On Wednesday the SPL members overwhelmingly defeated the motion seeking to allow the registration of the transfer of the SPL share from Rangers Football Club PLC (RFC PLC) to Sevco Scotland Ltd. Only Mr Green of Sevco, acting as proxy for RFC PLC, which he was entitled to do, voted in favour. Kilmarnock was the only member not to vote no, other than that, although as was made clear prior to the vote, and abstention and a no vote had the same effect.
I read and hear reactions from Rangers supporters mystified by the perceived “hatred” of their club. Whilst I think that in most people “hatred” is far too strong a word, a couple of reports regarding Wednesday’s meeting and reaction to it might help explain why many neutrals have little or no desire to see the football authorities assist the Ibrox team.
There are also some questions raised about the governance of football in Scotland as well, which will no doubt be ignored by the people to whom they are addressed.
I will not explore in any detail sociological or cultural reasons for this, as there are many people far better qualified to speak about it than I am, but I will simply look at the two pieces, one from Rangers.co.uk and one from the Telegraph.
My comments are in bold.
First, we start with Lindsay Herron’s piece on the official Rangers website on Wednesday night:-
The Rangers Chief Executive said: “We are deeply disappointed that our application to rejoin the SPL has been rejected overwhelmingly by the member clubs. This time last week, all of us at Rangers were resigned to the fact that we would not be admitted, due mainly to the public declarations of clubs indicating they would not support our application.
“At the weekend, we were approached by representatives from the SPL suggesting our application still stood a chance of success and we should discuss this further with clubs. This we did in good faith but with the knowledge of the hurdles that lay ahead of us.
According to Mr Green, the SPL approached him to tell him to speak to other clubs! Who were these representatives of the SPL? Did it include Mr Doncaster, or were they there on his mandate, or that of the SPL Board? If the latter, then the fans of teams who have representation on that Board might be concerned. Did the SPL approach indicate that other members might be willing to change their mind? Was this based on discussions between the SPL and other clubs, or was it simply a pious hope on the part of the SPL that their own members could be persuaded to back down from publicly declared positions?
Did Mr Green speak to all the clubs? If so what indications did he get? Did any clubs suggest a move from their already public positions?
“We had asked the SPL whether it would be more appropriate for us to withdraw our application but were advised against this.
Who in the SPL told them not to abandon the application? As the position of Mr Doncaster, although not of any of the SPL membership, had been that Rangers had to be in the SPL, did he think that, when faced with a vote, the teams would renege on what they had said earlier?
Either he thought so because he had been told that, and if so the teams who suggested they were wavering should be identified, or he was still pushing his agenda. Whilst his job is to run the SPL, he is employed by it, and is there to implement the wishes of the members, not to indulge in “frolics of his own”.
Had the application been dropped, this would have retained some dignity for Sevco Scotland. As it was, the overwhelming rejection might boost the resolve of SFL teams now facing a clamour to admit Sevco to SFL1.
“We made a presentation to the SPL clubs this morning, detailing our proposals in support of our application and this included what we believed to be penalties and sanctions that would have dealt fairly with the difficulties caused by events at Rangers prior to our acquisition of the Club on June 14.
There is a fine line to go when tendering a guilty plea when it comes to sentencing. The representative of the guilty party wants to gently direct the judge towards a specific disposal, so penalty points rather than a driving ban; a fine rather than Community Service; a Community Payback order rather than imprisonment; but at the same time it is not on to be seen to tell the judge what penalty to impose. Far from being a plea in mitigation, every court practitioner has seen what can only be described as “pleas in aggravation” where the penalty to be imposed went up the longer the defence lawyer spoke!
The impression gleaned from reports of the meeting (and as I was not there I accept I could be wrong) was that Sevco Scotland presented the sanctions it was prepared to agree to, and by implication the ones it rejected. It strokes me as similar to telling a Sheriff that the only sensible course of action he can follow is “x”. Such a statement usually guarantees that course “y”, which is more serious than “x” will be taken by the court!
“Sadly this was rejected by the other clubs and we regret that our Club and our supporters were given false hope by this initiative.
“False hope”? Criticising the other members for sticking to what many of them had declared publicly seems counter-productive. If members had declared support in public, and then reneged, one could see his point. But this is different. Mr Green is unhappy that, as a result of behind the scenes discussions with somebody, he was told that he was in with a chance. That turned out to be wrong, as the members stuck to what they had said they would do. How on earth is that a ground for criticising them?
The target ought to be the SPL if, as seems more likely, this was an “initiative” coming from the CEO rather than the members. If anyone thought that the result would be different, based on these discussions, then they qualify as a hopeless romantic.
