Raith Rovers & Rangers’ spat over recalled player

Ryan Hardie in action fior Rangers against Falkirk (Pic: Michael Gillen)
Ryan Hardie in action fior Rangers against Falkirk (Pic: Michael Gillen)

Raith Rovers and Rangers have become embroiled in a war of words on the eve of their weekend game.

The spat began when Rovers called in the SFA’s Compliance Officer after the Ibrox side requested the early release of teenage player, Ryan Hardie, from international duty.

They claimed that was ‘‘for the sole reason’’ of making him available for Saturday’s Championship match.

The Stark’s Park side also has a player, Craig Wighton, in the national team in Bulgaria who will miss the domestic fixture.

But that has sparked a furious reply from Ibrox who claimed it was a ‘‘vexatious action.’’

Hardie and Wighton were both part of Scott Gemmell’s under-19 squad which has travelled to Bulgaria for this weekend’s international.

Rangers requested their player was released and it was granted by the SFA.

That raised the wrath of Rovers who released a statement on their website hitting out at what they saw as an injustice.

The club’s statement said: “Ahead of Saturday’s match versus Rangers, Raith Rovers has today asked the Scottish FA’s Compliance Officer to consider whether he agrees that Rangers, through David Weir, have breached SFA Articles and Rules by requesting and securing the early release of Ryan Hardie from international duty with Scotland Under 19s in Bulgaria, for the sole reason that he is then available to play against Raith Rovers.

“We also have an important player in the same under 19 squad, first team regular Craig Wighton, and he remains in Bulgaria and available for selection for Friday evening’s national representative match. He will fly home with the rest of the squad on Saturday afternoon.

“We are delighted that Craig is receiving international recognition, and whilst we are without his services for the crucial match with Rangers, our loss is Scotland’s gain.

“Naturally we are concerned that if there is any breach of Article 82.1 and Rules 56 & 57, this would – in these circumstances – result in an unfairness in terms of players available for selection for Saturday’s match, which is to our disadvantage.”

The response today from Ibrox was stinging.

They accused Rovers of ‘besmirching the honour’ of assistant manager David Weir - and defended their move to bring their player back.

They also want an apology from Rovers to Weir - and an explanation from the Stark’s Park chief executive, Eric Drysdale.

The Ibrox side’s statement said: ‘‘Neither Rangers nor David Weir acted wrongly in requesting the return from Under-19 Scotland duty of Ryan Hardie.

‘‘This was done with the approval of the SFA, within the rules and in the full knowledge that Raith Rovers would be offered the same opportunity to bring Craig Wighton, their loan player from Dundee, home.

“They declined but then issued a statement alleging Rangers has somehow broken the rules. This action is baffling.

“Rangers, as many other clubs have done in the past, acted within the rules and the very thought that David Weir, who served his country with great distinction winning 69 caps, might have been trying to undermine an international side is preposterous.

“Rangers has also written directly to Raith Rovers chief executive, Eric Drysdale, seeking to understand his club’s motive behind such vexatious action and an apology to David is the very least Raith Rovers should be offering.”