Where do the SPL clubs stand?

Last night ‘The Men that sold the jerseys’, by Mark Daly blew the lid off the Rangerstaxcase debacle (I just want to add a HUGE congratulations to RTC for winning the Orwell prize.  The word ‘Rangerstaxcase’ is going to go down in Scottish football history thanks to your efforts!), and aired in public what had been alleged for a number of months regarding Rangers disregard for tax and footballing rules…  Meanwhile, SPL chairman, no doubt worried by the lack of season ticket sales, have started releasing statements about the Rangers case.

Some of them are cryptic… some more straight forward.  Some for sporting integrity, and some that suggest finance is way more important.  Yet to see a summary of them, I thought I’d put the statements for all the clubs (that have made them…) in one place, give a simple ‘rating’ on whether they are for ‘financial benefit‘, ‘sporting integrity‘, or stuck somewhere between the two, wanting to be seen as for the sporting side, but really, more worried about the financials.  We’ll call this ‘Newco with punishment‘.  For the clubs who have made no statement we will ignore for now (as far as I can see, Hearts, St.Mirren and Inverness have made no official statements, along with Ross County, but we will consider Dunfermline in their place for now).

In terms of the three clubs that haven’t spoken, you would have to guess (its a guess, please don’t shoot me down) that St.Mirren and Inverness would side on ‘financial benefit’, with Hearts, already punished by the SPL for not paying taxes on time, coming down on the side of ‘sporting integrity’.

But what about those that have spoken?  Let’s start today with Motherwell’s official statement:

Motherwell – statement here (Club Statement)

Motherwell’s former Chairman John Boyle

“The club continues to actively participate in the discussions being held at the SPL in relation to the current issues at Rangers Football Club.  To date we have seen no proposals to transfer a share in the SPL to a “Newco” and have therefore made no decision on how we would vote if such a scenario did arise. We have purposefully avoided making any public statements to date given the uncertainty of the situation and the lack of any clarity on what, if anything, we will be required to vote on.

“Once we have full information we will be able to decide our position. Any speculation on the basis of conjecture only adds to the damage to the game and all of our interests.  We are well progressed with a plan that is designed to bring both fan ownership and long  term financial stability to the club, without reliance on funding from either a bank or a benefactor. We do not believe we can separate the sporting integrity of our league from the sustainable future of our club; the two go hand in hand.

“Any decisions we take as a Board are made in the best interests of the club with a view to achieving our stated aims for ownership and funding.  In the event that a “Newco” proposal is presented to us, we intend to fully discuss with representatives of our supporters groups, prior to making any decision.”

Summary: On the face of it, they seem to be coming across as on the side of Sporting Integrity.  However, the line in bold above makes me think they are sitting on the fence here, wanting the best of both worlds.  Rating: Newco With Punishment

Kilmarnock – statement here (Chairman)

Killie chairman Michael Johnston

“If the CVA doesn’t work, they will need to explore the newco route and there could be some complications arising out of that, But what does seem clear is that Rangers will be under new ownership and they will carry on in Scottish football.  As a solicitor, the difference between a CVA and a sale of the assets by the administrators to a new corporate entity doesn’t really have much of a difference for the creditors.

“It is the same amount of money that’s going to be available to the creditors at the end of the day by and large.  But there are legal differences and what people have to bear in mind is that a football club has always been viewed by the football authorities as being something separate from who owns the football club.  So the club consists of its history and traditions, its stadium, its players, but most importantly its supporters.  So Rangers Football Club will continue and, whoever the owner is doesn’t really matter, the club will be there for the future, I’m sure.”

“You have got to be very careful not to come in too heavily with penalties and points deductions or financial penalties going forward which actually put people off investing in that club and trying to make it healthy, After all, it’s not the new owners who have done the damage, it is the previous owners.  Also, some people in football have overlooked the fact that Rangers were penalised 10 points, the maximum penalty under SPL rules, which effectively ended their challenge for the league title.  They were then refused a Uefa licence by the SFA and so can’t compete in Europe next year, that is the second penalty.  The third penalty they have suffered already is the fine, combined with the one-year embargo on signing new players over 18.

