Audits needed to avoid another Rangers-type “meltdown”

Scottish football fans are 'vital and central to renewing, reforming and reclaiming the national game in Scotland.' Picture: Neil Hanna

Scottish football fans are 'vital and central to renewing, reforming and reclaiming the national game in Scotland.' Picture: Neil Hanna

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Professional football clubs and the governing bodies of the sport should be subject to independent reviews and audits aimed at preventing a Rangers style financial meltdown, a fans manifesto demanding a radical package of reforms to the national game has said.

A Fans’ Manifesto “Transforming Scottish Football” that was put together by the Scottish football supporters association (SFSA) after a survey of 10,000 supporters also called for a significant extension of fan ownership of clubs and a right to buy for fans.

We believe Scottish football has a positive future, and that the voice of fans is vital to renewing, reforming and reclaiming the game

Simon Barrow

The SFSA, which has a membership of around 50,000 people, is calling for a “big conversation” about the future of the game, ahead of May’s Holyrood election, as the blueprint for a proposed shake-up of Scottish football was launched at Holyrood.

However, in a keynote demand it called for the “regular, independent auditing and review of the performance of governing bodies and clubs” that would see organisations such as the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) forced to submit to outside scrutiny.

The report said the radical move was needed due to a “complete lack of transparency throughout the game”, stating that it “often it is only when a crisis emerges that we get to see how a club is actually managed”.

In a scathing criticism of the sport’s two main governing bodies Scottish Football Association (SFA) and the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), it said the attitude of fans to those in charge was “revealing and concerning”.

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“The gulf between those who run football and those who love it and pay for it is far too wide to be healthy, which is why substantial reform in the boardrooms and throughout the governing bodies is in their interest, the fans’ interest, and the interests of Scottish football as a whole”, it said.

It added: “In recent times the reputation of both the Scottish Football Association (SFA) and the Scottish Professional Football

League (SPFL) have likewise suffered.”

Former First Minister Henry McLeish, who spokes at the manifesto launch, said the plan for independent audits of clubs, the SFA and SPFL could help prevent a “vast international shadow overhanging” the game such as the Rangers case.

Rangers three divisions in 2012 after the Oldco Rangers went into administration, and ultimately liquidation, over a separate tax debt which eventually reached £21million.

The current Rangers club, which has won two promotions on the field since 2012 and is potentially just months away from a return to the Scottish Premiership.

Mr McLeish, who published a report demanding major changes to Scottish football in 2010, said the SFSA manifesto call for new rules on transparency could help prevent a repeat of such cases.

He said: “Transparency and accountability are the critical words that should be applied and we should take Rangers as an example of where Scotland never wants to go again.

“Hopefully this will take us to the point where such a vast international shadow overhanging us won’t happen again.”

The SFSA manifesto also backed having a 25% fan representation on all of Scottish football’s governing bodies within five years, with 50 per cent representation for women.

MSPs should also look at handing fans a legal right to buy their club based on the model of the not-for-profit Foundation of Hearts which promoted the idea of fan ownership and successfully acquired the majority shareholding in the Tynecastle club

Neil Doncaster, SPFL chief executive, responding to the manifesto launch, said: “All stakeholders of Scottish football are united in striving for a positive future for our national sport. Fans, as the lifeblood of football, are a vital part of this and it’s imperative that their opinions continue to be listened to.

“The SPFL has made significant progress in delivering positive change throughout the last two-and-a-half years.

“We welcome any constructive suggestions which might help shape the future of the Scottish game.”

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