Rangers’ bullying claim is ‘nonsense’ says Les Gray

Hamilton vice-chairman dismisses Ibrox call for SPFL probe and says no evidence of misconduct in ballot
Hamilton vice-chairman Les Gray says 'There was no wrongdoing, so there is no need for an independent investigation.'Hamilton vice-chairman Les Gray says 'There was no wrongdoing, so there is no need for an independent investigation.'
Hamilton vice-chairman Les Gray says 'There was no wrongdoing, so there is no need for an independent investigation.'

SPFL board member Les Gray has dismissed Rangers’ demand for an independent investigation into the governing body’s handling of their vote to end the 2019-20 season and described the Ibrox club’s accusations of bullying and coercion as ‘complete 

Gray confirmed that the SPFL’s chairman Murdoch MacLennan and independent non-executive director Karyn McCluskey have undertaken an internal review of the process which provoked so much acrimony before the contentious resolution was passed last Wednesday.

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But while the Hamilton Accies vice-chairman accepts that the SPFL should show more ‘contrition’ over the manner the ballot was conducted, with Dundee able to withdraw a ‘No’ vote and then later cast the decisive ‘Yes’, he says there is no evidence of misconduct.

Rangers, who have called for the suspension of SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster and legal counsel Rod McKenzie while an investigation takes place, claim they are in possession of material from a whistleblower proving clubs were bullied and coerced in the build-up to the vote. They have declined to pass the information to the SPFL while the current executive remain in office.

“At the moment, we don’t have any evidence,” said Gray. “We have asked for it on several occasions. We have high-calibre, non-executive directors and we are happy they can look at this process and see what we could have done better.

“There is no wrongdoing here, we are absolutely certain of that. You lobby and canvas support for your resolution. No-one was bullying.

“We have got what has been called a shambolic voting mess and it’s hard to disagree with that, even looking at it from the inside. But the system was in place and the way it all panned out is part of that mess. But there was no wrongdoing, therefore there is no need for an independent investigation in my view.

“We have two independent directors who are looking at that process to see if there is anything in there that was wrong, anything we have to bring people to account for. That will be handled by Murdoch MacLennan and Karyn McCluskey. If anything comes out of that, we will go the full hog.

“Addressing the bullying and coercion allegations that have been levelled at the board, the amount of personal abuse and vitriol the board members – and particularly the executive of Neil, Rod and Murdoch have had to put up with – is really unacceptable.

“In terms of the accusation of bullying, it is complete nonsense. There’s loads of negotiation goes on between clubs but the board is there purely to enact the will of the clubs. And 81 per cent of the clubs voted in favour of the resolution and it’s a clean endorsement of the clubs’ positions.

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“We can get into how much information they had, how much time they had. But 
the silent majority have 
carried the day. It’s the clubs who voted ‘No’ who are the noisiest and I’m looking at what their motives might be. If you’ve met Neil Doncaster, the idea he

bullied anyone is just absolutely hysterical. He is probably the most even-tempered person I’ve ever met in my life.

“I feel sorry for him, Rod and Murdoch for the way they have been treated. They have remained silent, probably in the face of huge provocation, and we really need to take a look at these accusations being thrown around. They are making headlines but not really serving any great purpose.

“We are talking about people who have impeccable backgrounds in how they have led their corporate lives. Murdoch is a heavyweight businessman, he has run plcs.

“Karyn McCluskey is a criminal justice advocate and has a background in the policing sector. So we have got good people at the helm of the SPFL and they are being slaughtered all over the place because, probably, it could have been handled better.

“We need to be more contrite than we have been about the process. Maybe parts of it could have been done better.

“We are doing something. We are looking backwards and seeing what we could do better. We’ve got our independent directors looking at it. We’ve done nothing wrong, I’ve done nothing wrong.

“I won’t have my own reputation tarred by accusations that I’ve not seen. Rangers need to give us evidence of what has been done wrong and then we will take the correct and appropriate action.”

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Gray, speaking to BBC Sportsound, stands by the SPFL board’s decision to call time on the season and distribute end of season prize money to clubs in the Championship, League 1 and League 2 last week. A similar decision may be taken this week on the Premiership, pending the outcome of a Uefa executive committee meeting on Thursday.

“We decided, with the time we’ve got to play with and with the time critical for getting money out to clubs, we needed as a board to stand up and be counted and come up with the right decision,” he said.

“If time proves we got that wrong, we’ll have to live with that. But we are in that board position, elected by our clubs to go to them with that information.

“We have looked at all the medical and government evidence. Whether we have gone too early will only be borne out in time. My view is we won’t be playing football again before September or October. Only one board member would disagree with that.”

That was clearly a reference to Rangers’ managing director Stewart Robertson whose club continue to push for the Premiership season to be played to a finish on the pitch.

“I don’t want to get into a rant with Rangers,” added Gray. “I’ve got a great relationship with Stewart Robertson. We are on good terms and almost friends. These are really difficult times for everyone. Stewart and I have talked about this. We, as a board, have no evidence of bullying or coercion.”