Longmuir: ‘I’m working for Rangers - and 29 others’

SFL Chief Executive David Longmuir. Picture: SNS
SFL Chief Executive David Longmuir. Picture: SNS
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DAVID Longmuir yesterday admitted what many of his detractors had suspected – he is working in the best interests of Rangers. But the chief executive of the Scottish Football League also stressed that he is at the same time working in the best interests of the other 29 clubs in the SFL.

Longmuir has been accused of pandering to the Ibrox club, after inserting the prospect of Rangers and Celtic colt teams into the agenda. However, the chief executive strenuously denied that he is doing the bidding of his opposite number at Rangers, Charles Green. He has also issued a barbed comment in the direction of Neil Doncaster, the Scottish Premier League chief executive and with whom Longmuir is said to have a clash of personalities.

When asked whether it was true that he and Doncaster shared a stormy relationship, he replied: “I won’t do what Neil did and ignore the question; Neil has a duty to 12 clubs, I have a duty to 30. I think it is important that personalities are taken out of the equation and that the good of the game transcends everything.”

Rangers, he added, are included in the 30 clubs that are within his remit. “If you are asking me the question: am I a Rangers man in the SFL? Yes. But I am also Livingston’s, Annan’s, Raith Rovers’, Brechin’s, Forfar’s, East Fife’s, Queen’s Park’s, Airdrie’s, Albion Rovers’... I have the league table here.

“I have every single one of those clubs in my heart,” he stressed. “That is where I grew up in football. I have supported community teams all my life and will continue to do so. I know there are different expressions of conspiracy going on. I don’t deal with conspiracy. I deal with facts and honesty. You can take it that way if you want.”

Longmuir did accept that Rangers have a powerful voice, and he added that they have been a credit to the SFL since joining in the summer. “They have brought a marvellous amount of attention to the Scottish Football League,” he said. “They have brought numbers of fans, they have brought a media deal, they have brought sponsorship. They have delivered hugely. The Third Division clubs are all appreciative of that.

“Don’t get me wrong; Rangers in the Third Division has been a positive experience,” he added. “My job initially was to go and make sure they were handling themselves correctly and they were treating each other with respect, and that our clubs were also welcoming them in, as we did with Annan.”

The SFL have vowed to hold its reconstruction vote by 19 April if 11 of the top-flight clubs back the changes on 15 April. Twenty-two of the SFL clubs need to back the proposals, which would see the top two divisions split into three groups of eight after 22 games.

The lower-league sides will be sent a resolution today which outlines matters to be decided upon after 14 of clubs called for the changes to be put on hold until after next season. Longmuir agreed that the perception of the SPL absorbing the SFL is a problematic one.

Longmuir urged patience from fans who do not like the proposed league structure after an SFA-commissioned survey this week suggested 87 per cent of supporters want to see a larger top division. Should the SPL clubs’ proposals be introduced, there would be a three-year lock-in agreement. “I have expressed a desire for a bigger league,” said Longmuir. “But I am quite prepared to understand and recognise that that can’t be delivered at the moment. I am quite prepared to wait until the finances and the football economy is better. Then there might be a chance to make changes which will bring fans on board.

“If you are under one roof it is a lot easier to implement, provided you get everybody on board with it. We really need to turn the corner soon to start engaging with fans. Because fans’ voices are hugely important, they should not be unheard. I am desperately trying to get to the point where we listen to fans and make their experience better, and make it a more affordable proposition to go to football. These things need to happen but let’s get over this hurdle, over this change process that we are in and let’s move forward.”

Meanwhile, the SPL has confirmed it is pursuing costs for its investigation into undisclosed payments to Rangers players. Oldco Rangers were issued with a £250,000 fine in February after being found guilty of breaching SPL rules relating to payments issued through their Employee Benefit Trust scheme from 2000 to 2011. The inquiry lasted just short of a year and the costs of the probe are reported to be up to £500,000. A statement from the league read: “There has been a routine application for costs given that the case was successfully pursued by the SPL.”