Rangers tell SPFL: run league like a democracy, not a dictatorship

Ibrox MD Stewart Robertson goes on attack as dossier is finally released

Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson. Picture: SNS
Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson. Picture: SNS

Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson has branded the current governance of the SPFL as the worst he has experienced and compared it to a dictatorship.

Robertson was speaking after the Ibrox club circulated their dossier of evidence to the other 41 SPFL members in support of the call for an independent investigation into the contentious season-ending resolution which will go before an EGM next Tuesday.

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Insisting his club’s issues with the SPFL’s handling of the vote which passed the resolution have “never been a Rangers-Celtic thing”, Robertson is hopeful of receiving sufficient backing once clubs have read the lengthy document.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster. Picture: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire

It details what Rangers call “material non-disclosure” of information by the SPFL executive to clubs in the lead-up to the vote on 10 April, including a potential liability of £10 million to broadcasters and sponsors for calling an early end to the 2019-20 Premiership.

It is claimed SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster, whom Rangers want suspended along with the league’s legal counsel Rod McKenzie, failed to act properly on allegations from Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Dundee of threats made by Dunfermline chairman Ross McArthur and Alloa chairman Mike Mulraney.

McKenzie is criticised for being “obstructive” as Rangers, Hearts and Inverness were prevented from putting forward an alternative resolution which would have separated the payment of end-of-season prize money from the issue of “calling” the leagues.

Rangers also highlight a joint letter from the SPFL and Scottish FA sent to Uefa six days before the vote was held which stated the “vast majority” of Scottish clubs wanted the season ended.

‘Culture of disregard’

Robertson, a current Premiership club representative on the SPFL board, believes the organisation’s executive team, headed by chairman Murdoch MacLennan, have shown a “culture of disregard” for member clubs.

“This is about doing the best for Scottish football, it’s not about me being on a crusade for Rangers against anyone in particular,” said former Motherwell secretary Robertson. It’s about looking at the governance of the game. I’ve now had five stints on the SPL or SPFL board between 2003 and now – this is the worst the governance has been by a country mile. This is a company that is owned by the clubs and who employs the executive. It’s not the executive doing a favour for the clubs.

“Those clubs should be shown the respect they are due. It’s because of the clubs that money is generated to pay the executive.

“When you look at the potential liabilities we weren’t told about, it hasn’t been able to make a fully formed decision.

“You’ve potentially got some clubs staring down the barrel of a gun next season in terms of their budgets. It is material misrepresentation by omission, as the lawyers would call it.

“We need the SPFL to be run as a democracy, not a dictatorship and we need the clubs to have the right level of say. To have that, they have to know they have trust in the information they’ve been given. Not being able to trust or have confidence in people that you are getting full information makes it very, very difficult.”

In the event the SPFL ends the Premiership season and determines final placings on a points-per-game basis as the table stands, as it has already done in the Championship and Leagues 1 and 2, Celtic would be awarded a ninth consecutive title.

Rangers, 13 points behind their Old Firm rivals with a game in hand and 27 points left to play for, have consistently expressed a desire to conclude the campaign on the pitch.

Not a Rangers-Celtic thing

Robertson, who accepts that scenario is increasingly unlikely amid the coronavirus pandemic, is adamant that is not the driving force behind Rangers’ dispute with the SPFL executive.

“To be absolutely clear, this has never been a Rangers-Celtic thing,” he added. “I can get why people are maybe thinking the narrative is ‘we didn’t want Celtic to be awarded the league title’. I understand it’s obviously the case that people would say that.

“But we always wanted to play the games, if practically possible, given everything that’s going on and the challenges everyone is facing in their lives right now. As time goes on that’s looking less likely to happen. We’re all pragmatic about that.

“But this is about looking at Scottish football as a whole and looking at the greater good. This isn’t about Rangers and Celtic, it’s about the governance of our game and having faith that when we come out of this pandemic and this crisis that we have the right leaders to take us forward and people with energy, good ideas, creativity and commercial nous that is going to help us generate revenues we’ll need to replace some of the revenues we’ll need coming out 
of this.

“Personally, and as a club, we have lost confidence in the way they are running the organisation, quite frankly. On the basis that this was railroaded through and key information wasn’t provided to member clubs, I think we are quite within our rights to ask for [the suspension of Doncaster and McKenzie].”

Within 90 minutes of Rangers’ 200-page document being issued to clubs on Thursday morning, the SPFL issued a statement saying the dossier “failed to identify a single shred of evidence to support Rangers’ vociferous claims of corruption, bullying and coercion by SPFL staff.”

Deflection and lack of respect

Robertson regards that response as typical of a disrespectful attitude towards Rangers.

“Maybe they are quick readers,” he said. “We never said there was corruption, bullying or coercion by the SPFL staff. It’s a complete deflection away from the point we should be discussing, the failings of the SPFL executive.

“Some of the utterings to come out of the SPFL have shown a complete lack of respect to our club, regardless of whether you agree with what we are doing just now.

“Today’s statement, for example, wasn’t approved by the SPFL board. So who is that sent on behalf of? It goes under the name of the SPFL, but what is the SPFL? Is it the 42 clubs, has it been sent on their behalf? Or has it just been sent out on behalf of the executive? I don’t think it’s right there is an ability to do these things without any reference to the board or the clubs.”

The full SPFL statement read: “It is now a month since Rangers accused the SPFL of bullying and corruption relating to the Dundee FC return.

“At last, Rangers have issued their ‘dossier’ and we will now take time to review it, before responding to all 42 clubs.

“Since Rangers publicly demanded the suspension of the SPFL’s chief executive and legal counsel, everyone in Scottish football has waited patiently for them to present their case. However, an initial examination of their ‘dossier’ has failed to identify a single shred of evidence to support Rangers’ vociferous claims of corruption, bullying and coercion by SPFL staff.

“If Rangers have any good reason for Neil Doncaster and Rod McKenzie to be suspended, we have yet to see it.”

On Rangers’ chances of getting the 75 per cent backing they need from clubs at the EGM, Robertson is encouraged by initial feedback.

“Only a few clubs have been in touch so far because there is a lot of information to plough through,” he said. “The few clubs who have phoned me have been really disappointed with what they’re seeing and what they’re reading. They have all said unanimously that they are in favour of an independent investigation.”

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