SCOTTISH Premier League chief executive Neil Doncaster last night admitted his organisation’s 12 members have mixed emotions over the prospect of allowing a newco Rangers into the top flight next season but pledged that “clarity” will be delivered in time for the start of the campaign.
A meeting of the SPL board of directors at Hampden yesterday set a date of 4 July for the vote on whether the share owned by the soon to be liquidated existing Rangers FC can be transferred.
An application for the transfer has been formally submitted by Charles Green on behalf of his Sevco consortium, who purchased the assets of Rangers following the failure last week to emerge from administration through a Company Voluntary Arrangement proposal.
Several clubs remain torn between the commercial impact of losing Rangers from the SPL and the sporting morality of accepting a reconstituted Ibrox club as members. The alleged misdemeanours of Rangers’ recent past remain unresolved, with the SPL board also announcing yesterday that they have a case to answer over illegal payments to players as part of the Employee Benefit Trust scheme operated under the Murray Group’s ownership.
But Doncaster is confident greater certainty over Rangers’ future will be achieved before the new SPL season kicks off on 4 August, the fixtures having been released yesterday with ‘Club 12’ substituting for where the most successful club in Scotland’s history would have been.
Many of the SPL clubs are under severe pressure from their respective supporters groups to vote ‘No’ to a newco Rangers and Doncaster says they must accept that burden of responsibility, having decided last month to take the decision out of the hands of the SPL’s six-man board.
“Ultimately, each club will have their own feelings on it,” Doncaster told The Scotsman at Hampden last night. “This whole saga has had many, many twists and turns. The reality is that the season will start on 4 August. At some point between now and then, clarity will emerge. But I’m not going to predict when that will be.
“There was a change in the rules which took the decision making away from the board. The clubs now have to make that decision. If there is the verification and documentation the board require (from the newco), then the clubs will have a decision to make on 4 July.”
Doncaster denied that it was an embarrassment for the SPL to have to release their fixtures without yet knowing the identity of one of their competing clubs for next season.
“I think it was the only thing we could do in the circumstances,” he replied. “The reality is that a decision will be made on a transfer of the share on 4 July. We have an obligation to everyone to issue fixtures. Rather than try and predict the outcome of that meeting on 4 July, we have to accept there are a number of different possible outcomes. That’s why we dealt with the fixture list as we did.”
Asked about contingency plans in the event of a Rangers newco not being admitted to the SPL, with Dundee potentially in line to step in after finishing runners-up in the First Division last season, Doncaster was non-committal.
“Speculating about that is not helpful, so I’m not going to,” he said.
“It’s important that we deal with the issues in front of us. We’ve got one very clear issue in front of us, which is the transfer of the share.”
Weekend reports suggested that a rapidly convened merger of the SPL with the Scottish Football League, being driven by the SFA, could see the new Rangers admitted into the second tier of a new league structure as a compromise solution. Again, Doncaster was unwilling to specifically address that possibility but he did concede that ongoing merger talks included a new financial model which would provide a softer landing for clubs dropping out of the SPL.
“I’m not going to speculate on what might and might not happen (to a newco Rangers) but in terms of reconstruction, the discussions which have taken place over the last 18 months include an all-through distribution model,” added Doncaster. “These talks are complicated and there is a lot of detail there.
“We’ve been working now for around 18 months, alongside the SFL and SFA, around a merged league for 42 clubs with parachute payments, play-offs and a pyramid structure. Those talks remain ongoing.”
Yesterday’s SPL board meeting lasted almost five hours, with only a brief official statement released regarding the newco issue.
“An application for registration of transfer of Rangers’ SPL share has been received,” it read. “Consideration of the application will depend on receipt by the SPL Board of all required documentation and verification. A general meeting of all 12 member clubs has been convened for 10am on Wednesday 4 July 2012 for members to decide whether to approve the transfer.”