In which I comment on an historic day in Scottish football, and what it means for the SPL and SFL. In addition, I pose some questions for all three governing bodies in Scottish football. Answers would greatly help clarify matters, although I suspect no one will put them to Messrs Doncaster, Regan and Longmuir.
Formal confirmation was short, but no less momentous for that.
“At today’s General Meeting, SPL clubs today voted overwhelmingly to reject the application from Rangers newco to join the SPL.”
For the first time in the history of Scottish football, there will not be a team called Rangers playing in the top division in the coming season. Rangers proclaimed itself the most successful football team in the world. Subject to any disciplinary procedures carried through by the SPL and SFA, which could result in the stripping of trophies, that team accumulated 54 league titles, plus numerous cups. However, that long run has come to an end with the decision, by an overwhelming majority, to reject the application to register the transfer of the SPL share from Rangers Football Club PLC (RFC PLC) to Sevco Scotland Ltd.
Whilst 13th February 2012 was a vital day, when Craig Whyte indicated an intention to appoint administrators, and after the intervention of HMRC 14th February was even more so as administrators were appointed, even the failure of the CVA proposal is less important going forward than today’s vote.
Despite spin and pressure, the SPL teams stuck to their already stated positions. All but Kilmarnock voted against the motion. Kilmarnock abstained, which was in fact as effective as a no vote. The only vote in favour was that held by Mr Green as proxy for RFC PLC. The apparent efforts to nudge the SPL clubs into deferring the vote failed.
So what happens now?
I am working on the basis that, in some miraculous Flash Gordon, “with one bound he was free” way, Sevco Rangers do not manage to get back into the SPL.
On that basis, the team slotting into the fixture list as Club 12 should be Dundee. That might cause some re-jigging of the fixture list as there are eight occasions prior to the SPL split where Club 12 and Dundee United are scheduled to play at home at the same time. However, the problem could be solved by splitting the games over a weekend.
Dundee is in pole position because of the SPL rules which specify that if there is the failure of a team during a season, then there is no relegation, and one team is promoted, as normal from SFL1. As Rangers made it to the end of the season, according to the SPL Rules, Dunfermline were then relegated, so, on that basis, the team finishing second, Dundee, will go up with the champions, Ross County.
However Dunfermline have staked a claim to the position as well, and at least from a natural justice point of view one can see why. As I have discussed before, the failure by Mr Whyte to meet RFC PLC’s tax bills from August/September 2011 saved the company nearly £14 million. When D+P were called in. there was just over £3 million in the bank. Therefore, in a simplistic analysis, the remaining sum of £11 million stayed in RFC PLC’s coffers and was spent by it, both on paying the wages of players who RFC PLC could not afford and who ought to have been sold, and on keeping the company from liquidation by paying wages and football liabilities up to the point of administration. If the tax had been paid, then it is probable that the RFC PLC juggernaut would have hit the buffers earlier.
In that case, and it had failed to get to the end of the season, Dunfermline would have stayed up, there being no relegation.
So should Dunfermline go back into the SPL, as the team most affected by Rangers actions, already determined by an SFA Tribunal as “bringing the game into disrepute”?
Or should Dundee leapfrog over them by virtue of being the team in second place, and therefore first in line for a vacancy?
One consequence of the delays and general messing about caused by the Rangers mess is that the best solution, namely a football match (remember them?) between the two is impractical. There would not be time for both teams to get their squads together and have them go though pre-season training to be ready for such an important game. The season starts with the Ramsdens Cup in three weeks, and the SPL kicks off in four.
The SPL and SFL will hopefully agree to whom the place should be offered. It is possible however that the SFL would choose to send up one team, whilst the SPL would be inviting the other. This issue has the potential to become very messy very quickly, with the possibility of court action very close.
Both sides have good claims on the place, so it might be as well to convene a meeting of all SPL and SFL members together and agree that the vote of the remaining 39 football clubs in Scotland would be binding on them. Perhaps there would be the need to offer the “losing” team a financial compensation for this taking place. That might be difficult standing Mr Doncaster’s prior predictions of Premier penury.
If the teams cannot play a football match to decide, then I would suggest that both Dundee and Dunfermline be asked to sign up to the proposal I have proposed. If a suitable agreement is drawn up, then neither party would have recourse to the courts if unsuccessful, as long as there were no irregularities in procedures.
Whether we see SPL football at Dens Park, or at East End Park, remains very much to be seen.
One way or another there will be a vacancy in the SFL. It will be initially in SFL1, and the question for the SFL clubs next week will be whether to allow Sevco Rangers to start its existence in SFL1, subject to the various disciplinary matters ongoing.
