In which I look at the blatant tactics of three men to assist a party which is a member of no football organisation in Scotland, and which is not asking for the “help“ it is getting. I suggest that Clyde FC get it, again, spot on, and I wonder how the fact that we have a secret ballot today could affect the outcome.
I also point out that, logically, the SFL Board cannot be in position, standing the terms of the restructuring ideas mentioned, to have reached the agreement which the resolution needs them to have reached to admit “Rangers” to SFL1. Though that will not stop them, I am sure.
Finally, if the SFL teams stick to their guns, it would be appropriate for Messrs Doncaster, Regan and Longmuir to resign today. (But they won’t).
Today’s meeting of the 30 Scottish Football League Chairmen to discuss league reconstruction proposals might be the most significant in Scottish football since the SPL was created in 1998 and possibly since the teams agreed to move from the two-league structure with the adoption of the Premier Division in 1975.
The teams are being asked to consider the following proposals for League reconstruction (with thanks to STV):-
“Draft Heads of Terms
A) In the event that Sevco Scotland Limited is admitted as Associate Member of Scottish Football League and that Rangers FC shall be directed to play in the First Division of the SFL during season 2012/13 by resolutions approved by general meeting by SFL on Friday 13th July, then the following are to be implemented.
- Subject to The Rangers FC plc (in administration) signing a stock transfer in favour of Dundee or Dunfermline FC, a resolution will be tabled to a general meeting of the SPL to approve the registration of the transfer of that share.
- A payment of a minimum of £1 million + VAT will be made by the SPL to SFL to purchase the broadcasting and other rights in respect of SFL Division One next season.
- A resolution will be tabled to a general meeting to allow for play-offs at end of season 2012/13.
- A working party will be formed, including three representatives from both the SPL and SFL, to devise a new structure for the senior professional game in Scotland.
a) The introduction of an enlarged top tier for Scottish Senior Professional Football.
b) A new detailed model for senior professional football in Scotland including number of divisions; number of clubs per division; number of matches per season per division; number of promotion and relegation places per division and the introduction and operation of play-offs.
I) A combined rule book
II) Governance recognising that one league body should have a chairman and two non-executive directors (to be appointed by the board and nominated by a panel with equal representation between i. the top division and ii. the other divisions). Three directors elected by clubs in top division and two directors elected by clubs in remaining divisions.
III) In the event that any change to the rules has any bearing on position rights, divisional structure including promotion and relegation, then any change would require the support of 75% outside of top tier of football clubs.
IV) An all through distribution model, providing certainty for all clubs as to the percentage of distributable income that would be received.
V) An integrated executive.
d) The introduction of a pyramid for Scottish football to provide a route for licensed clubs to enter the new structure effective 2014/2015.
e) The value and number of parachute payments to be made across the new structure.
f) The Scottish FA to invest in a restructuring budget to facilitate the delivery of the above domestic structure.
In the event that a final decision is not reached by 30th November 2012, the Scottish FA will seek to implement a new structure in time for the 2013/2014 season. The members of the working party including Chairman will be announced in the near future and will ensure consultation with all stakeholders prior to final recommendations being made.
These heads of terms are not intended to be a contractual agreement which is legally binding between the parties.”
These proposals, as referred to in a joint statement by the SFA, SPL and SFL, have been under consideration for two years, and now are at the stage, after detailed analysis of the McLeish Report and its detailed conclusions and review of the future of Scottish football, where they can be presented to the SFL clubs, so that they can approve the fine-tuning process leading to a final report by 30th November 2012, with a view to a new structure for season 2013-2014.
Clearly the Scottish football authorities deserve nothing but praise for the thorough process they are undertaking in an effort to ensure that Scottish football can thrive again, despite the major economic and social problems it faces.
One could be churlish and suggest that, after a two year consultation process internally, as clearly the member clubs have not been party to this, they might have been closer to a finish, but these matters are so important that it would be wrong to rush into a hasty decision. Decide in haste, repent at leisure, as the saying goes.
Don’t worry, I have not taken leave of my senses!
All of what I said above might be correct, as long as what the SFL clubs are considering today was the above proposal minus Section A. However, Section A in the proposal, coupled with part (ii) of the proposal which will be voted on today actually makes clear what a shameful episode this is in Scottish football.
