Stephen Halliday: Dave Cormack and Roy MacGregor should follow James Anderson’s moral lead

Reconstruction plan could heal so many angry wounds
Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack should support a plan which would heal so many angry wounds. Picture: Bill Murray/SNSAberdeen chairman Dave Cormack should support a plan which would heal so many angry wounds. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS
Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack should support a plan which would heal so many angry wounds. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS

Until this week, it might have been easier to locate Brigadoon than to find the moral high ground of Scottish football.

But, in the manner of the Broadway musical’s fictional village which appears for only one day every 100 years, it seems mysterious things really can happen.

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We now know exactly where that moral high ground is. It is directly under the feet of James Anderson, the previously unheralded philanthropist who has donated £3 million of his personal fortune to help SPFL clubs negotiate their way through the Covid-19 crisis.

Having defied the cynics and proved there are no strings attached to his largesse, in terms of either the future structure or governance of the SPFL, Anderson has delivered an object lesson in how to act for the greater good. We are now about to discover if those 42 clubs entitled to an unexpected £50,000 bonus will be able to follow Anderson’s example and – even if it is only once in 100 years – set their self-interest aside and back the 14-10-10-10 league reconstruction plan being mooted by the SPFL board.

After three months of back-biting, acrimony and botched votes, we have come back to the 
proposal first put forward by Livingston seven weeks ago. It is hard to fathom why it wasn’t seen back then as the only set-up which has even a fighting chance of emerging successfully through the SPFL’s ludicrously prohibitive voting threshold.

It remains a long shot that it will be put to a formal ballot at an EGM. But the fact the SPFL board feels able to seek indicative votes on it by 10am on Monday morning suggests they believe some minds can be changed on the issue over the course of this weekend. The first stumbling block is to achieve the backing of 11 of the 12 Premiership clubs. Which leads us to Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack and his Ross County counterpart Roy MacGregor, both of whom have publicly opposed extending the top flight to 14 clubs.

Cormack and MacGregor are highly successful businessmen who certainly did not amass their respective fortunes by making decisions they felt posed even the slightest financial handicap to their companies. So if we were simply talking about fiduciary duty here, then neither man could be blamed for killing the reconstruction plan stone dead if they truly believe it has no benefit for their clubs. But we are not living in normal times. Is it too much to ask for Cormack and MacGregor to lend their support to a structure which, while far from perfect, has the potential to heal so many of the angry wounds left by the SPFL’s decision to curtail the 2019-20 season? Would either Aberdeen or Ross County really be significantly worse off as part of a 14-team Premiership which Sky Sports are happy to embrace as it would mean the Edinburgh and Highland derbies joining the Old Firm fixtures on their schedule?

Nothing can be done now to change the unsatisfactory manner in which champions of all four divisions were declared without completing the campaign on the pitch. But this plan would correct the biggest injustices of all by sparing Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer from their respective relegations, while also opening the League 2 door to Highland and Lowland League champions 
Brora Rangers and Kelty Hearts.

If Cormack and MacGregor can be persuaded and the Premiership numbers stack up, it will then need at least six of the ten Championship clubs to vote in favour. The residual ill-feeling of many towards Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the wake of “votegate” may influence them, given the Highland club would be promoted.

But if ever there was a time to set personal animosities aside, this is it. James Anderson did a very good thing this week. Scotland’s 42 clubs have a moral duty to do the right thing in return.

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