SPFL rebuttal of Rangers claims amid a welter of acrimony

Sense of weariness at latest letter in SPFL wrangle

Rangers managing director and SPFL board member Stewart Robertson. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

Round and round and round we go. And where all this will end… ever fewer care by now, never mind know. There could only be a weariness at the latest letter from the SPFL board emailed to the 42 senior clubs – even as it impressively rebutted, with full force, central tenets of the Rangers’ report designed to garner support for an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the vote to end the lower league seasons.

Rangers may have legitimate questions over how the SPFL conducted itself in the machinations to abridge the campiagn, which the Covid-19 pandemic has ensured could never have been played to a finish anyway.

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Whatever the substance of their complaints, the Ibrox club’s decision to go public and introduce accusations that there was neither even-handedness nor fair play in the process has meant their concerns have now been buried in a welter of acrimony.

They should have accepted that Celtic would require to be crowned champions if the health crisis halted football for six months, thus showing they didn’t have ulterior underlying motives.

Instead, Rangers pushed too far in the desire also to play to their gallery and put chief executive Neil Doncaster and the league’s legal advisor in the stocks.

Now they must face the wrath of a pushback that the SPFL cranked into action in a bid to leave Rangers manager director and SPFL board member Stewart Robertson without a name, so to speak.

Robertson’s claim that the SPFL governance was the worst he had ever known brought the riposte from his fellow board that he was responsible for “baseless, damaging and self-serving attacks”.

This was a themeof a missive that urged clubs at next week’s Extraordinary General Meeting to reject Rangers’ resolution for an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the recent vote which ended the lower-league season and handed the SPFL board the authority to do the same for the Premiership.

Rangers over-stretched further in demanding that SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster and the league’s legal advisor Rod McKenzie be suspended for the period of any investigation.

The SPFL board’s letter suggested instead that it will be Robertson who will be making way. His position appears untenable after he was castigated in the letter as “one of our number launch[ing] baseless, damaging and self-serving attacks on the Board.”

The SPFL board declared themselves “united in firmly rejecting his false characterisation of SPFL governance” by Robertson, who they claim was responsible for “gross breaches of confidentiality”.

It added: “Every one of us has sat alongside Stewart Robertson and been privy to the information and procedures of the SPFL board. If anything had been untoward, we would have addressed it at the time.

“Having served on the board for season 2017/18 and again since July 2019, if he actually believed these serious, wide-ranging and numerous claims, why has it taken him until now, just five days before Rangers’ resolution comes before the EGM, to make them public?

“Surely if things were so bad, so dysfunctional, he had a clear and compelling duty to speak out before now?”

The letter then went on to directly address a number of claims made in Rangers’ document. These were:

Rangers’ assertion that clubs were not warned of a potential £10million in claims from broadcasters and sponsors if the season was called was “simply wrong and is based on a complete misunderstanding of the situation”. The board members added: “We simply cannot understand why anyone would wish to talk up the possibility of claims - and, in doing so, prejudice the position of every single SPFL member club. What those behind the ‘Rangers dossier’ have failed to appreciate is that the potential for any claims against the SPFL does not result in any way from a decision by the members to permit the board to bring an end to the Premiership competition.”

Making payments based on final standings was described as “the only realistic and practical way” of lower-league clubs getting substantial money despite the “erroneous claims in the Rangers dossier”. The letter adds: “Those who continue to suggest that there were other ‘simpler’ means of getting money into clubs’ hands are being either economical with the truth or are once again demonstrating a lamentable lack of understanding of the current reality of Scottish football.”

Claims that Aberdeen negotiated a concession from Doncaster that Premiership clubs would be consulted prior to the board making a decision on the top-flight were dismissed as “categorically false”.

McKenzie making four “cease and desist” requests to Rangers chairman Douglas Park was described as a “wholly appropriate and proportionate” legal response to “serious and defamatory” accusations levelled against Doncaster and a threat to act in a particular way. The letter adds: “It is noteworthy that there is not a shred of evidence in the so-called dossier to support the allegation made or to justify the threat.”

The letter claims McKenzie “engaged actively” over Rangers’ alternative resolution and offered to seek a second opinion from a QC but the “essence of the resolution sought by Rangers remained ineffective throughout”.

A letter sent to Uefa claiming that the vast majority of clubs wanted to end the season was described as an honest assessment of what clubs were saying.

“The fact that over 80 per cent of SPFL clubs voted in favour of the directors resolution underlines that the assessment of Neil Doncaster and Ian Maxwell was accurate,” the letter adds.

Interestingly, the letter did not address the Rangers claims that chief executive Neil Doncaster did not bring forward the complaints raised by Inverness Caledonian Thistle over the conduct of SPFL board members Ross McArthur of Dunfermline and Alloa’s Mike Mulraney. Or on whose authority – if any – they felt it within their right to tell Championship clubs that the financial distribution model would be altered adversely for them in the event of the resolution falling.

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