Comment: Increasingly furtive SPFL is becoming a bastion of opacity

SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan has been in post for nearly three years but is rarely seen and seldom heard. Picture: Craig Foy/SNSSPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan has been in post for nearly three years but is rarely seen and seldom heard. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan has been in post for nearly three years but is rarely seen and seldom heard. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS | SNS Group
League’s latest missive fails to address key issues around flawed vote to end season early

The killer line that emerged from the independent investigation into the botched SPFL vote to end the season for the lower divisions did not come from Deloitte’s “nothing to see here” findings.

Instead, it took the form of a slap down in the press release that accompanied the “open letter to all SPFL clubs, the media and supporters of Scottish clubs”.

“Please note – no interviews will be undertaken,” it read.

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Well we never! And with that, an increasingly furtive SPFL – becoming no less than a bastion of opacity – succeeded once more in betraying the instincts that have caused the organisation so many issues in recent weeks.

The growing unease with the governance of the SPFL doesn’t simply centre around the timings of Dundee’s failed-to-lodge ballot the other week. A “no” vote was sent at 16:48 and scooped out of the SPFL’s “third party operated” email quarantine system at 20:55.

The vote was then changed to a “yes” four days later, and proved decisive in the adoption of the resolution to curtail the season for Championship, League 1 and League 2 clubs, and create the framework to do likewise with the Premiership.

The concerns over how the SPFL goes about its business stretch far beyond the specifics of Dundee’s flip-flopping. But, of course, with the SPFL setting the parameters for Deloitte’s investigation, and chief executive Neil Doncaster and invisible chairman Murdoch MacLennan having failed to face the media since all this unravelled, the Deloitte investigation merely reproduced a series of timings we knew already.

The various calls from clubs for an independent investigation did not simply revolve around what took place between Doncaster and any Dundee officials on the Friday evening of 10 April.

Which, SPFL independent non-executive director Karyn McCluskey – the name on yesterday’s “open letter” – informed us that, through “Deloitte’s examination of phone records, mobile communications (including texts) and email data has identified no evidence of improper behaviour by SPFL personnel concerning the submission of the Dundee FC vote.”

Shockerooney?

What McCluskey, or Deloitte, did not tell us is why an incomplete vote was made public, when the Friday 5pm time was not a deadline but a “request”, in line with company law. She/they didn’t tell us why the SPFL told members that voting for the resolution was the only means to release prize money when it has now emerged interest-free loans could have been given with the organisation that doesn’t seek to hold a reserve – as Doncaster stated at the start of the lockdown caused by the Covid-19 health emergency that has precipitated all of this wrangling.

She/they didn’t tell us why the SPFL chief executive won’t face questions from the media now. And why MacLennan, a man whose professional life has been spent in newspapers, has refused any such request in the near three years he has been in post.

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Apparently he does “like doing interviews”. Maybe it is because he would struggle to tell us the point of his having any role in the governance of the Scottish game.

She/they didn’t tell us anything about the circumstances surrounding the failure of a prospective resolution by Rangers to have prize money released without calling the season to be rendered competent.

She/they didn’t tell us why so many clubs feel they were coerced into supporting 
the season-curtailing resolution – among those club officials who are accepting both that there was no “bullying”, as the Ibrox club have claimed, and that the SPFL board are well within their rights to seek to persuade members to support a resolution they crafted and recommended.

At least yesterday’s development offered some light relief. Such is the SPFL’s aversion to transparency, there had been no word that an independent investigation had been commissioned until it was foisted on us at just after 3pm.

As a result, the SPFL have succeeded in making it seem as if there is something dodgy about an investigation designed to demonstrate there was nothing dodgy about any goings on.

In SPFL land, the governing body would appear to have long since slipped through the looking glass.

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