Neil Doncaster – Gandhi Might not be Fit and Proper to run an SPL Club! – Guest Post by Den –

Den has been kind enough to contribute his thoughts on Neil Doncaster’s BBC interview yesterday. His comments are in bold, placed round the BBC online report of the interview.

Thanks again Den!



If you can watch the interview, it really is worth it. Doncaster talks too fast for most of us to follow and often, it appears, for himself as well.

He also talks sense but it gets blended in with the verbiage.

The following is from the BBC Website.

Neil Doncaster, SPL chief executive, shares his view with BBC Newsnight Scotland

The 10-point penalty applied to Rangers for going into administration was “relatively meaningless”, the SPL chief executive has said.

He does talk sense at times, One third of previous season’s points total is much better. Successful cheats get punished in some proportion.

In a BBC interview, Neil Doncaster admitted the SPL had no powers to vet Rangers prospective new owner Charles Green and knew nothing of his backers.

What powers do you need to ask searching questions? Get yourself powers if needed.

He also said Rangers administrators had not given the co-operation hoped for over the dual contract investigation.

They run the club! Tell them to get on with it or their membership is suspended until they do.

During the BBC interview, Mr Doncaster denied that the SPL was conflicted between its roles of promoting the commercial interests of member clubs and safeguarding the sporting integrity of the competition it administered.

“It’s paramount that people believe in there being effective real competition and the integrity within the league,” he said.

The SPL chief executive said that sporting integrity had not been compromised by Rangers’ administration.

He added: “They’re (Rangers) having to deal with issues that arise for them. We’re then having to respond and react to issues that arise that affect Rangers. In responding to those issues, the integrity of the competition remains paramount.”

I am really tempted but trying to resist going into a rant. “It’s paramount that people believe in there being effective real competition and the integrity within the league,” he said.” I am maybe being unfair but that belief should be based on fact, fooling the public is not what it is about. Given his glib rehearsed performance I wonder is Mr Doncaster would be happy if the appearance belied the facts.

“Any such prosecution which arises from the (EBT) investigation would be in front of a wholly independent panel…without any association to any SPL club” – Neil Doncaster SPL chief executive

I wouldn’t expect panel members to be partisan – good stuff.

Mr Doncaster agreed that the 10-point penalty applied to Rangers for going into administration following non-payment of taxes was “relatively meaningless”.

He stressed, however, that it was the only penalty that could be applied under the current rules, a situation which clubs had begun to address with new sanctions being agreed at a meeting at Hampden on Wednesday.

The new “hard-hitting” sanctions, Mr Doncaster said, would see the greater of 10 points, or a third of the previous season’s points tally, deducted from clubs going into administration from next season.

On Tuesday, Rangers administrators Duff and Phelps issued an offer to creditors for a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).

They hope will be accepted and allow the club to exit administration by 12 July, under the control of a consortium fronted by businessman Charles Green, which currently has preferred bidder status.

If the CVA proposal fails, it is Mr Green’s intention to purchase Rangers assets and set up a new company or newco to take the club forward.

This would involve the SPL approving a transfer of Rangers share and setting any conditions for entry. Approval would also be needed from the SFA as the licensing body.

Mr Doncaster told BBC Scotland that he was not expecting a Newco application from Rangers as it was the administrators’ view that the CVA proposal “had a reasonable chance of success”.

If one did come forward, he said, “It is for the clubs to determine that decision and for them to impose appropriate sanctions as they see fit at that time”.

It is hard to believe that the SPL are only now considering the procedure for Newcos when there have been so many insolvencies in Football.  I have posted at length previously on this. In summary, if there is a vacancy it is advertised and candidates apply and are interviewed. Preference is given to SFL League members. If you are applying because you were a contender in past life then you take the sanction baggage applied to your former self with you and any further sanctions applied for offences committed prior to formation of Newco. If you don’t like it, could you ask the next candidate to come in?  Not a fast track process but quite fair.

The SPL chief executive said that clubs had turned down a proposal to vote through fixed penalties for a newco as they preferred the flexibility to deal with any application on a case-by-case basis.

