Rangers deputy chairman John Bennett hits back at ‘threatening behaviour’ claim

SPFL accusations towards chairman Douglas Park rejected

Rangers deputy chairman John Bennett. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

Rangers’ deputy chairman John Bennett insists the SPFL’s allegations of threatening and defamatory behaviour by the Ibrox club’s chairman Douglas Park towards the league’s chief executive Neil Doncaster are “unfounded”.

Bennett was reacting to the claim included in an open letter to SPFL clubs from eight of the governing body’s directors in response to Rangers’ dossier of evidence in support of their call for an independent investigation into the contentious season-ending resolution which will go before an EGM next Tuesday.

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The letter also accused Rangers’ managing director Stewart Robertson of “self-serving attacks” on his fellow SPFL board members and hinted at future disciplinary action in relation to what they described as “gross breaches of confidentiality” in the dossier.

But Bennett has robustly defended both Robertson and Park, branding the SPFL’s corporate governance as “lamentable” and accusing their executive of trying to “shut down legitimate scrutiny” of their conduct. Asked for his immediate reaction to the SPFL letter, Bennett said: “In a word, incredulous. It seems they can’t help themselves. Every statement or comment from the SPFL raises more questions than answers. I am even more convinced that an independent investigation is urgently required.

“I found it telling that today was the first anyone had heard this allegation (against Douglas Park). Having spoken to Douglas, we can rest assured the allegation is unfounded. It is ironic that this allegation has been raised now given the fact the SPFL’s legal adviser (Rod McKenzie) went to such lengths to shut down the chairman of Rangers.

“As a board, we are fully supportive of Stewart and will continue to stand firm in the face of the unrelenting attacks on our managing director. It is ironic that Rangers, and Stewart in particular, are being criticised for applying the SPFL’s own rules. We have followed every law, rule, policy and article to the letter.

“The fact that the SPFL, particularly their chairman (Murdoch MacLennan), see fit to ridicule Stewart is not the way a normally functioning organisation would conduct its business.

“This approach from the SPFL is consistent. As demonstrated by the ‘cease and desist’ emails from Rod McKenzie, it appears the SPFL will go to great lengths to shut down legitimate scrutiny of their practices.”

Bennett, the director of European Equities at global asset management company Janus Henderson, joined the Rangers board in 2015 and has been a significant investor in the club.

The 56-year-old was appointed deputy chairman in a reshuffle in March when Dave King stepped down as chairman.

He says Rangers have received positive feedback from other clubs to their dossier and remains hopeful the resolution for an independent investigation into the way the SPFL conducted last month’s vote on their own season-ending plans will receive the necessary 75 per cent backing from clubs in the Premiership, Championship and Leagues 1 and 2.

“We have had reaction from other clubs and I have been struck by how widely shared our concerns are,” added Bennett. “However, it is up to the clubs themselves to step forward now, but unlike the SPFL we will not influence how they vote.”

Asked if Rangers would pursue legal action if they fail to get enough support to win the day at the EGM, Bennett was non-committal.

“There is nothing to be gained from speculation,” he replied. “If I were a member of that board, front and centre of my mind right now would be my fiduciary duty. That fiduciary duty would compel me to push hard for an independent investigation. Indeed, I would be crying out for one.”

Bennett questioned the SPFL’s repeated claims that an independent investigation would be too expensive and a needless drain on resources and time during the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked if he felt that claim was placing undue influence on clubs ahead of the EGM, he said: “I think it is another example of such influence being accepted as normal within the SPFL. The cost of not asking these legitimate questions would prove altogether more punitive. It is ironic the SPFL are raising the question of cost when they initiated their own “independent” investigation (from Deloitte), the cost of which is apparently unknown even to the SPFL’s chief executive.”

Bennett also hit back at criticism of Robertson’s insistence in media interviews on Thursday that Rangers had never made specific allegations of bullying against SPFL staff.

“It is very clear that there has been a concerted effort to spin a particular narrative,” said Bennett. “It is concerning that so many commentators and members of the media feel it appropriate to treat ‘bullying’ in such a frivolous manner. Rangers were very clear that we had seen claims by other clubs of bullying. That evidence is in our report.

“Bullying was also brought to the attention of the CEO of the SPFL. We were making it very clear and we continue to do so, that while other clubs appear to have been bullied, Rangers will not be.”

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