“So those are three very substantial penalties that Rangers have suffered and the disqualification from Uefa competition and the signing embargo, those are likely to effect the newco or the club under a CVA.  So how many more penalties should be piled on top of a club that is trying to recover from a desperate situation and a group of people who have no part to play in the bad things that have happened in the past?”

Summary: No cryptic message in this one.  Johnston is fully on Rangers side and after the Financial benefit.

Aberdeen – Statement here (Official website)

Stewart Milne of Aberdeen

“We are aware of the issues, concerns and opinions raised by our supporters with regards to the ongoing situation. These issues have taken up a great deal of my time, Duncan Fraser, the Chief Executive’s time and that of our board of directors. The issues are complex and the situation remains extremely fluid. Events continue to move on a daily basis and therefore we feel it has been, and remains, inappropriate to comment publicly on what might arise out of this.

“We will continue to give this matter our full attention and will do what we believe is in the best interests of Aberdeen Football Club and Scottish football and will communicate this to our supporters at the appropriate time”

Summary: What to make of this. Very non-committal.  Seems to be a ‘tell the fans we are aware of their feeling and hope they start buying season tickets, without promising them anything’ type of message.  Given the Dons fans have been amongst the most vocal on this issue I would have expected a much more committal signal of intent.  As it is ‘newco with punishment’

Hibs – Statement here (Rod Petrie)

The Hibs Chief

It’s fundamental to us at our club, to make sure the integrity of the game is not called into question and that the sporting integrity of the competition we take part in is maintained at the highest standards.  It’s not a question of any sum of money in return for that integrity – integrity is beyond purchase.

‘It’s important that all clubs can have a place within football, provided they have earned it in a sporting sense and also have abided by the rules.  Rangers fans have threatened action against clubs who act against their club’s interests, while supporters of other clubs have threatened to walk away from the SPL if it contains a ‘newco’ Rangers that could not agree a deal with creditors.  It’s vital part of what we do, listening to supporters.  It’s important we understand what they are thinking and it’s also important we are able to explain the dynamics of the landscape in front of us.  If we are called upon to make any decisions we will try to do the right thing and uphold  the integrity of the competition that we are engaged in.’

Summary: Firmly in the Sporting Integrity‘ camp… no more comment is needed. Well done Hibs.

Dunfermline – Statement here (John Yorkston)

John Yorkston – standing up for what’s right

“Everyone agrees that there should be severe punishment but there are a number of chairmen who will look at the financial thing and say, ‘do we want an SPL without Rangers?’ It will be a question of sporting integrity against financial necessity. That is the choice facing chairmen.”

That’s what I will be arguing for, but I do understand that others will look at the financial side, and that will have more sway than sporting integrity. I would guess I’ll be almost a lone voice, but it doesn’t stop me from having my say.  I employ accountants and lawyers, and they’re scratching their heads, wondering how they [Rangers] go into liquidation, but don’t go into liquidation,” No matter how you dress it up, you’re in liquidation. The share has to be transferred to another company and that other company is not the old company so it’s a newco. What we are talking about here is a new company owning Rangers.”

“If ten or 15 points is the penalty, then other clubs are going to have a look at that in future. Maybe not right away, but if you have a bad run, somebody else comes in, and maybe these people are not prepared to finance the losses, then you might see it happening.”

Summary: Another firmly in the ‘Sporting Integrity’ category. Just a shame he won’t get a vote after Dunfermline (conveniently?) being relegated.

Celtic – Statement here (Peter Lawwell)

Celtic’s Chief… surely he will follow the fans?

“We are fully aware of our supporters’ concerns regarding the current situation across Scottish football and the breadth of opinion within our supporter base.  The issues are complex and there is much uncertainty. Indeed, the situation repeatedly changes, even on a daily basis.  I am sure our supporters understand that these developments are receiving our full focus and attention.