There should be no penalties for a Newco. Only those where their Oldco history is key to their eligibility for the interview process. A joining fee, probationary period etc could and should be fixed so everyone knows the barriers to entry via the Newco route. The SFA and SPL disciplinary processes should assess and sanction the behaviour of members and only be relevant to newcos if the Newco is a current incarnation of a previous club and wants to claim it’s place and football pedigree. Make it hard for a Newco and reward SFL clubs who attain a high standard of performance.

Mr Doncaster said that the SPL investigation into allegations of dual contracts at Rangers, related to the club’s use of employee benefit trusts (EBTs), “hadn’t had the co-operation that we would have been hoping for” from the club’s administrators.

“I think it was their view that any investigation was more appropriate to take place after the outcome of the big tax case (related to EBT use),” he said.

“Our view is that we needed to get on with the investigation.”


The SPL confirmed on Thursday that the lawyers appointed to oversee the probe had received documents requested from Rangers.

Mr Doncaster said that he thought the “full information” on dual contracts would “only emerge on the outcome of the big tax case”.

“Ultimately, our board may have to make a decision prior to then, as to whether they have sufficient information at that point to conduct a disciplinary process,” he said.

“What they have made clear though is that any such prosecution which arises from the investigation would be in front of a wholly independent panel and that would be made up of eminent lawyers without any association to any SPL club.”

Are you paid to make decisions or wait for D&P to make them for you? The ‘big tax case’ is under consideration (albeit leisurely). Your investigation and decisions are in any case different.  They are determining whether the EBT was legitimately run according to tax legislation; you need to know if Rangers were systematically paying players without disclosing the payments to your association per your rules.


The SPL chief executive also said that it was extremely difficult to design a fit-and-proper test for prospective new owners of clubs.

“If you talk about past criminal record, then arguably Gandhi I think had a criminal record, and ultimately he’s be a fit and proper person to run a premier league club in Scotland but he might be forbidden by such an objective test.”

Mr Doncaster said the SPL’s rules did not allow them to vet potential owners and as such no vetting had been carried out on prospective new Rangers owner Charles Green.


Gandhi, trying to get a job in Scottish Football although he died in 1948. Your briefing is showing Mr Doncaster. It may be a smart line but we know he is no Charles Green.


He said the SFA did have such a test and that would be an issue for them.

Mr Doncaster also said that he did not know who any of Mr Green’s investors were and admitted that he had not asked either.

“It’s not for us to be involved”, he said, “We deal with the club, not the underlying owners of those clubs.”


It is not easy to define who is ‘fit and proper’ but does that excuse letting anybody in. If a candidate arrives wanting to join your Association should you not try to establish some understanding of who is behind it. If they have freed their nation from colonial rule you may overlook that in the light of their non-violent methods. Investigation may miss something, not asking even the most basic questions is almost collusion. If you don’t have the powers change the rules so that you do. Club, Company, association or whatever:  they are made up of people, you must deal with people.


The SPL chief executive said that despite headline-grabbing difficulties within the league this season it “remains the best supported league per head of population anywhere in Europe”.

He also rejected claims that the SPL was not for purpose, saying league was “in rude health” and clubs were doing “incredibly well”.


It is also the league that faces the greatest threat to its existence of any in the World: right now.


The Neil Doncaster interview will be broadcast on Newsnight Scotland at 23:00 (31 May 2012). The full version will be available online afterwards.

I thought that the bit where the interviewer got a word in and listed the problem and Doncaster seemed to have run out of steam just nodded along was the best part.

Doncaster is a politician and will clearly not do anything from principle, the tide is turning against Rangers and Doncaster will as well, his principles being only self preservation.




Filed under Football, Football Governance, Guest Posts, Rangers, SPL

16 responses to “Neil Doncaster – Gandhi Might not be Fit and Proper to run an SPL Club! – Guest Post by Den –

  1. Gerry Doherty

    Here is a quote for Mr Doncaster to consider.
    It is better to say nothing and be thought of as a fool than to open ones mouth and confirm this as a fact.
    He does seem to think most of his audience is stupid

  2. Graham Whyte

    Twice he used Dundee FC as an example of clubs re-emerging without football penalties, but they were docked 10 points the first time they went into admon, and 15 points the second time.

