SPFL Response

May 8, 2020

8 May 2020

To:   All SPFL Clubs

Sent by email only

Dear Colleagues

In recent days, Rangers’ managing director Stewart Robertson has launched a series of attacks

on the SPFL Board, its corporate governance and its office-bearers.

As Board members, it is our duty to respond to these allegations on behalf of Scottish football

and we are united in firmly rejecting his false characterisation of SPFL governance.

We are all professional people, with many decades of business experience between us and

we  take  our  duties  as  your  representatives  extremely  seriously,  including  holding  the 

executive to account and acting in the wider interests of the 42 clubs at all times.  These duties

are often complex, often demanding, but they are a privilege and we fulfill them with great

care and responsibility on your behalf.

It  is  therefore  enormously  frustrating  to  see  one  of  our  number  launch  baseless,  damaging 

and  self-serving attacks on the Board. Every one of us has sat alongside Stewart Robertson

and  been  privy  to  the  information  and  procedures  of  the  SPFL  Board.  If  anything  had  been 

untoward, we would have addressed it at the time.

It’s  in  that  context  that  we  have  examined  his  dossier  carefully  and  have  given  responses 

below to some of his more prominent claims.

In  answering  them,  one  key  question  comes  to  the  fore:  Having  served  on  the  Board  for 

Season 2017/18 and again since July 2019, if he actually believed these serious, wide

-ranging and numerous claims, why has it taken him until now, just five days before Rangers’ resolution comes before the EGM, to make them public?

Surely if things were so bad, so dysfunctional, he had a clear and compelling duty to speak out

before now?

That  EGM  has  been  called  to  consider  a  resolution  put  forward  by  Hearts,  Rangers  and 

Stranraer, which calls for an open-ended investigation to be carried out by a senior QC into a

variety of matters related to the directors written resolution, recently approved by over 80%

of clubs.

As  everyone  now  knows,  Rangers  have  made  several  false  allegations  about  corruption, 

coercion and bullying on the part of the SPFL. They have also called, without good reason, for

the suspension of the SPFL’s Chief Executive and Legal Counsel.

On  7  May  we  received  a  document  from  Rangers,  which  they  claim  –  and  we  categorically 

reject – provides evidence to back up these attacks on the executive and the wider Board.

Given the very tight timescale before the EGM, we have had to provide a brief initial response

to their claims.

We trust the answers below will help inform you and your club on these matters, which we

consider  to  be  an  unwelcome  and  self-serving  distraction  from  the  critical issues at stake –namely the future of Scottish football.

If  you  should  have  any  questions  on  any  of  the  issues  below,  as  Board  members  and  your 

representatives, we are very keen to hear from you. 

Several of us have also been asked by a number of clubs what action the SPFL intends to take

in  relation  to  the  gross  breaches  of  confidentiality  that  have  been  committed  by  the 

circulation of the Rangers document, including copying and publishing commercially sensitive

information from the SPFL’s confidential Board report server. It is not appropriate, in advance

of the EGM, to comment further, but we will return to this important issue in due course.

The vast majority of the SPFL Board members continue to have complete confidence in our

Chief  Executive  and  Legal  Counsel.    Eight  of  the  nine  members  of  your  Board  of  Directors 

continue  to  believe  the  demand  for  an  open-ended,  hugely  time  consuming  and  expensive 

investigation  to  be  wholly  unnecessary,  inappropriate  and  contrary  to  the  interests  of  the 

Company and Scottish football at what is such a critical time for every club’s survival.

We therefore urge you to vote against the resolution at our EGM on Tuesday.

It is vital that we devote our time and attention to working together, tackling the existential

problems that Scottish football faces as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Only by doing so

can we protect our 42 clubs, the dedicated people they employ and the game we all love.

Yours sincerely

Murdoch MacLennan

,

Chairman

Karyn McCluskey, independent non-executive director

Alan Burrows, Motherwell FC

Ewen Cameron, Alloa Athletic FC

Peter Davidson, Montrose FC

Ken Ferguson, Brechin City FC

Les Gray, Hamilton Academical FC

Ross McArthur, Dunfermline Athletic FC

SPFL RESPONSES TO CLAIMS MADE IN RANGERS’ DOSSIER

Claim: £10m of potential liabilities were not disclosed to members

SPFL response:

 As is well understood, it may not possible to complete Season 2019/20 in the

Ladbrokes Premiership by the end of June 2020, due to the effects of the Covid

-19 crisis, the suspension of all football by the Scottish FA and the range of legal restrictions on training and the playing of football imposed by the Scottish Government.  By 30 June, a huge number of professional  player  contracts  entered  into  by  SPFL  clubs  will  have  expired,  rendering  it practically impossible for many clubs to field a team after that date, far less the same players who have so far participated in the Season 2019/20 Competition.

It is also well understood by SPFL clubs that curtailment of the Ladbrokes Premiership season 2019/20  could  lead  to  claims  being  made  against  the  SPFL.    The  SPFL  Board  has  received  detailed  legal  advice  on  the  potential  for  claims  –   and  indeed  the  likely  cost,  if  any,  arising  from such claims.  Analysing that advice, together with making recommendations to member clubs and putting into place detailed measures to address such claims, is a fundamental part

of the role of the Board.

It would be entirely inappropriate for the Board, and against the interest of every SPFL club,

to  publicise  where  such  claims  may  come  from;  what  legal  defences  the  SPFL  may  have 

available;  and  the  potential  amount,  if  any  of  successful  claims  (which  can  only  ever  be 

conjecture at this stage).

We  simply  cannot  understand  why  anyone  would  wish  to  talk  up  the  possibility  of  claims  –

and, in doing so, prejudice the position of every single SPFL member club.