“We will now proceed as we had planned from late June to apply for membership of the SFL. It is entirely a matter for them whether our application will be accepted or rejected and we will make no representation to any member club prior to that application being considered. We also recognise that the SPL has been placed in a difficult position because of the way events have unfolded.
Bearing in mind that Mr Green said he had been speaking to the SPL chairmen prior to the vote, one wonders why he is not glad-handing every SFL chair. Perhaps invitations to the Ibrox Boardroom with tea from the best china might impress the smaller clubs who now hold the fate of football at Ibrox in their hands.
At least Mr Green seems to be accepting that there is a two-stage process here, unlike the football authorities. The first question is whether Sevco Scotland Ltd will be granted membership. Then, and only then, will the SFL decide where the new football team should play – SFL1 or SFL3.
I will write later today about the apparent threats from the SPL as detailed by Stenhousemuir’s Board to impose an SPL2 if the vote fails to admit Sevco Scotland Ltd to SFL1.
The SPL in a difficult position? According to the men at the top, because of the alleged misdeeds of Messrs Whyte and Murray, the whole of Scottish football is at risk of oblivion!
“If our application were to be accepted, Rangers will play in whichever division the SFL sees fit and we will move forward from there.
Does Mr Green want to be admitted to SFL1, SFL3 or SPL2? He is correct in saying that they will play where they are put – he cannot insist, against a vote of SFL members, to play in a higher division. But having applied for the place in the SFL, if that is approved, then surely he needs to tell the other teams what he wants to happen?
How does his undoubted business need to be in SFL1 or SPL2 square with what now seems to be the majority opinion amongst Rangers supporters, namely that their team should play in SFL3?
“The Club hopes that the supporters, who have been absolutely tremendous since the Club went into administration on February 14, will continue to support the Club and make Rangers a success once again.”
Roughly translated, this reads – PLEASE BUY SEASON TICKETS NOW!
Mr Green’s words above seem to suggest the words of a defeated manager whose team has lost because it was not good enough, but where the blame is put on the assistant referee for missing a throw in decision, or on the referee for not seeing a foul when the other team were scoring their fourth goal! As Mr Green needs the support of the football authorities, and which to be fair, he seems to have 100%, you would think he would be careful not to criticise them. If his remarks were intended to blame the other members, then that is shameful. He indeed had the advantage of a number of teams saying they would vote no, and explaining why. It shows the sincerity of the other teams that even where Mr Green made a presentation specifically answering the points he knew he had to face, he could convince no one.
Roddy Forsyth reported on Wednesday about that day’s meeting. The whole piece, linked above, is worth a read, however, I have extracted a few quotes for comment.
There were some who hoped that Rangers would be able to make sufficient case – coupled with a clear and evident change of attitude – for their admission to the SPL. However – and not for the first time in this saga – Rangers utterly misread the mood of the other SPL clubs. The faux pas occurred despite the fact that Rangers had been briefed at a meeting on Sunday attended by two other SPL chairmen and a vice-chairman, who stressed the need for humility.
A presentation brochure was distributed to the delegates, the back page of which featured a photograph of a Rangers title win with the words “We Are Rangers” emblazoned across it.
“The arrogance was unbelievable,” said one chairman. “The atmosphere hardened immediately. Charles Green conducted himself well enough but the Rangers chairman was arrogant and dogmatic.” Another who was present told The Daily Telegraph: “Some people in the room wanted a reason to make a case for Rangers but the standard of the presentation was woeful.
“Ally and Charles Green were not always on the same page but that was not damaging. The chairman was another matter entirely and the brochure was substandard – you could have easily knocked something better together given half an hour. It makes you wonder what kind of management team they have.”
One of the criticisms expressed about Rangers down through the years, both of the organisation and its supporters, is the perceived arrogance and sense of entitlement, summed up in the slogan “We Are The People”. Many fans of other teams, large and small, believe that Rangers have run football in Scotland for many years. Many Celtic supporters believe that has been to the detriment of their team, whilst outside the now former “Old Firm” most think that Scottish football has been a cartel run by both Glasgow clubs. However, the one common factor is the perception outside Ibrox that the residents there get their way, and that they expect to, on the basis that they always have.
Perhaps subconsciously Mr Murray went in to the meeting with this attitude. Perhaps the discussions referred to above, which gave Mr Green false hope, led Mr Murray to believe that the result was a foregone conclusion in their favour.
However, to appear with a brochure bearing the slogan “We Are Rangers” seems to be arrogance encapsulated. In fact, they frank answer to that suggestion, and I am sure there were some at the meeting who might have thought this, would have been “No you are not – you are Sevco Scotland Ltd and until you have a football league to play in and a football association of which to be a member, you are not Rangers”.
