge what we regard as a breach of contract to protect the interests of our club."
Rangers were forced into administration over an unpaid tax bill in February, and failure to secure a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) in order to exit administration consigned the club to liquidation last week.
Green's consortium then bought the club's assets and transferred them to a newco.
The new regime faces a battle to see newco Rangers granted entry into the Scottish Premier League and will face a vote by all 12 top-flight clubs on July 4, with Hearts and Dundee United having already indicated they will reject Rangers' bid.