Chairman’s diary: SPFL infighting could turn into never-ending cold war

Issues on culture in Scottish football must be addressed but conflict will not bring lasting solution

Rangers produced a dossier criticising the league's governance. The next step will be the SPFL EGM on Tuesday. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS Group

The war in the north rages on. By this, I of course mean the continued infighting within the SPFL. We continue to have one statement pitted against another, followed by open letters, followed by interviews. Has any of this actually achieved anything positive?

War often breaks out when diplomacy fails. It seems that they skipped the diplomacy phase altogether. This seems lost on the warring parties.

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Meanwhile, football clubs are analysing cash flow forecasts that show them haemorrhaging cash throughout the shutdown. Some clubs are looking at accounts that show them going bust in a matter of months. What is even more concerning, is that hundreds of people continue to die every day from this virus. But the football war rages on.

The Rangers dossier has been published. The SPFL has responded. I’m not a fan of the process or language that either party has used. There are clear issues that need to be addressed, and as I’ve said in this column previously, every club should feel empowered to raise concerns within the SPFL, and the league executive and board should respond with professionalism, respect and a willingness to find resolution. That isn’t happening.

There is clearly an issue regarding the culture in Scottish football. Some of the revelations in the dossier made for uncomfortable reading. Sadly, I recognised some of the concerns too. I myself have raised concerns about the culture in the past and my concerns were met with similar disdain and defensiveness.

There clearly are issues that need to be addressed, but this should happen in a forum where there is a willingness to accept critical analysis and introduce change where required, as opposed to forced change through an almighty bust-up. It was Martin Luther King Jr who said, “Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows”, and we would do well to remember that advice.

The next step will be the SPFL EGM on Tuesday. Whilst there is bound to be an outcome from that meeting one way or another, I doubt there will be a lasting solution that everyone can unite behind. I fear this will run on. The war will transition to a never-ending cold war.

On Friday evening, we learned that talks on league reconstruction had apparently broken down. The Premiership clubs have despatched an edict to the rest of us to tell us that we no longer have their blessing to continue talks on improving the game. For those who wrongly thought that the Reconstruction Working Group were in charge of this, then I hope this serves as a stark reminder of how ‘democracy’ works in 
the SPFL. The top 12 decide. The rest are left wanting.

As it stands, there is no change to the league structures for next season. So the 84 per cent of supporters polled recently who wanted larger leagues have been given the cold shoulder by the Premiership. That’s what you call tough love. We’ll take your money, but you can keep your opinions to yourself.

Somebody said to me the other day, when this is all over, what will Scottish football think when we look back on this time in our history? Most likely with a sense of embarrassment.

But we shouldn’t let that overshadow the many good things that are still going on. I’ve mentioned my own Club’s Community Help Initiative that is about to enter its ninth week of operation. Nearly 3,000 school lunches delivered, more than 400 shopping trips undertaken, more than 3,000 volunteer hours, 600 hot meals delivered, and 450 food parcels distributed.

This should be part of football’s legacy during this pandemic. Whilst I can easily talk about the work we are doing at Stenhousemuir FC as I obviously have first-hand knowledge, I know there are many football clubs at all levels doing a whole range of things in their own local communities.

But what about the supporters? The often-maligned typical football supporter. He or she is buying their season ticket in advance, they are buying shares in their club, they are handing in a day’s wage to keep their club afloat. They are taking the trouble to write in and thank their local club for helping the vulnerable. They are volunteering and taking an active role in delivering help and support at a time when communities need it most. They are doing what they can to help their club and community in a real spirit of hope and positivity. We’ve proven the value of having a local football club.

The football authorities need to turn their attention to working with clubs to ensure their survival and their ability to continue to be part of the many communities they serve right across Scotland.

Nobody will win this current war within the SPFL, and nobody will win the next one either. Nobody ever really wins a war. But society will gain when football clubs survive and continue to be an integral part of their local communities.

* Iain McMenemy is the chairman of League 2 club Stenhousemuir.

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