Growing opposition to an SPFL resolution designed to terminate the season immediately for Championship, League One and League Two looks likely to see the proposal voted down by the 42 senior clubs.
The league body yesterday recommended that its clubs approve league placings in the three leagues being determined by points earned per game. No football has been possible in the three divisions since 10 March because of the indefinite suspension caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
If enacted, the SPFL resolution would mean Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers being promoted from the second, third and fourth tiers respectively, with Partick Thistle being relegated to League One and Stranraer dropping down to League Two.
However, it appears that the SPFL – who postponed a decision on settling the title and relegation in the Premiership – do not have the numbers to push this through on a vote. A 75 per cent majority is required across the SPFL. This equates to nine of the 12 Premiership clubs, eight of the Championship teams, and 15 of the clubs across League One and League Two.
Rangers, Partick Thistle, Hearts and Hibernian have all voiced opposition to calling a halt to any leagues. It is believed that there are at least two other clubs in the Championship ready to reject the SPFL’s resolution, which will require all clubs to lodge their votes before 5pm on Friday. In itself, failure to reach the eight threshold in the Championship would send the SPFL back to the drawing board, but there is also doubts about sufficient Premiership clubs casting their votes in favour, with Celtic and Hearts, as well as the Easter Road club, understood to be against ending the season for the lower divisions at this point.
Rangers were most vociferous in their objection to the resolution, describing as “abhorrent” that “any clubs would be unfairly relegated”. Thistle, meanwhile, questioned why the distribution of prize money has been attached to approval of the resolution. The SPFL also stated that league reconstruction would be on the table if the resolution is passed.
And, in an interview with The Scotsman, Hibernian chief executive Leeann Dempster petitioned for a “pause” in the process to decide on standings for this season. She stated that Hibs were “open” to finishing the campaign in August or September, if the current health emergency prevented any earlier conclusion on the field.
Rangers left no-one in any doubt as to their opposition to the resolution in a strongly-word statement in which they said: “It is abhorrent that certain clubs could be unfairly relegated if the current SPFL proposals were implemented. We must future proof the Scottish game.
“Any restructure of the SPFL or other solutions to the current impasse must be afforded time to scrutinise in detail and consider all options.
“The consequences of forcing through change without due care and attention will have severe consequences for the Scottish game.
“Scottish football must work together for the common good of every club, their staff and supporters.
“Any attempts to railroad changes to existing rules or run roughshod over corporate governance will be opposed in the strongest possible terms.
“We must allow decisions to be made in a rational, fair and balanced manner.”
The Ibrox club revealed they will “immediately propose a member’s resolution which would release prize money to be distributed to all clubs throughout Scotland urgently”.
Rangers added in a statement: “We believe that this is the priority in the present circumstances [and] we expect clubs to support our member’s resolution which will provide financial support to those who need it most.”
That stance will receive the backing of Thistle, who would be relegated on 0.037 of a point under the proposals in lying two points off Queen of the South with a game in hand.
They questioned the cobbled-together nature of the resolution in their statement.
“Partick Thistle FC will not accept this proposal as it stands. We believe that the proposal requires significantly more discussion, scrutiny and debate before any vote can be taken. We are now engaging with others to amend the proposal to identify a fairer and more equitable solution to address a number of inequalities it throws up.
“At an unprecedented time for football, we believe that it doesn’t meet the basic principle that no club should be left worse off by this important decision.
“It also seems to link acceptance of the proposal before payments can be made to hard-pressed clubs but, in our opinion, the two things do not need to be linked. Money to clubs is a priority, the proposal could be debated in slower time.”
That was the concern also raised by the Hibs chief executive.
“I accept there are people who think differently, who want clarity and want to move on. But I would still love to be able to finish the season,” Dempster said.
“If we can do that and complete the league for the fans and to silence all the conspiracy theorists out there then I think that is the way to go. But if we are absolutely sure that is impossible then, for me, a slight pause is required.
“Equally, let’s be honest, every day that goes by and every bit of information we get out from the medical people, suggests more and more that it is going to get harder and harder to finish the league, unless we are willing to finish the league in August or September but we would be open-minded about that.”