Tom English: Sky will fall in on Scottish top flight without Old Firm rivalry
SO THE new £80m SPL deal with Sky is predicated on both Old Firm clubs remaining in the top flight. We always assumed it would be, but confirmation came out of Celtic yesterday that this, indeed, is the case.
Sky gets Celtic and Rangers or else they have the right to terminate the deal (not officially signed yet but it’s close) and walk into the sunset leaving the SPL in even greater financial trouble than it already is.
What does this mean amid all the madness doing the rounds at the moment? Well, we know that the SPL might have a moral dilemma on their hands in the coming weeks and months. Imagine if Duff and Phelps can’t deliver the things they say they can deliver – HMRC debt taken care of in administration, Ticketus deal unravelled and Craig Whyte’s hold on the club being broken. Imagine a scenario that sees Rangers being forced into liquidation and then reforming as a new company. Imagine the new company then applying for membership of the SPL as they would need to. Imagine the debate around the boardroom table at the SPL.
There will be six men present, all with one vote. Rangers, under Whyte, have been found guilty of cheating on their taxes to the tune of £9m rising to £15m when you factor in other dodgy scams. This is a hypothetical picture, but let’s say that HMRC have found them guilty on the EBT front and let’s extend the hypothesis even further by saying that the SPL inquiry into secret untaxed payments has also found them guilty. The rap sheet is as long as the arm of any of the six who sit in judgment.
So what do they do? Neil Doncaster, as chief executive, lays his cards on the table. He outlines the ethical side of things, the fact that Rangers have done wrong. Then he outlines the cost of making a moral decision to reject their application for membership. The Sky deal would go kaput. The financial cost of not having them around would amount to X, the individual cost to each club for turning New Rangers away would be Y. On the one hand you have integrity and the need to do the right thing, on the other you have lucre and the need to balance the books.
We can’t presuppose these things but the chances are that Doncaster and chairman, Ralph Topping, would opt to welcome Rangers back in on the grounds that to turn them away would cause financial chaos in their own organisation. You then have Steven Brown of St Johnstone, Michael Johnston of Kilmarnock and Stephen Thompson of Dundee United - three members of the disaffected Gang of 10 who want to break up the Old Firm duopoly in the SPL. What do they do when faced with the decision that would cost their clubs much-needed cash? Morals or money? Big decision.
Let’s say they vote against Rangers. The score is now 3-2 against their application. Who’s the sixth man? Eric Riley of Celtic. Again you ask, morals or money, Mr Riley?
We’re guessing here, but we’re saying the six would go for the money. No matter the crimes Rangers may (or may not) have committed if push comes to shove it really is difficult to say the SPL board voting to keep the Ibrox club out of their league and thereby plunging themselves into a black hole. Celtic would be fine, others would plod along, but many would suffer badly. Dunfermline were in desperate trouble a few weeks back until the Rangers administrators freed-up the cash to meet an £80,000 debt to the Pars that allowed them to switch the lights on that week. On such margins are the minnows run.
There’s been much talk about the Gang of 10 over the past week, this group that Peter Lawwell described yesterday as disrespectful to Celtic and Rangers, the clubs they have locked out of the room as they continue to challenge the voting structure of the SPL. For years they have seen the Old Firm lord it over them with a veto on everything. They want to change that. They see Rangers in trouble and they’re going for it. With one of the giants on its knees they reckon they can enforce a better deal for themselves. They will dress it up – as all clubs do – and say that they are serving the greater good of the game, but when you strip away all the rhetoric all this is about – all it is ever about – is the search for more dosh and a more powerful bargaining position in the grand scheme of things. That’s what all 12 are looking for.
Good luck to the 10, but they are surely doomed. Celtic will vote against any change and you can see why. Most money that comes into the SPL is generated by the Old Firm. What they have they want to hold, not give away to clubs who generate precious little for the league.
So the 10 need to persuade Rangers to come to the table and join forces for a magnificent 11. What can they do? Well, they can promise them three votes if it comes to an application for their re-entry to the SPL. They can say, ‘Look, Duff and Phelps, if you agree to take a smaller cut of the Sky dosh we’ll guarantee you a place in the SPL. Doesn’t matter a damn about the wee tax case or the big tax case or the double contracts and the side letters and Whyte’s £9m or anything else. Join our gang and we’ll ignore the lot of it. Have we a deal?’
But why would they deal when the Sky contract already stipulates that Rangers must remain in the SPL. That’s a hell of an insurance policy for Duff and Phelps and any of the bidders interested in buying the club. The moral argument is all fine and dandy, but when these clubs sit down to talk they make decisions based on what is best for their own backyard. Like it or not, that is usually the way of it.
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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