SFL out of date and Donald overpaid, says leaked report

THE Scottish Football League last night reacted with dismay after its self- commissioned report into the financial and administrative structure of the organisation was leaked by one of their member clubs to the BBC.

The report, undertaken by London-based accountancy firm Pannell Kerr Forster, appears to be highly critical of the SFL and its secretary Peter Donald if the extracts published on the BBC website yesterday are accurate.

It claims the SFL is "an organisation not suited to a modern-day business environment" and suggests Donald's salary package is too high and should have been reviewed in 1998 when the leading clubs broke away to form the SPL.

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Donald was unavailable for comment last night, but SFL assistant secretary David Thomson did express his unhappiness at details of the report entering the public domain.

"It is obviously disappointing that, having written to all 30 clubs to advise them of the confidentiality clause attached to the report, that it has been leaked within a few hours of the clubs receiving copies from us," said Thomson.

"From our perspective, we cannot say any more because we are bound by that confidentiality clause, but our management committee welcome the opportunity to share the findings of the PKF report with our member clubs and consider them in due course."

The report was commissioned by the management committee last November as a response to the ongoing campaign by the ten First Division clubs, spearheaded by Livingston chairman Pearse Flynn, to break away from the SFL and form an SPL2. In May last year, Dundee chief executive Dave MacKinnon fronted a press conference to launch a discussion document on the future of the SFL, titled 2006: Time For Change. Since then, there has been an ongoing feud that shows no signs of being settled by anything other than the intervention of the overall governing body, the Scottish Football Association.

The terms of reference for the PKF report were to consider the financial and administrative state of the SFL and the impact the loss of another ten clubs would have on the remaining 20 members going forward.

According to the extracts published by the BBC yesterday, PKF says that SFL employees are "institutionalised and demoralised" and observes that the SFL is three times more expensive to run than "equivalent leagues in England".

The credibility of the report is called into question, however, by the revelation that PKF has used the Nationwide Conference in England as the league it is comparing to the SFL. It states that "the Nationwide Conference has four employees looking after 68 clubs, while the SFL has 14 people running leagues with 30 clubs."

In fact, the SFL currently has just six full-time members of staff. While attendances in the Nationwide Conference and the SFL may be similar, the comparison appears ill-considered otherwise. Even the top division of the Conference is four rungs below the top of the English league structure, while the SFL still offers direct access to the SPL for its champions.

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Separate meetings of the ten First Division clubs and 20 clubs from the Second and Third Divisions are scheduled to take place at Hampden on Thursday evening this week, although it emerged last night that some Second Division chairmen have received invitations to attend the First Division summit. It is understood SPL representatives may also be involved in the First Division meeting as the prospect of SPL2 moves closer.

The SPL does not escape criticism in the report, however, which "also raises the question as to whether the restructuring of the organisation of Scottish professional league football should be considered".

According to the BBC leak, PKF also compared three options for the SFL going forward. They are the status quo (Option A), a ten-club SPL2 breakaway but continuing with the CIS Cup (Option B) and a 20-club SFL without the CIS Cup (Option C). Under Option B, Second and Third Division clubs would see their annual SFL income fall 9,000 to 60,000 and 50,000 respectively. The report says that Option C would see those revenues fall further to 44,000 for Second Division clubs and 37,000 for those in the Third Division.

The story so far

1998: Ten of the Scottish Football League's 40 member clubs succeed in breaking away to form the Scottish Premier League. The remaining SFL clubs are compensated with an annual payment of 1.6 million.

2000: SPL increased to 12 clubs, to fulfil promise made at time of breakaway. Elgin City and Peterhead admitted to SFL to make up for loss of St Mirren and Dunfermline to SPL.

2001: Seven clubs, led by Livingston chairman Dominic Keane, push for SPL 2. The idea disappears when Livingston gain promotion to the SPL on merit.

May 2006: First Division clubs launch 'Time For Change' document. Pearse Flynn at Livingston is the driving force, after his club struggles to survive outside the SPL.

August 2006: SPL clubs approve in principle plans to create a 10-member 'SPL 2'.

March 2007: Report by PKF criticises the structure and efficiency of the SFL.

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