“Our guiding principle is that we will do what is in the best interests of Celtic Football Club and our supporters, consistent with upholding the interests and reputation of Scottish football.  I can also give an assurance that we will communicate further and directly with our supporters at the appropriate time.”

Summary: Interesting one this.  On the face of it they are upholding the right principals, but it can also be interpreted as we want Rangers to stay.  Given the supporters feeling though, it would surely be inconceivable if they voted in favor of Rangers.  Of course, by voting Rangers out the league, they would also surely lose the monopoly they have over voting rights to the other 11 clubs, and therefore, the pro Rangers vote may be appealing.  Old Firm matches will always benefit Celtic, but would the fans ever forgive the directors?  I don’t think so: “Sporting Integrity” for these one.

Dundee Utd – Statement here (Stephen Thompson)

Following principals? Or what the SPL tell him?

“This season we got £1.4million from the SPL.  If we only get £200,000 to £300,000, how do we make up the £1m? Fans are talking about boycotts. It’s a lose-lose situation.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I am finding it very stressful, as are most of the board.

We are in a very, very difficult situation and at a crossroads for Scottish football.  I understand how fans feel and have great sympathy for them.  But I have a legal responsibility to run Dundee United and a legal responsibility as an SPL director.  We’ve got to think about our own clubs and about the whole of Scottish football. It is impossible.  I am just trying to weigh up all the options.

I love my club. I will always do what’s best for my club but I also have an SPL board hat to wear.  I’m mulling over everything. My mind is not made up.

Summary: Another that could go either way… but reading between the lines my feeling was ‘As a Dundee Utd fan there is no way I’m letting them stay in the league’, but as a member of the SPL ‘I might have to follow what the bosses tell me’.   But with the info on dual contracts and EBT payments, I don’t think Doncaster and co will have much sway to push through their newco, as such Thompson, already owed money by Rangers will vote for ‘Sporting Integrity’.

St.Johnstone – statement here (Steve Brown)

“I can relate to that,” he told STV. “I’ve been a supporter, am still a supporter and I’ve been on supporters’ buses, trains and on the terraces.  If I’ve got a vote then I certainly will not let Rangers in without sanctions. That will not happen.”

“The feeling from the people I’ve spoken to from within the chairmen’s ranks is that they won’t let Rangers in with a ‘get out free card’,” he explained. “That won’t happen.  I think Rangers themselves and the majority of supporters accept that they’re going to have to get some form of punishment. That’s wholly accepted throughout the game. It has to happen.”

Summary: Very clear, and I’ve written about my thoughts on this already.  He wants to uphold sporting integrity, but is sitting on the fence and will allow a ‘newco with punishment’

So – that’s the thoughts of 8 of the 11 clubs.  Still to speak out (please correct me if I’m wrong) are St.Mirren (Newco with Punishment?), Inverness (Newco with Punishment?) and Hearts (Sporting Integrity? Surely Romanov won’t back up everything he has been complaining about for the last five years??!)   However I will exclude these 3 from the summary.

So that leaves, out of 8.

Sporting Integrity: Four: Dundee Utd, Celtic, Dunfermline, Hibs

Financial Benefit: One: Kilmarnock

Newco with Punishment: Three: St.Johnstone, Aberdeen, Motherwell

What does this tell us?  Well, based on even the best case scenario for Rangers, an SPL vote to allow them in would require a minimum of 8 teams voting for them.  Based on these numbers, there is already 4 clearly against.  If ANY of the other 4 parties joined the Sporting Integrity camp, then Rangers are history.

After Mark Daly’s BBC documentary last night, nothing else than expulsion from the league is acceptable.  Well done to the clubs who are backing Sporting Integrity, and shame on you to the others, including, my side, St.Johnstone.

For once… you MUST listen to the fans.