Gerry Britton was an observer rather than a boardroom mover and shaker eight years ago when Scottish football was plunged into disharmony by the financial collapse of Rangers.
But the Partick Thistle chief executive has no doubt that the current in-fighting over the SPFL’s handling of the vote on their season-ending resolution is far more fractious and damaging than the events of 2012.
Thistle are among those who will back Rangers’ call for an independent investigation into the SPFL executive’s corporate governance when it goes to a vote at the Extraordinary General Meeting of all 42 member clubs.
Britton believes it is the only way to heal the angry and open wounds which have been on such public display over the last few weeks.
“It would be a start but it’s not going to be easy,” said Britton.
“There have been real divisions created by the clubs and the league. It’s never helpful when, to the outsider looking in, it’s like slagging matches. It’s embarrassing that the game has fallen to those levels. But the reason for this is that clubs felt they had to stoop to those levels because that was the only way they could get their point across.
“We have to do something major if we are going to pull the various clubs back together and get us through this crisis we are all going through.
“I have never seen the game in this fragmented, divided manner. I know we had the situation when Rangers went into liquidation in 2012, there were a lot of factions at that stage, but I think this is unprecedented. The past few months have led us down a route where, rather than being at our most cohesive to try to work towards the future, we haven’t been together. Something has to change, there has to be some impact to pull us back together. If not, it’s only going to get worse.
“I think it’s worse than it was in 2012. I was more on the periphery then but I was aware of what was going on in the background and this is definitely a situation that I have not seen before. I hope we learn from it and never fall to these depths again.”
Thistle have been relegated to League 1 as a consequence of the SPFL’s decision to call time on the Championship, League 1 and League 2 this season and decide final placings on a points-per-game basis as the tables stood when football was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic on 13 March.
That’s despite the Firhill club being only two points behind Queen of the South at the bottom of the table with a game in hand. The predictable collapse of moves towards league reconstruction for the 2020-21 campaign last Friday appear to have ended any hopes of a reprieve for Thistle.
“Although we have made the statement (saying we will be voting for the resolution) on the back of what happened with reconstruction on Friday, I can genuinely say this was the intention of the club when we were first made aware of the resolution,” said Britton.
“Just for sheer transparency and to try to heal the obvious divides that are fragmenting our game at present, I think it’s the right thing to do.
“It’s clear to see there have been practices and processes which have gone wrong, for whatever reason, over the last couple of months.
“I always believe that to be able to critically evaluate something is never a bad thing. I don’t see how this could be a bad thing. If you are the league, if you are happy with the way you’ve gone about things, then what have you got to lose?
“When you look at the whole process, surely you look back and say that things were wrong here. Anyone impartial or anybody that was looking for a credible outcome would have said, ‘Right guys, foot on the ball and let’s start this again’.
“The moment that you realise that Dundee initiated their vote but then, for whatever reason, have decided that they don’t want that vote cast, then if that’s in the public domain, if people are capable of putting pressure on Dundee and then Dundee are capable of putting undue pressure on other actors involved.
“I’m not saying for definite that they did but just that that situation is capable of playing out. Surely you say, ‘This has gone wrong here’.
“It might have been that simply calling it to a halt at that stage and redoing the proposal, you might have still got the same numbers through. But you would have got a far better feeling coming out of it than there is now. That is in no small part down to the process and the way that the SPFL dealt with the voting process.
“My issue was with the process, the way that the SPFL board put in line this chain of events that led to the proposal. That is why I feel that there should be an independent inquiry.
“Neil Doncaster and the other board members have to have a look at the way they have behaved and their actions throughout this process. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it’s a very tough job with a herd of cats thrown into the equation. But, logistically and where we’ve got to, unfortunately a lot of that sits at the feet of the executive and the board, and the decisions and the practices that they put in place.”
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