JOINT interim Scottish Professional Football League chief executives Neil Doncaster and David Longmuir have both confirmed they are to stand for the top job in the new merged set-up.
After arduous talks at Hampden on Thursday, lasting nearly 16 hours, the SPFL was finally given the go-ahead in the early hours of yesterday morning after a deal was struck to reunite the two league bodies after 15 years apart. But one of the first decisions the new six-man SPFL board will have to make is which of its two chief executives – former Scottish Premier League boss Doncaster and Longmuir, his counterpart from the old Scottish Football League – will lead the organisation.
Both men are running the new body together in the meantime but while Longmuir has thrown his hat into the ring Doncaster remained cagey on his own chances of landing the post.
He said: “It’s not a question of applying for the position. There are two acting chief executives and the board will be selecting one of those to take the new league body forward. Interviews will take place over the next ten days or so but that’s for the board to decide who they want to lead the organisation in future.”
Longmuir, meanwhile, said he was keen to be considered, adding: “There will be a process over the next week or so where the newly-appointed board of the SPFL will make a decision (on the new chief executive) and I will enter into that process wholeheartedly.”
The new league body was due to be given the green light at a board meeting early on Thursday afternoon but wrangles over due diligence kept the talks going beyond midnight. Longmuir admitted he feared the long-running merger discussions – which have dragged on for the past four months and were almost sunk over plans for a 12-12-18 scheme – might collapse again at the 11th hour.
“There was a point in time yesterday where the SFL board were not completely satisfied to allow the decision to be made,” said the former lower-league chief. “There was more time, more information, more co-operation required. Once we achieved that, it all began to develop.
“Should the information have been made available earlier? Well it wasn’t for the lack of
requesting it. It’s all about communication in life.
“When we got to the point yesterday where we got the communication we were looking for, there was a momentum behind the decision and that was it.”
Among the concerns of some Second and Third Division sides were the potential liabilities that they might inherit from a £1.7 million court case currently being fought with former Celtic striker Harry Hood over the use of foreign decoders to screen live matches in his chain of pubs.
But Longmuir side: “Everything was agreed to the satisfaction of the board yesterday and (the liabilities) were all covered. We did everything to ensure all clubs were satisfied on all these elements.”
Doncaster added: “There has been a thorough investigation and due diligence carried out by our advisors and clearly the (lower-league clubs) have received the assurances they feel they need.”
Annan chairman Henry McClelland argued earlier this week that access to SPL accounts should have been granted much earlier but Doncaster insisted the due diligence process had been going on for “some days”.
He continued: “People always want assurances and further assurances. Ultimately, you have to take a leap of faith. The 42 clubs have now done that and it means we can now get on and look after the interests of all the professional clubs in this country.”
The new board – which includes Celtic’s Eric Riley, Stephen Thompson of Dundee United and Duncan Fraser from Aberdeen representing the top flight, First Division chairmen Les Gray of Hamilton and Alloa’s Mike Mulraney and Bill Darroch from Stenhousemuir, who sits for the bottom two tiers – will meet again next month to discuss matters such as the names of the four divisions. Longmuir said the 42-club agreement was a chance for the Scottish game to “stop internalising” but admitted redundancies among the streamlined league’s staff were also a possibility. He said: “There will be a new organisation designed as soon as possible. The new board will make some of those decisions and my message to everyone is that the quality and skill of people who have operated in both organisations are huge assets to the game.”