The practice regarding this is clear. Any new team needs to start at SFL3, and as Mr Longmuir of the SFL said only a couple of weeks ago, it was intended to have a vote about the applicants, as happened when Annan Athletic replaced Gretna, for example.
However, clarity of procedures can give way to expediency. As a consequence it appears that the SFL will consider whether to place Sevco Rangers straight into SFL1, or to put it into SFL3. The SFL official comment which came after the meeting of clubs on 3rd July said:-
“The Scottish Football League in an ordinary meeting of clubs, held a full and forthright debate on the current issues affecting Rangers F.C. and the potential impact on The Scottish Football League.
It was a meeting where all clubs were fully briefed on a number of scenarios and given all the necessary information that we have at our disposal to allow them to have an informed position with their boards and their fans.
We are now allowing clubs time to reflect on the information before asking them to make any formal decision.”
The SFL members have been given till 12th July to reflect.
Rule 9 of the SFL Rules states:-
“9. ADMISSION AND EXPULSION
The League in general meeting may upon such terms and conditions as it may think fit admit any club as an Associate Member or Member of the League and may expel any Member or Associate Member or terminate such membership or may accept the retirement of any Associate Member or Member, but subject always to Rule 126 (Reversion of Transfer of Registration Rights). Upon admission as a Member or Associate Member, the club so admitted shall become bound by and be subject to these Rules and any other Rules or Bye-Laws made by the League for the time being in force.”
This gives the SFL more flexibility in decision making than the SPL had.
The SFL admission is dependent upon SFA membership. If admitted to the SFL, a new team has 14 days to apply to the SFA for membership, and if not granted, membership of the SFL lapses.
Therefore the question is to what extent the SFL members might view this as really a decision for the SFA and vice-versa. There might even by a rush by the SFA to decide the issue prior to 12th July. If granted, it would leave matters entirely in the hands of the SFL. As we have seen from Mr Hutton of Raith Rovers, he believes that the members are being bullied by corrupt influences.
What therefore will the SFL be asked to decide?
What the meeting procedure will be and what it should be might be two different things.
As far as I am concerned (for what little that is worth) the process should be as follows.
1 The SFL decides whether the vacancy is in SFL1 or SFL3.
2 If the vacancy is in SFL3, the members then decide whether to accept applications from other clubs or simply to decide on Sevco Rangers application for membership.
3 If the former then they set a date for applications and a further meeting.
4 If the members decide the vacancy is in SFL1, they decide if Sevco Rangers get to fill it, and if not, revert to step 2 above.
The problem is one of time. Is it possible for teams to apply for a place in SFL3, and to have this decided by a general meeting of members before the SFL season starts with the Ramsdens Cup before the end of July?
The process I suspect will be followed will be like this.
1 Will the SFL admit Sevco Rangers to SFL1?
2 If not, will the members admit Sevco Rangers to SFL3?
3 If not, then when will the application process take place and be determined?
When previous new members have been admitted, this has been on a simple majority. However that has been in the context of two or more teams competing for a place.
Here if the question is – “Rangers – yes or no?” different considerations apply.
Bearing in mind the pending Appellate Tribunal, and the ongoing SPL illegal registrations investigation, together with the nebulous status of Sevco Rangers (i.e. is it the old Rangers or a new team) the SFL members could be forgiven for leaving matters up to the SFA. That, after all, is meant to be the supreme governing body of Scottish football.
There are also various issues about who can vote in the SFL ballot. I will come back to these in another post, as it seems that the decision to bar Dundee, for example, has no sound basis.
Scottish football needs some very quick answers from its ruling bodies to the following questions.
1 To the SFA – when will the application by Sevco Scotland Ltd for membership be considered and determined?
2 To the SFA – when will the Appellate Tribunal regarding Rangers Football Club be re-convened?
3 To the SFA – will any sanctions imposed by the Appellate Tribunal be applied to Sevco Rangers, if it is granted membership?
4 To the SFA – is Sevco Rangers a continuation of Rangers Football Club or not?
5 To the SPL – what is the status of the illegal registration inquiry?
6 To the SPL – will the disciplinary procedures promised to start before the season commences involve Sevco Rangers or not?
7 To the SPL – is Sevco Rangers a continuation of Rangers Football Club or not?
8 To the SPL – as Rangers Football Club is no longer a member of the SPL, will you continue with the investigation, or pass it on to either the SFL or SFA?
9 To the SFA – if the SPL passes the illegal registration inquiry to you, what will you do with it?
10 To the SFL – is there time for other clubs who wish to enter the SFL to apply, without the start of the season being delayed?
11 To the SFL – are you happy to make a decision regarding Sevco Rangers whilst all of the above matters remain to be resolved?
Posted by Paul McConville