To remind readers, part (ii) of the proposal reads as follows:-
That the Scottish Football League Members direct the Board of Management of The Scottish Football League (the “Board”) to provide that Rangers F.C. shall play in the Third Division of the Scottish Football League during Season 2012/13 unless the Board shall have to its satisfaction negotiated and reached agreement with The Scottish Premier League and The Scottish Football Association on a series of measures which the Board shall consider to be in the best interests of the game, how it is structured, how it is governed and how it is financed, whereupon the Board shall be authorised to provide that Rangers F.C. shall play in the First Division of the Scottish Football League during Season 2012/13.
As I wrote here, this involves the SFL members, if they approve the application of Sevco Scotland Ltd for membership, agreeing to “Rangers FC” playing in SFL3 in the season which is due to start with the Ramsdens Cup in 15 days. If the SFL Board considers that it has reached agreement with the SPL and SFA on measures to revise the game, then the SFL Board can parachute “Rangers FC” into SFL1.
Part A of the details now given to SFL members states:-
“In the event that Sevco Scotland Limited is admitted as Associate Member of Scottish Football League and that Rangers FC shall be directed to play in the First Division of the SFL during season 2012/13 by resolutions approved by general meeting by SFL on Friday 13th July, then the following are to be implemented.
- 1. Subject to The Rangers FC plc (in administration) signing a stock transfer in favour of Dundee or Dunfermline FC, a resolution will be tabled to a general meeting of the SPL to approve the registration of the transfer of that share.
- 2. A payment of a minimum of £1 million + VAT will be made by the SPL to SFL to purchase the broadcasting and other rights in respect of SFL Division One next season.
- 3. A resolution will be tabled to a general meeting to allow for play-offs at end of season 2012/13.
- 4. A working party will be formed, including three representatives from both the SPL and SFL, to devise a new structure for the senior professional game in Scotland.”
Let’s look at this logically.
To admit “Rangers FC” to SFL1, the SFL Board needs:-
(a) approval of part (ii) by its members, and
(b) to have reached agreement on measures to restructure the game.
Part A states that, if “Rangers FC” is admitted to SFL1, then there will be a working party formed to devise a new structure for the professional game in Scotland.
Therefore, by definition, there has not been agreement on the measures to restructure Scottish football, as if there had been there would not be a working party set up, nor would the following sentence appear:-
“In the event that a final decision is not reached by 30th November 2012, the Scottish FA will seek to implement a new structure in time for the 2013/2014 season.”
In theory of course the SFL members could approve part (ii) of the proposal and the SFL Board could say that there had been no agreement, so “Rangers FC” starts season 2012-2013 in SFL3. As there are no finalised proposals, there therefore can be no agreement regarding these matters – at best there is “an agreement to agree”.
So, to admit “Rangers FC” to SFL1 requires the SFL Board to be party to a lie.
In therory, a member of the SFL denied promotion by this manoevre, being Airdrie and Stranraer, could consider action agauinst the SFL Board for breaking its rules to their detriment.
Not one of the SPL member clubs voted in favour of the transfer of the SPL share held by Rangers Football Club PLC to Sevco Scotland Ltd.
However the CEO of the SPL, Mr Doncaster, has now put together this package contingent on “Rangers FC” playing in SFL1. The SFL is being offered a “bung” of £1 million to admit “Rangers FC” to SFL1. Of course it does not mention Mr Doncaster’s threat that, if the vote went in favour of SFL3, the SPL would refuse to pay the £2 million which it is contractually due to pay to the SFL as part of the Settlement Agreement.
Does that remain his position, or that of the SPL, or has he withdrawn the threat, having been politely told his company would be in breach of contract?
Mr Doncaster’s position was, and may still be, that the SFL clubs between them stand to “lose” £3 million if the vote goes against SFL1 admission.
Mr Doncaster is the CEO. He has certain powers in that role. He is answerable to the SPL Board and ultimately to the SPL members.
It has never been made clear whether or not this proposal is one cooked up by Mr Doncaster, and as to the involvement of the SFA, the position is the same as regards Mr Regan, or one approved by the Board or informally by the members.
As to the threats that, if the vote goes against SFL1, the SFA would create an SPL2, and admit “Rangers FC” to that, has that been approved only by the respective CEO’s or by the Boards, or by the members?
It cannot be imposed only by the CEO’s of each organisation.
There is also a threat implied in the proposal that, should the SFL not approve SFL1 for “Rangers FC”, then there will not be promotion, and both Dundee and Dunfermline will remain in the SFL. How the SPL could therefore play one team short would be a problem, but it would leave a hole for a “Rangers FC” to drop into next season.
The ironic thing about today is that, despite all of the problems for Scottish football governance which have been caused by Rangers FC over recent times, they, and Sevco Scotland Ltd, are almost blameless in this.
