Why can’t Premiership clubs tell the rest of us about their reconstruction hokey-cokey?

Stenhousemuir chairman Iain McMenemy is unimpressed by the latest flip-flopping

Hearts owner Ann Budge is having another stab at reconstruction. Picture: Craig Williamson / SNS

The season is over, for all four divisions in the SPFL. The Premiership finally accepted what the rest of us did weeks ago, that we won’t be able to complete this season on the pitch.

Planning for the next chapter for Scottish football can begin. With the season completed, the various resolutions and votes debated, the EGM over, and reconstruction a thing of the past, we can all move on.

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Wait, hang on, reconstruction is maybe back on. Is it? Isn’t it? Who has heard what?

This is unfortunately how Scottish football works at times. I tuned in to Sportsound on Saturday only to hear that reconstruction was definitely maybe back on the cards. This caught me by surprise.

Just one week ago we received news from Dave Cormack at Aberdeen that the Premiership clubs were no longer taking reconstruction forward.

Speaking on behalf of the Premiership clubs, he said: “The strong feeling of the group was that we must focus all of our energies on emerging from the crisis we face, due to the pandemic, on getting back to playing football safely, and getting fans back into grounds as soon as practicably possible. Whilst the group sympathises with the plight of the situation the relegated teams are faced with, it concluded this is not the right time to consider immediate reconstruction in the midst of a crisis.”

It was done.

But less than a week later, they have now flip-flopped and apparently decided that in fact now is the best time to consider reconstruction, in the midst of a crisis. Hearts owner Ann Budge has reportedly been given a final chance to bring forward a reconstruction proposal. When I raise concerns about the way we conduct our business, this is exactly what I mean. Firstly, the issue was killed stone dead a week ago by half a dozen teams in the Premiership despite the fact that we are supposed to be a democratic organisation of 42 members, and despite there being a specially convened Reconstruction Task Force to deal with this.

And then, that same minority simply decided to bring it back. I accept that the Premiership clubs represent the biggest clubs in our game and with that they have an important and leading voice. But couldn’t they at least consider reaching out to the other 30 clubs outside the Premiership and keep us abreast of their hokey-cokey in-out, in-out discussions?

I guess we will just have to wait and see what comes forward. However, if they couldn’t get a deal done previously, I don’t see what has changed that would get it through now. I’d just ask that they get on with it as quickly as possible. We need to move on.

Nest season, whenever that may be, deserves our complete focus.

There are huge challenges ahead. Financially, clubs of all sizes continue to face difficulties. With player contracts expiring in June, clubs should be recruiting new squads. We at Stenhousemuir, like many others, are faced with so much uncertainty that a clear way forward isn’t obvious to us.

It looks increasingly likely that football may restart behind closed doors. For Premiership clubs, there is the possibility that a subscription service, tied to the favourable payments from broadcasters, gives them a viable option.

The same cannot be said for clubs down the divisions. The payments we receive from broadcasters through the league distribution model will not cover costs. The costs to set up and operate a live broadcast are prohibitive. That being said, there may be solutions. The problem is time. It will take time to find a model that could work and to establish a way to introduce this into clubs.

But what do we do about signing players? We should be doing this now. If we go ahead and sign a new squad, few of them will be eligible for support through the furlough scheme if they are new employees. Clubs will need to foot the wage bill whilst no football income is being received. If football starts behind closed doors with greatly reduced income, will we be able to run at a loss and meet the wage bill?

These are the very real and challenging decision we are trying to make. The decisions we make now, and the gamble we decide to take on when and how football might restart, might be the difference between survival and bankruptcy.

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