IT seems that those jostling for influence and power within Scottish football have little appetite for another summer of confrontation and division.
Mercifully, the prospect of a civil war between the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Professional Football League receded yesterday almost as quickly as it had been mooted at the weekend.
After a day of meetings involving all the main movers and shakers on both bodies, they left Hampden with smiles on their faces and proclaiming a “positive” outcome for all concerned. Everyone, it appeared, had got something they wanted.
From the SFA board’s perspective, a potential challenge to their authority had been diluted. Of the four resolutions put forward by Alloa chairman Mike Mulraney on behalf of the SPFL, two were withdrawn completely and will now not go forward to the SFA’s annual general meeting on 18 June.
The most contentious and significant proposal had been to hand control of the SFA’s annual £12 million budget for youth development to the Professional Game Board, which contains a majority of SPFL members. In a compromise reached yesterday, the PGB will now be involved in setting the budget but the SFA’s main board will retain overall control of how it is spent.
The other resolution to be withdrawn concerned the admission of new clubs to full membership of the SFA. The SPFL wanted the existing member clubs to be given sole responsibility for assessing any such applications, rather than being at the discretion of the SFA board. After yesterday’s meeting, a new resolution will now be drawn up ahead of the agm which specifies than any prospective new member must be fully licensed under SFA rules.
The SPFL did not leave the negotiations empty handed, however. Their resolution for the PGB to have a second representative on the SFA main board - they currently have just one director - will go forward to the agm. Although the PGB is not completely comprised of SPFL officials, it effectively provides the league clubs to vote another of their own onto the main board.
The final resolution concerned the election of office-bearers at the SFA. An amended motion will now be put before the agm to allow candidates the presidency and vice-presidency to have just one year’s service - rather than the current four years - within the SFA or another recognised football body.
For the surviving resolutions to be passed in the SPFL’s favour, they will require the support of at least 71 of the SFA’s 94 members at the agm.
Some things in Scottish football, however, never change. Despite the level of accord and apparent harmony achieved in Hampden’s sixth floor offices, those involved were unwilling to share their views on the outcome with the wider Scottish football community.
Stephen Thompson, the Dundee United chairman and a member of the SPFL board, was among the first to leave Hampden and scurried past the waiting media blanking requests for a comment. Others, including Hibs chairman and SFA vice-president Rod Petrie, were less brusque but no more forthcoming.
Peter Lawwell, the Celtic chief executive who sits on both the SFA main board and the PGB, described the talks as “very positive, really good” but declined requests to expand.
Even Alloa chief and SPFL board member Mulraney, so voluble since news of the SPFL’s so-called “power grab” emerged on Sunday, stuck to the clearly pre-agreed line that an imminent joint statement would be the only official communication.
When the statement finally arrived, it provided echoing messages of contentment from the men at the respective helms of the SFA and SPFL.
“I am glad that after consultation board-to-board at Hampden Park today we have reached a positive outcome for all parties,” said SFA chief executive Stewart Regan.
“The Scottish FA is committed to the objectives outlined as part of the McLeish Review on Scottish Football, especially since we are beginning to see green shoots throughout our National Youth Teams and in via our Performance Strategy.
“It is important that we continue to work together with the SPFL, as with all other football bodies, to ensure that we take the national game forward both at senior professional level and in grassroots.”
For SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster, the talks were hailed as further success for his organisation following their subsumption of the Scottish Football League last summer.
“Today’s discussions were very productive and have given us a platform on which to continue the progress made since last year’s league reconstruction,” said Doncaster.
“The SPFL aims to work in partnership with the Scottish FA to ensure the senior professional game in Scotland is as vibrant as possible. The agreements reached at board level today demonstrate that relationship and will give the professional game the increased influence it has been seeking.
The current SPFL board is made up of Doncaster, Ralph Topping (Chairman), Eric Riley (Celtic), Stephen Thompson (Dundee United), Duncan Fraser (Aberdeen), Les Gray (Hamilton Academical), Mike Mulraney (Alloa Athletic) and Bill Darroch (Stenhousemuir).
The SFA’s main board consists of seven members - Regan, president Campbell Ogilvie, vice-presidents Petrie and Alan McRae, Peter Lawwell, Scottish Junior FA chief executive Tom Johnston and independent non-executive director Barrie Jackson.
The Professional Game Board, introduced following the SFA’s radical restructuring in 2011, is currently comprised of Regan, Ogilvie, McRae, Petrie, Doncaster, Lawwell, Michael Johnston (Kilmarnock), Bill Darroch (Stenhousemuir), Duncan Fraser (Aberdeen), Dr Andrew Waddell (Preston Athletic) and Sandy Stables (Keith FC).
OUTCOME OF MEETING
1. The resolution proposing that the Professional Game Board be able to appoint two members to the Scottish FA Board will go forward without amendment.
2. The resolution dealing with elections of President or Vice-President will be amended so that anyone standing for election must also have completed at least one year’s service (rather than four) in an official capacity within the Scottish FA or other recognised football body.
3. The resolution on the issue of new members will be withdrawn. There will be a new resolution, which will deal with the appointment of new full members such that they will need to be licensed clubs.
4. The Professional Game Board will, in future, be involved in the budget-setting and policy-setting processes for Scottish football, with the Scottish FA Board retaining overall responsibility for the financial budget relating to performance and football development. The resolution on this issue will be withdrawn.