Rueful George Peat insists Stewart Regan has been harshly criticised
FORMER Scottish Football Association president George Peat is glad to be on the outside looking in these days as the game faces its darkest hour.
Peat stepped down last summer after four years in the post, thinking that Henry McLeish’s Review of Scottish Football, which he commissioned, would bring about radical reforms based on consensus.
However, a year later, as a result of the demise of Rangers and questions around where and under which circumstances Charles Green’s Ibrox newco will take its place after being denied entry into the Scottish Premier League, the game is in unprecedented turmoil with Peat claiming it has “hit a brick wall”.
Pressure increases daily on the Scottish Football League clubs who will vote on Friday on whether Ally McCoist’s side will be in the First Division or Third Division next season. While around half of the SFL clubs who have made their views known are against the newco resurfacing in the First Division – which is also the view of most fans, including those of Rangers – the SFA’s chief executive, Stewart Regan has warned of the “slow, lingering death” of Scottish football if the Govan club were not voted into the second tier.
To avoid those potentially apocalyptic consequences, SFL chief executive David Longmuir is this week negotiating a package of reforms, including play-offs and a change in the share of monies and voting rights, with the SFA and the SPL which he hopes will persuade his member clubs to allow the new Rangers to start again in the First Division. But the growing animosity and bickering within the game means Longmuir is not guaranteed to find a satisfactory resolution and leaves Peat happy not to be directly involved any longer.
“I am happy to be outside of it all now,” Peat said last night. “It is sad what has happened at Rangers. After the Henry McLeish report came out, we were all working together on the way forward. When I left the SFA, the relationship between the SPL and the SFL was good. People were looking at things from the same point of view. Nobody could foresee what was going to happen. I hope that what has happened at Rangers hasn’t blown it all apart but from an administration point of view, Scottish football has hit a brick wall.”
Peat has some sympathy for Regan, who has come in for widespread criticism for his handling of the crisis. The former Yorkshire County Cricket Club chief executive found himself under attack by some SFL clubs who claimed he was putting them under pressure to accept Rangers in the second tier. Peat insists Regan had a responsibility to act for the greater good of the game and believes there could be a positive outcome. “I believe Stewart has been unfairly criticised,” said Peat. “Someone has to take the lead and that’s what he did. He has to try to act as a go-between, between the SPL and SFL. He is not going to please everybody. All he has done is to spell out the road the game could go down and what will happen.
“Perhaps it didn’t make good reading for some but in all of it, somebody has to explain the facts of the situation, whether they are pretty or not. He might have gone too far in some people’s eyes but this is a situation that has far-reaching consequences for the game and sometimes you have to speak your mind and confront the brutal reality. SFL clubs have been put in an invidious position. It is the SFL clubs who are suffering and they feel they have had the problem dumped on them.
“The clubs are never all going to agree but what is important right now is that people look at what is right for the long-term future of Scottish football. I have always said there should be one organisation and I hope now that we can get back to that.”
Peat believes, however, the cloud could yet have a silver lining. “Out of this awful situation Rangers find themselves in, there is a real chance to restructure the game and complete the final part of the McLeish Report,” he said. “When I commissioned it, people expected it to sit on a shelf but people forget that the Scottish FA, and Stewart since he came in, have radically modernised the governance of the game, put a Performance Strategy in place and have made wholesale changes. People have short memories but reconstruction can be the one positive from this situation.
“I hope there will be an amicable agreement but nobody knows what deal the SPL have offered the SFL.
“Voting (rights), how much money, how much of it will reach the Third Division, these are questions that have to be answered and we won’t find out until Friday.”
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