  3. Tom Conniffe

    One small and admittedly pedantic point on an otherwise well-reasoned article. The name is Gandhi, not Ghandi.

    Right, back under my stone… but not until I’ve said thanks to you, Paul, and your associates for your ongoing excellent work. More power to your elbow.

  4. Steveo

    Dundee were docked 25 points second time around not 15 – far & away the heaviest punishment ever meted out to a club in administration. Think they were treated a bit harshly myself. Great article though forgot it was on last night but knew there was somethin I wanted to see just couldna remember what!!!

    • Marching on Together

      Actually Rotherham Utd were docked 27 points (10 for going into administration, and 17 for coming out not via a CVA), and Leeds Utd were docked 25 (10 for goin into adminsitration, and 15 for coming out not via a CVA).

      • Steveo

        Fair point but Dundee was solely for going into administration whereas the others were for administration & as you say failing to agree a CVA. So to my mind Dundee still hold the heaviest single penalty for going into Administration because the other punishments were 10 points, yeah??!!

  5. The malevolent hand of cowardly forces

    Does anyone else see a problem in trying to apply sanctions to a newco based on oldco’s misdemeaners. Legally, the newco isn’t the oldco and any sanctions may be subsequently overturned in court. One must always try and do whatever is both legally and morally correct. In this situation that means filling any vacant SPL place from the 1st division. Newco can apply to Div 3. Personally, I think Gala Fairydean will give them a run for their money, on grounds of reputation and credibility, when it comes to any vote.

    • Marching on Together

      Not really. If you treat it as a matter of contract, and say to a newco that if you wish to join the SPL, then you can do so but only under certain conditions, either defined sanctions, or the acceptance of future sanctions yet to be imposed, and if you don’t accept these conditions, then you don’t get to join. That is the way the Football League in England dealt with the Leeds Utd and Rotherham Utd cases, and it was upheld on appeal.

    • Den

      Good point and on current showing, it would be robustly challenged in Court.

      My view is that sanctions on the oldco could be attached to the newco if they agreed to them as a condition of being accepted. Future sanctions would obviously be more of an issue however this could be resolved by asking them to defer their application until the cases are completed.

      Must be honest, I think that Newcos should be up against it when it comes to SPL membership, or SFL membership for that matter. If they want their pedigree to make a difference then they open up the olco offences.

      A personal opinion, I feel that the spirit of the rules should be stated as well as the rules themselves to aid interpretation.

      The intention and spirit of the rules would be to make the process for membership of the SPL transparent to applicants, favour promotion through footballing achievement and encourage prudent Financial management to the benefit of the game.

      Extending my thoughts on the intention of the rules. While understanding that the SFA requires all payments to players to be declared by the club i wondered as to why?

      My thoughts, and I am happy to be corrected, are that this is to eliminate match fixing and other corruption of the sport. This raises the question of non contractual payments and offshore accounts from a bureucratic exercise to a fundamental sporting question.

      Out of interest what sort of shady shenanigans have Gala been up to?

  6. Good post, Den.
    I suspect that Neil Doncaster’s real problem is that he does not have a holistic view of the problems he’s having to deal with. He is only capable of focussing his attention on a narrow field but lacks the ability to place it in the context of a wider perspective such as a vision of where the business ought to be and how to steer it there.
    Left to attend to some tedious, bureaucratic paper-shuffling which can be learned from a course on business management, he’d probably be okay. Ask him to show initiative, leadership, insight or creativity and he’s floundering.

  7. A disgrace that he even made reference to A world changing individual such as Ghandi/Gandhi. Respectful my a**e. His constant flippant comments are an effort to make a position appear ridiculous and as a result minimise the seriousness of the situation and play down the degree of rule breaking on show. Don’t really have to be a member of SFA? Don’t really have to have books completed by an agreed date? Difference between oldco and newco is only legal stuff?

    Who’ll take a bet that he mentions Mother Theresa or Captain Kirk in future comments?

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