Today is 2nd July. Usually by this time in the football pre-season the newspapers are full of stories about possible big signings. In a normal year un-named football agents would be telling reporters that Pirlo and Iniesta are lined up for shock moves to Celtic Park, or that Jelavic is returning to Ibrox. Someone somewhere would be suggesting that old warhorses like Rino Gattuso were poised to return to Scottish football.
Pre-season friendlies would be getting the fans excited as we moved towards the opening of the football season, with some teams set for early starts to European campaigns.
Not this year though.
St Johnstone play the first Europa League qualifying match on 19th July, with Celtic and Motherwell starting off in the Champions’ League on 31st July.
The SPL is due to kick off on 4th August. The SFL stars on 11th August. The Ramsdens Cup for SFL teams, plus Wick Academy and Inverurie Loco Works, starts in under four weeks, on 28th July. The Scottish League Cup is due to kick off on 4th August, once a sponsor has been located, signed up and announced.
Despite all of that, the talk has not been about on field matters, but about BDO and Duff & Phelps, about liquidation and administration, about the philosophical nature of a football “Club”, about piercing the corporate veil and personal liability of directors, about criminal investigations and tax avoidance.
Discussions do not relate to the need for a new holding midfielder at Hearts, or a big striker at Ross County. People instead, and I accept I fall into this category, pore through the Articles and Rules of the SFA and SPL to see how they apply to a situation clearly never contemplated by the people who drew them up.
The most important dates in the football calendar in Scotland are 4th July, when the SPL clubs vote to decide if the transfer of the SPL share formerly held by Rangers Football Club PLC to Sevco Scotland Ltd (or Sevco 5088 Ltd) will be approved. The public statements from various members make it clear that this will not be passed by the required majority, and indeed is likely to be defeated entirely.
Then there will be a date set, one assumes, for a General Meeting of the SFL to vote on the SPL/SFL master plan for “Rangers” resurrection. Although that plan seems to have been counter-productive in the reaction it has brought from a number of SFL clubs already.
The SFA has still to reconvene the Appellate Tribunal under Lord Carloway to deal with the penalty for Rangers Football Club PLC’s guilty verdict for bringing the game into disrepute. Before that can be decided the SFA seems to be waiting to decide on the application by Sevco Scotland Ltd to become a member of the SFA. If approved, then the SFA will need to decide if Sevco Rangers is to be punished for the misdeeds of Rangers Football Club PLC, or if, as a condition of membership, it will be asked to accept the sanctions to be imposed on the former company. As these could include expulsion or termination of membership, it would be a gamble for Sevco to say that it was accepting the sanction before knowing what it was. Equally the SFA might not want to seek that concession until it knows what penalty is to be imposed. In that case, who has locus to appear before the Tribunal to argue the case for “Rangers”?
The SPL has put on hold its investigations into the issue of Rangers players’ registrations being invalid. It has made clear that once it works out the status of “Rangers FC” there will be disciplinary proceedings starting before the season commences.
The whole of Scottish football is in turmoil, all thanks to the misdeeds of one organisation.
As we stand, the SPL fixture list contains “Club 12”. That will be Dunfermline, or Dundee or Sevco (the latter is unlikely). The SPL could have elected to play a season without replacing Rangers, leaving an eleven team league. It has not done so, but the closer we get to the season starting, watch out for that idea surfacing, and suspicious people would view it as setting Sevco Rangers up for entry to the SPL for season 2013-2014, even if It plays nowhere in the coming season.
If Dunfermline or Dundee move up to the SPL, then there will be a vacancy in SFL1. Will this be filled by Sevco Rangers?
If not, and therefore there is a domino effect down to SFL3, then potentially the fixture lists for all the Scottish top-level leagues will need to be redrawn, or at best amended.
If Sevco Rangers go into the SFL, then the Ramsdens Cup would need to be re-drawn.
The SPL/SFL doomsday document suggested that it was essential to have league reconstruction, and NOW!
This is despite it being in implement of the McLeish Report, kicking around since 2010.
Scottish football is in limbo right now, waiting on Sevco Rangers to decide what it wants to do, and how that should be dealt with. Talk about the tail wagging the dog! If anyone has any doubts about the influence of Rangers and the legacy of that former Club, just look at the way in which football authorities seem paralysed, waiting to find out what Mr Green wishes to do.
As a result, the SFL is running terribly short of timer to replace Dundee or Dunfermline if promoted to the SPL. As David Longmuir, CEO of the SFL said two weeks ago, if there was to be a vacancy, then Sevco would need to apply like anyone else. How can any other team put together a plan and presentation now?
Could the SPL have conducted a provisional search for a replacement team, so as to allow the necessary investigations and enough time for a General Meeting to consider this? Of course. However, as no one in Scottish football governance seems willing to pre-empt what Sevco wants to do, the next season is a mess.
As soon as Sevco Rangers knew that they would not be admitted to the SPL, why did it not withdraw that application, and apply for the SFL. That would have started the process going a week ago.
It looks as if the SFA, SPL and SFL are terrified of upsetting Sevco Rangers (although fans of the former Rangers might not agree). A poll, unscientific of course, in the Scotsman suggested that 98% of respondents, totalling 22,897 people, wanted “newly-formed Rangers” to play in SFL3 next season. There was of course no option for them not to be playing anywhere.
If the SFL, SPL and SFA want to be seen as in charge of Scottish football, they should come out together, with their three CEO’s making a joint statement laying down time scales and dates for the following.
1 The reconvened Appellate Tribunal.
2 When the decision will be made about the rights of Sevco to attend that Tribunal.
3 The SFA determination of Sevco’s application for membership.
4 The SPL decision on what to do about the “dual contract” investigation.
5 The SPL decision on any liability of Sevco for “dual contract” infringements.
6 The SFA determination of issues about registration of Rangers players who objected to a TUPE transfer to Sevco.
7 The SFL General Meeting to consider who, if anyone, will fill the gap in that organisation.
If we were to see Messrs Longmuir, Doncaster and Regan work together to lay these dates down, then it might start to restore some faith that the governing bodies of Scottish football are in charge.
If however they do not, and simply sit waiting for Sevco to decide what to do, it will be clear that, as well as the “business and assets of Rangers Football Club” Sevco will have acquired the power to twist the ruling bodies round its little finger.
Time is short. To quote a man much favoured on Rangers fan websites, Winston Churchill, what is needed is “Action, this day!”