What those behind the ‘Rangers dossier’ have failed to appreciate is that the potential for any

claims against the SPFL does not result in any way from a decision by the members to permit

the Board to bring an end to the Premiership Competition.

Such  a  decision  would  result  from  a  conclusion  that  the  matches  in  question  in  the 

Premiership cannot now be played. Whilst it may be becoming more difficult to foresee the

circumstances  in  which  the  remaining  Premiership  Matches  can  be  completed,  no  decision 

has yet been taken. 

There is no question of the Board failing to advise the Clubs of a potential £10m (or any other

size  of  claim)  arising  because  the  Premiership  is  brought  to  a  premature  end  because  of  a 

decision either of the Members or of the Board. That was not reported to you because it is

simply not the case.

The   central   complaint   of   Rangers   is   simply   wrong   and   is   based   on   a   complete  

misunderstanding  of  the  situation  in  which  the  League  and  its  broadcast  partners  find 

themselves.

Claim:  clubs  were  erroneously  told  they  could  only  receive  cash  by  voting  for  the  SPFL 

resolution

SPFL  response:  As  our  Chief  Executive  explained  on  the  radio  last  weekend,  making  fee 

payments  to  clubs  based  on  their  final  league  standings  was  the  only  realistic  and  practical 

way of the SPFL getting substantial monies into the hands of Ladbrokes Championship, League

1  and  League  2  clubs.  That  remains  the  case,  irrespective  of  the  erroneous  claims  in  the 

Rangers dossier.

Those who continue to suggest that there were other ‘simpler’ means of getting money into

clubs’  hands  are  being  either  economical  with  the  truth  or  are  once  again  demonstrating  a 

lamentable lack of understanding of the current reality of Scottish Football.

If the SPFL were to lend substantial sums out of the funds to be paid out as fees, based on

final League position, how would struggling clubs repay overpayments where they do poorly

in the next few games? How would we be able to pay the additional sums due to clubs which

had done better than during the earlier part of the Season? And how would we deal with any

clubs which became insolvent or were not entitled to have been paid anything?

The fundamental problems with making loans to clubs, and the possibility of clubs defaulting

on  those  loans,  are  well  understood  by  those  clubs  who  lost  money  as  a  result  of  the 

insolvency of Gretna.

Claim:  Aberdeen  FC  negotiated  a  concession  from  Neil  Doncaster  prior  to  voting,  that 

Premiership clubs would be consulted prior to the SPFL Board calling the Premiership

SPFL response:  This is categorically false.  No commitment was made to any club, which was

not  made  to  all  42  clubs  in  the  legal  briefing  note  sent  out  on  8  April.    It  is  the  case  that 

Aberdeen FC were seeking such a commitment.  There was a discussion, during the afternoon

of 10 April, about the possibility of Neil Doncaster taking a request to the SPFL Board during

the afternoon.  However, by the time the SPFL Board met, at 5pm that day, Aberdeen FC had

made it clear that they did not wish Neil Doncaster to take such a request forward.  As a result,

no such request was brought to the SPFL Board.

Claim: Rod McKenzie issued four ‘cease and desist’ requests to the Rangers chairman on 10

& 11 April.  This is what Douglas Park was referring to when he said that “Rangers will not

be bullied into silence”

SPFL  response:    In  a  phone  call  on  the  evening  of  10  April,  Rangers  chairman  Douglas  Park 

made a very serious allegation and threat to act in a particular way to the SPFL Chief Executive. 

This  allegation  has  been  entirely  unsupported  by  any  evidence,  either  then  or  since.    The 

allegation  was  so  serious  and  defamatory  that  the  League’s  Legal  Counsel,  Rod  McKenzie 

immediately sought a commitment from the Rangers Company Secretary that it would not be

repeated.    This  was  a  wholly  appropriate  and  proportionate  legal  response  to  an  entirely 

unfounded and damaging allegation. That was the only respect in which Rangers was called

upon not to repeat what had been alleged and what had been threatened. On no conceivable

basis could this be considered as ‘bullying Rangers into silence.

It is noteworthy that there is not a shred of evidence in the so-called dossier to support the

allegation made or to justify the threat.

Claim:  Rod  McKenzie  offered  no  meaningful  assistance  in  drafting  a  members’  resolution 

that would be effective SPFL response:  The SPFL had received very clear legal advice that the resolution submitted by Hearts,  Rangers  and  Inverness  Caledonian  Thistle  was  not  effective  and  could  not  be  circulated to members.  Rod McKenzie engaged actively with the Rangers Company Secretary with a view to a resolution being redrafted in a way which would be effective.  However, the essence of the resolution sought by Rangers remained ineffective throughout. Rangers were advised that this remained Rod’s opinion, but if Rangers considered he was wrong that it could be taken to a QC for his opinion. Rangers declined that offer.

No effective members resolution has yet been submitted to the SPFL Board.

Claim: the SPFL and Scottish FA sent a letter to UEFA on 4 April in which it was stated that “the  vast  majority  of  SPFL  clubs  are  calling  for  curtailment  of  the  2019/20  season  in  Scotland”

SPFL response:  This is correct.  The letter sent jointly by the SPFL and Scottish FA was based on  feedback  from  clubs  and  club  representatives  on  the SPFL  Board.    It  was  an  honest  and  open assessment of what the vast majority of SPFL clubs were saying at that time. Part of the job of the Chief Executive is to gauge the views of Clubs on important issues from the many conversations he has with his SPFL Board colleagues and the directors of individual clubs.

The fact that over 80% of SPFL clubs voted in favour of the directors resolution underlines that the assessment of Neil Doncaster and Ian Maxwell was accurate.