SFA bids to be peacemaker and rescue league reform

St Mirren Chairman Stewart Gilmour leaves Hampden on Monday. The SFA has stepped in to try and salvage reconstruction plans. Picture: SNS
St Mirren Chairman Stewart Gilmour leaves Hampden on Monday. The SFA has stepped in to try and salvage reconstruction plans. Picture: SNS
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AMID further recrimination at the heart of Scottish football in the wake of the collapse of league reconstruction, the SFA stepped in last night and offered to mediate in an attempt to bring an end to the bitterness and impasse between some rival clubs.

The association said that if the clubs want the SFA to get involved, then it will request a mandate from the SPL and the SFL to try to bring the parties together, a move supported by a number of SFL clubs as well as Stewart Gilmour of St Mirren who, along with Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor, voted down the 12-12-18 proposal on Monday.

“The Scottish FA’s rules – and the respective rulebooks of the league bodies – do not allow for the governing body, or any external body, to ‘take control’ of a separate company in possession of commercial contracts worth millions of pounds,” said the statement from Hampden. “However, if it is truly the will of the clubs, the Scottish FA is prepared to get involved and act in the best interests of the national game. This will require a mandate to the Scottish FA from both the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League, so that positive changes to improve Scottish football’s future can be proposed without the threat of legal recourse or judicial review.”

When asked on Monday about the possibility of the SFA being invited in to try to steer a new path, SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster said that his member clubs would probably find it hard to accept, given that it calls for a suspension of its rulebook in order for the SFA to get the mandate it needs.

It’s wholly premature – and possibly futile – to speculate as to what the SFA’s external body might look like but the feeling is that it should be headed by a visionary from outside Scotland, possibly from Uefa or even from another professional sport that has in the past gone through the kind of change that is required in the game in Scotland.

In its statement, the SFA spoke about the “acrimony and rancour” that characterised the aftermath of Monday’s vote, a reference to some of the emotional and wounding language bandied about, a large portion of it directed at Gilmour by his counterpart at Aberdeen, Stewart Milne.

“Scottish football, even in times of grim uncertainty, should uphold the value of mutual respect, especially among clubs who all have a place within their communities,” said the statement.”

Clearly the association believes, as do many onlookers, that little mutual respect has been on show since Monday as various factions attempt to tear strips off each other in public and in private.

“It should be remembered that ten out of 12 top-flight clubs voted in favour of change,” added the SFA. “It is with this in mind that the Scottish FA reiterates its commitment to restructuring on the five principles of a single league body, fairer financial distribution, introduction of play-offs, parachute payments and a pyramid below the third division.

“The governing body calls on both the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League to re-affirm their commitment to the five principles. We are aware of public comments from club chairmen from both the SPL and SFL inviting the Scottish FA to intervene to find a solution.”

There was also a reminder that after the toxic events of last summer involving the demise of Rangers, the SFA called on the leagues to come together under an independent chairmen with a view to agreeing a reconstruction strategy, a call that went unheeded. The 12-12-18 proposal was born of the clubs’ own volition soon after.

“Following the separate meetings of each league’s clubs in January 2013, the Scottish FA again sought to provide assistance to take forward an implementation plan. That offer was rejected by the leagues.”

This was the SFA telling the nation that they have not sat on their hands while all of this has been going on, a criticism that has been made of them many times. “Structure, finance, voting and governance are the key issues all of which are intertwined and need to be reflected in one coherent set of proposals. The views of supporters and the general public must also be taken into account.

“Lest it be forgotten, with the honourable exceptions of Celtic and Rangers in recent years, Scottish clubs now routinely exit European football in the qualifying rounds. Our national men’s team are bottom of FIFA World Cup Qualifying Group A and are ranked 77th in the world. Some of our biggest clubs are experiencing serious financial difficulty.

“There is no better snapshot to illustrate the current climate than the fact that the afterglow of goodwill and positivity generated by two exceptional William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals this weekend lasted

less than 24 hours. We all have a duty to protect and promote the national game. The Scottish FA urges the league bodies, and their respective clubs, to embrace the positive aspects of change now, or to formalise their request to the Scottish FA for external assistance.”