SPL TV deal: ‘Gang of Ten’ could quit league over votes reform

John Yorkston has vowed to carry on the battle. Picture: SNS
John Yorkston has vowed to carry on the battle. Picture: SNS
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DUNFERMLINE chairman John Yorkston has claimed that the ten non-Old Firm clubs could resign from the Scottish Premier League if Celtic and Rangers go ahead with their intention to block voting reform.

In yesterday’s Scotsman, SPL chairman Ralph Topping urged the administrators at Ibrox to declare their hand in public on the issue. Topping called for a collective approach from all 12 clubs to solve the current problems afflicting Scottish football and branded the actions of the so-called “Gang of Ten” as “not the smartest thing”.

Last night sources close to Duff & Phelps, in charge of the Ibrox club since they went into administration on 14 February, confirmed that they, like Celtic, are opposed to any alteration to the current arrangement which at present requires an 11-1 majority to pass any major SPL policy decision.

But Yorkston said that he would carry on the battle for a more democratic set-up, and would not rule out the option of resignation by the non-Old Firm ten. “I expected it,” he said of the confirmation of Rangers’ intention. “But I’m disappointed democracy has not come to Scottish football.

“One option is for the ten of us to resign and leave the league, similar to what happened before when the SPL was set up. We’re not prepared to put up with this 11-1 vote any longer.”

Asked if that was an option he would consider, Yorkston added: “I would vote for resignation, but it does depend on the other ten. If the other two are going to keep voting against our proposal for reform, it leaves the rest of us to consider our position.”

The weighted voting system, passed by all of the inaugural members when leading clubs split from the Scottish Football League to form the SPL in 1998, effectively gives the Old Firm the power of veto over any proposal to which they object.

The ten other clubs held a meeting last week at which they agreed to pursue change at a special general meeting of the SPL at Hampden on 12 April. Their key proposal will be scrapping the 11-1 vote and replacing it with a 9-3 majority required for all decisions taken by the SPL.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell was quick to condemn the move, branding the meeting of the ten clubs as “disrespectful” and “divisive”.

He stressed the financial importance of the Old Firm to the SPL and claimed that any diminution of their influence could weaken Scottish football “to the point that we won’t have any European context at all.”

While the ten clubs fully anticipated Celtic’s opposition, they were hopeful that the current financial crisis enveloping Rangers may present a situation where they could persuade the administrators to vote with them on 12 April.

Kilmarnock chairman Michael Johnston, another of the leading figures behind the move by the ten clubs, said: “It might make it easier for the administrators to get whatever they are going to try to achieve, whether it is a Company Voluntary Arrangement or new company to be formed and rejoining the SPL and SFA. The support of the ten clubs might be needed at some point.

“This is a pro-democracy movement.

“We have this oppressive regime at the moment where you require an 11-1 majority in order to achieve any major change and that can’t be healthy for any organisation.

“There’s definitely a mood for change and, if we’re going to have radical change, then there has to be a more flexible voting structure.”

It is now clear, however, that the mutual interests of Celtic and Rangers have not in any way been affected by the Ibrox club’s problems. On the contrary, it is understood Rangers’ administrators believe the club would be less attractive to potential purchasers if they no longer held the voting power to ensure the Old Firm have the lion’s share of television income and commercial revenue.

The SPL’s current sponsorship deal with Clydesdale Bank, worth in excess of £2million a season, expires at the end of next season. A new £80m television contract with Sky and ESPN, which is dependent on the provision of four Old Firm fixtures a season, begins next season.

It remains to be seen if the ten non-Old Firm clubs can obtain any degree of compromise over a more equitable share of income, although last night’s developments suggested that the factions remain as far apart as ever.