Mr Green, after the disastrous meeting of the SPL members, has kept quiet, as he promised. A certain amount of humility, even if forced, has been shown. The only thing that Sevco Scotland Ltd could have done would have been to announce that, in accordance with the wishes of its supporters and manager, it would only accept a place in SFL3.
However Mr Green’s interest, which is entirely legitimate, in maximising return on his group’s investment means that he would much prefer the admission to be to SFL1.
As I said, Sevco cannot be blamed for this particular mess.
So what are we left with?
“We have received absolutely no information on the organisation Sevco Scotland Ltd whom we are being asked, and encouraged, to vote straight into the top division of the SFL under resolution 2 and possibly into SFL 3 under Resolution 1.
“We have no business plan, list of directors, details of ownership, statement of capital adequacy or any proposals relating to the provision of any similar information in the near future. David Longmuir has clearly stated that he will distribute all the information he has got or is able to distribute.
“Whilst the notion that there is a leap of faith to be taken in terms of some of the matters, there can be no leap of faith with something as fundamental as knowing who is being admitted to the league.
“The very fact that there is no information of any kind being made available on this company undermines the authorities’ efforts to direct the new entrant to SFL 1.
“It is actually impossible for any member of the SFL to make an objective assessment of the proposals under Resolutions 1 and 2 and could be seen as irresponsible to support either proposal in such a void of information.”
In light of that it is clear that the football authorities in Scotland are, all three of them, pushing an agenda which is for the clear benefit of one party only (and which is actually not yet a member of the SFL, the SFA or the SPL).
In addition, the entity which wants to play as Rangers still faces determination of an application for SFA membership, and resolution of at least two major disciplinary processes.
The horror stories about losses of millions to Scottish football are unvouched. Mr Doncaster and Mr Regan give the impression of plucking huge figures out of the air. Indeed the ever increasing tales of woe spouted by them bring to mind the Four Yorkshireman sketch.
Scottish football has come to a stage where important decisions must be taken. However, what the three bodies are pushing through seems to go against the very purposes for which they exist.
Because of dithering and delay, we are 15 days from the start of the football season. The whole league structure is to be, if the SPL/SFA threat is to be believed, ripped up and rebuilt. Whilst it took God six days to create the universe, He did not have to deal with the articles of the SFA and the rules of the SFL.
To create SPL2 would require teams to leave the SFL in breach of their contracts.
What Should Happen Today?
As the Clyde statement put it so eloquently, the real choice faced by the SFL members today is whether to allow a “Rangers FC” to play at all this season. The way the vote has been framed, and all the attendant publicity, has been to the effect that the choice is SFl1 or SFL3. This is like the tactic taught to salesmen. Do not ask the customer of they want to buy a car. Instead ask if they want it in blue or red.
I suspect that the SFL members will swallow hard and agree to admit Sevco to SFL3, although the case for rejecting them now is strong. If Spartans or Cove Rangers produced as little information as has come from Sevco, would they even get on the ballot paper? I doubt it.
If the SFL votes in favour of part (ii), especially bearing in mind the publicly stated preferences so far, then this would appear to be as a result of shameful bullying and bribery by the bodies who are meant to look after their members’ interests.
As it is a secret ballot of course, we will not know who has voted what way, unless the parties themselves announce it.
The clear implication that, if SFL1 is rejected, the involvement of the SFL in re-structuring will be ignored, and the SPL and SFA will impose a solution is shameful.
If the vote goes in favour of Sevco in SFL1 today, then this will be confirmation, if such was needed, that the football authorities are only interested in one thing, and that is not the interests of the members or sporting integrity.
If the vote goes against the proposals, and Sevco are refused admittance or only permitted to enter a team in SFL3, then if they were honourable men, Messrs Regan, Doncaster and Longmuir should immediately resign, as their positions would be untenable (although they may be that already).
They should also make clear, and in fact ought to have done so by now, whether these plans come only from the CEO’s, or the respective boards or indeed from the SPL members.
Scottish football faces a monumental decision today. Let’s hope that the SFL members do what is right.
What would be right, in my opinion, would be for the proposals to admit Sevco to be rejected. Leave the SFL one team short for a year. Allow the football authorities time to decide how to re-structure, and invite applications for the extra place there will be, thus giving the football rulers time to assess the applicants properly, and also time for them to decide what to do with the “Rangers” disciplinary matters.
However, nothing will surprise me in this saga, and we await the news from Hampden today.