The Rangers party departed and a further two-hour discussion ensued. “It was constructive,” said one who took part. “People actually listened to one another and respected the other positions. It was a huge leap of faith for integrity and it’s now up to the SFA and SFL to make their decision.”
Critics of the SPL members who rejected the proposal seem to come from three camps. First of all, from Ibrox; secondly from the media; and thirdly from the football authorities themselves! The implication of the above statement is that, once the decision was made, the members could get down to constructive discussions and the suggestion seems to be that each took strength from the others to maintain their positions.
Of course, the irony is that, having been rejected by the SPL, the master plan by Messrs Regan and Doncaster seems to be to force Sevco Scotland into SFL1, or to create SPL2, effectively to keep “Rangers” in the second tier. In which case, presumably the SPL members get to decide that, and having rejected Sevco Scotland’s application to be an SPL member, on integrity grounds, would they then agree to allow them in one rung down? Has the integrity run out already? I will come back to the SPL2 idea in a later post.
Neil Doncaster, the SPL chief executive, said of the decision to refuse the newco entry: “Clearly there were discussions going on between the newco and the members and ultimately that could have led to a presentation and a proposal put to clubs that they might have said yes to. In the end the proposal put forward to the clubs was considered and they said no.”
Reading between the lines Mr Doncaster wanted to give this deal as much chance as possible of getting through. Perhaps he might be abashed that a course he was urging on his members, who employ him, was so soundly defeated. Maybe, and this is a radical thought, the CEO might choose to listen to his Board and members BEFORE he embarks on a public campaign and course of conduct.
He added: “I think [the vote] surprised a number of people. Money is important in professional football and I think what our chairmen have done today is put aside the short-term commercial considerations, that would ordinarily drive behaviour, ahead of the longer-term interests of their clubs – and supporter involvement has clearly been a huge part of that.
Why was it a surprise? Enough teams to defeat the plan had already said they would oppose it. Will Mr Doncaster tell us why people were surprised? Maybe he means that Messrs Murray, Green and McCoist were surprised!
I like the way that he contrasts short-term commercial considerations with long-term interests of the clubs and the views of customers. Very few sensible businessmen would out aside long-term interests of their businesses for a short-term gain, and if they did, they ought not to be running their companies! The fact that Mr Doncaster seems surprised about this makes you wonder which route he would have chosen, if given the chance – short term commercial v long term interests.
“Ultimately they believe they have made the right decision and one that brings a bit more clarity to an unclear world. Until we know where Rangers are playing next year we won’t be able to ascertain what the damage is to the Scottish game.
Except for the fact that Mr Regan, your sidekick, thinks we face social unrest and the slow lingering death of football.
“A number of people have said the decision today has enhanced the reputation of the league but it’s not for me to say.”
Why mention it then? And having mentioned it, do you agree? Surely it is important that the CEO and his members be on the same page? If he thinks this decision was a mad one motivated by hatred of Rangers, for example, then does that not pose problems for his ongoing relations with his employers? As well as a Board losing confidence with a CEO, a CEO can lose confidence in his Board and members.
Conclusion – Rangers
The fans of various teams sing “No one likes us – we don’t care!”
Rangers fans have said so too.
On Wednesday years of that, combined with the “We Are The People” mentality came home to roost. Maybe if there is a “Rangers” of some variety in the future the mantra will become “No one like us, but we are all doing our best to change that”.
It’s not quite as snappy, but might work better.
Conclusion – SPL
As far as the SPL goes, it is clear that the CEO wanted the vote to go in favour of the transfer. Mr Doncaster and Mr Regan have been more voluble regarding the need for a yes vote even than Mr Green!
Having had his members so soundly reject the transfer of a share to Sevco Scotland Ltd, what authority has Mr Doncaster to be pouching the SPL2 idea?
That needs to be approved by the members, and having received justifiable praise for following the long term interests of the clubs, and taking into account the views of the fans, I find it hard to see how the SPL members can then, if consistent, declare an SPL2 open, and admit Sevco Rangers to it!
On a practical basis too, as the SFL meeting is to be convened on 13th July, if Sevco Scotland’s application for membership was rejected, or if it was approved, but only to SFL3, how on earth is the SPL going to meet to set up SPL2, which involves plucking teams who are members of the SFL away from their contracts without giving the required notice? If the plan of Mr Doncaster is SPL2, and for it to operate this season, a huge amount of work needs done, with no time to do it.
It would be ironic if the apparent frantic efforts by the SFA and SPL to get a “Rangers” into the SPL, or SFL1 or SPL2, had caused so much delay that Sevco’s team does not play at all in season 2012-2013!
Posted by Paul McConville