DCSIMG

‘Disgusted’ chairmen call for SFA chief Stewart Regan to stand down

Stewart Regan. Picture: AP

Stewart Regan. Picture: AP

  • by Martin Hannan
 

SCOTTISH football’s top official, SFA chief executive Stewart Regan, was the subject of a proposed no-confidence vote at the meeting of the Scottish Football League on Friday.

Last night he was facing calls to consider his position, with the men who proposed and seconded the no-confidence vote, Livingston chairman Gordon McDougall and Cowdenbeath secretary Alex Anderson, calling for Regan to “think about his position”.

SFL president Jim Ballantyne decided that the vote should not take place on Friday, but McDougall confirmed last night: “I proposed the vote of no confidence, but it wasn’t put to the meeting. I don’t know why.”

Anderson said: “The whole situation has disgusted me, the way it has been handled.

“It is a sad, sad day for Scottish football, what we have been forced into, and the top people in the SFA and SPL should all be looking to their positions. Regan needs to look at what he has said and done, and the way he has handled things, and he must consider his position. I’m sorry to say this, but the SPL and SFA tried to get us to make a decision with our hands tied.”

The issue which has put the SFA chief executive under pressure is his vocal campaign to link league reconstruction with putting newco Rangers into the First Division.

An SFL club director said: “We were bullied and intimidated over the issue.

“We were basically told ‘Rangers into the First or else’.

“It backfired, because I’m sure some clubs changed their vote after reading his comments about ‘slow lingering death’ in the press.”

As yet the SFA has still to approve Charles Green’s application to assume Rangers’ membership of the association – a condition of playing league football – with disciplinary action against the original company also unresolved.

The SFA board may want Green to accept some sanctions as a condition of the newco’s membership, and the appellate tribunal will definitely meet to reconsider their verdict after Lord Glennie set aside the transfer embargo.

Yet it looks most likely that newco Rangers will play in the Third Division against the wishes of the game’s leadership in Scotland.

The full extent of the lengths to which the Scottish football authorities were prepared to go to shoehorn newco Rangers into the First

Division can be revealed today.

A document prepared for the Scottish Football Association’s Board and dated 18 June has been obtained by Scotland On Sunday. It was said by an insider to be the “culmination of weeks of talks between the SFA, SPL, SFL, oldco Rangers and then newco Rangers.”

The document is headed “Scottish FA: Newco & Scottish Football, A Strategic Review” and has Regan’s mark of authorship – on page 6, dealing with the “top ten risks to be addressed”, the second “risk to be addressed” is said to be “social unrest” which is the phrase used by Regan after the SPL voted not to allow newco Rangers into their league.

It was this initial review which led to the proposals put forward by the SFA, SPL and SFL last week calling for the restructuring of the professional game in Scotland, tied to the plan to put Rangers into the First Division.

As far back as 18 June, however, the authors knew they were in for possible trouble with their plans. The risks to be addressed included “threat to solidarity payment [the

£2 million paid to the SFL by the SPL] and future survival of 20 remaining clubs” – the first time the number of possible casualties has been mentioned, amounting to almost half the 42 professional clubs in Scotland.

On the last page under the heading “Questions to Consider” the author asks: “What is the mechanic per footballing body to approve a package of measures out-with [sic] the rule book?” This is believed to be a reference to the conflicts between the SPL and SFL rule books on how to deal with a club going into liquidation. Other questions are: “Does the Scottish FA need to call an EGM? Do we need unanimity to move forward – potential challenges as to whether we have powers to do this?”

Benefits of the package were that it would “show leadership for the game in Scotland” and avoid “a fan backlash” with “a positive media outcome” – three “benefits” that did not accrue. In the bizarre lexicon of the SFA, the review is known as an “Aunt Sally” document – it is actually referred to as such in SFA minutes – with controversial proposals put up for discussion so that they can be accepted or rejected.

The supreme irony is that much of the plan for restructuring the professional game in Scotland was visionary, involving a single league body with four divisions named Premiership, Championship, League One, League Two; a revised percentage allocation of cash to all 42 clubs; the introduction of play-offs between all leagues; parachute payments between top two tiers and for a club falling out of the bottom tier; the launch of a pyramid system below the professional league, with the Highland League continuing as it is and a new Lowland League to be formed from the Junior leagues, the East of Scotland and South of Scotland Leagues.

Most of those proposals made it into the eventual tripartite plan announced last week, though that will now be phased in over two years rather than go ahead immediately as Rangers have been put into the Third Division. It is a matter for conjecture just how much of that vision will survive and become reality.

An SFA spokesperson said last night: “This is a discussion document that was issued to the Scottish FA Board based on dialogue between the Scottish FA, SPL and SFL on the subjects of Rangers FC’s status and league reconstruction. In light of the purchase of assets by Sevco Scotland on 14 June, it was essential that all implications of this development were made available to the Scottish FA Board for consideration before further discussions with both the SPL and SFL. The Scottish FA were effectively the ‘marriage brokers’ in the discussions on league reconstruction.”

It’s a marriage that is yet to be consummated and will start without a honeymoon, because last night St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour blasted the SFL for rejecting the plan to put Rangers in the First Division.

Gilmour said: “This is horrific news for St Mirren Football Club. The consequences are terrible – catastrophic even. I just hope they realise the damage they have done to Scottish football. Five clubs in the SPL could be in administration within weeks – and we will have to do everything we can to avoid being one of them.” Such feeling has prompted speculation that the SPL 2 plan could yet be revived at tomorrow’s SPL agm but Hearts managing director David Southern cast doubt on that last night. “Anything’s possible for discussion but certainly nothing has been mentioned to us as a club that that is on the agenda for discussion,” Southern said.

“We think it would be a very, very short discussion indeed. We are focused on the new season. Rangers, as has been elected, will play in Division Three. That’s how it stands at the moment and that’s how we fully expect it to stand at five o’clock on Monday evening.”

A statement from Dundee United was more emphatic. It said: “For the avoidance of doubt, following yesterday’s vote, the club would not support any counter proposals for the formation of SPL 2 or regarding any other route for The Rangers Football Club to join the SPL.”

 

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