Rangers chairman Dave King has called on the Scottish Professional Football League to suspend its chairman Murdoch MacLennan over his business links with Celtic shareholders Dermot Desmond and Denis O’Brien.
Media executive MacLennan, who was appointed chairman of the SPFL in August 2017, took up a position as non-executive chairman of Irish newspaper group Independent News and Media (INM) in March this year.
Celtic’s major shareholder Desmond has a 15 per cent stake in INM, while O’Brien - a fellow investor in the Scottish champions - is the company’s largest shareholder.
King insists there is a “clear case” for an independent investigation into MacLennan’s relationship with Desmond and O’Brien. Last week, the Rangers chairman also called on the Scottish FA to suspend their independent non-executive director Gary Hughes over comments he made in a magazine article 12 years ago when he referred to supporters of the Ibrox club as “the great unwashed”. The Scottish FA has yet to formally respond.
“The club notes with concern the latest disclosure through the media regarding a business relationship which the chairman of the SPFL has with leading shareholders of a fellow SPFL club,” says King in his latest statement.
“This has given rise to allegations of non-disclosure and it is now imperative that we discover exactly the nature of the information supplied to the SPFL regarding this relationship.
“It is equally important that any conflicts of interest, or even the perception of such, whereby positions within the Scottish football authorities could be undermined, or abused, must be aggressively rooted out of our game.
“The SPFL, therefore, must immediately suspend its Chairman pending an independent investigation by a senior QC into the allegations and into the extent that other parties within the SPFL may have cooperated in this alleged non-disclosure. There is a clear prima facie case for this investigation.
“Unfortunately for Scottish football, this incident immediately follows a similar call by myself for an independent non-executive director of the SFA to be suspended under similar circumstances. The credibility of Scottish football in the minds of supporters and sponsors is at stake and urgent action is required. Transparency will be key to recovering the confidence of key stakeholders in Scottish football and this cannot be achieved if the SFA and/or the SPFL conduct internal investigations.
“The SPFL and SFA must now appoint independent investigators. Scottish football is an important national asset and must have levels of probity and governance that are beyond reproach and that are transparently so.”
In response to a statement released this afternoon by Rangers chairman Dave King, a spokesman for the SPFL said: “It’s not surprising that Murdoch, having stepped down as deputy chairman of Telegraph Media Group, should be approached by other businesses in that sector.
“The members of the SPFL board were each informed of Murdoch’s appointment on January 19th 2018, the same day it was publicly announced in a press release from Independent News & Media PLC.
“That release was also circulated to the entire SPFL board that day. The appointment was widely reported in the national media at the time, including in the Sunday Times, Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Independent.
“No director raised this issue subsequently and it was not the subject of any board discussions.
“To be definitive, a non-executive position on a PLC does not constitute a business relationship between that individual and a minority shareholder in the company and therefore no investigation is warranted.”