Wednesday, April 11, 2012

SPL: Fair or foul

The tranquility of my holiday haven on the Solway Coast is shattered as we come closer to answering a question that has vexed us for weeks:

What would the SPL do if Rangers took the ultimate plunge into liquidation before emerging on the other side as a "newco?"

Today an SPL statement regarding 'Financial Fair Play' shed some light on the issue:

On 30 April 2012 the SPL Clubs will consider a range of proposals to amend the Articles and Rules of the SPL. A brief description of the effect of adopting the Resolutions is provided below.

Resolution 1 proposes an increase in the sporting sanction (points deduction) on any Club which suffers or is subject to an Insolvency Event from 10 points to the greater of 15 points and 1/3 of the Club’s SPL points in the preceding season.

Resolution 2A proposes further sporting sanctions in the event that any Club undergoes an Insolvency Transfer Event (i.e. transfers its share in the SPL to a new company where this occurs because of the insolvency of the transferor) of 10 points in each of two consecutive seasons from the Insolvency Transfer Event.

Resolution 2B proposes revisions to the fee payment arrangements i.e. SPL fees to any Club which has undergone an Insolvency Transfer Event will be reduced by 75% in each of three consecutive seasons from the Insolvency Transfer Event.

Resolution 3 proposes extending sporting sanctions where an Insolvency Event is suffered by a Group Undertaking of a Member Club of the SPL (Group Undertaking is defined in Section 1161(5) of the Companies Act 2006).

Resolution 4 proposes updates and extensions to the definition of Insolvency Event in the SPL Rules.

Resolution 5 proposes updates and extensions to the definition of Insolvency Event in the SPL Articles and clarifies the process in the event that a Member which is the subject of an Insolvency Event is required to transfer its share in the Company.

Resolution 6 proposes a specific requirement in the SPL Rules that Clubs must pay their Players in terms of their Contracts of Service on due dates and places a duty on any Club to report any failure to pay its Players in a timely manner to the SPL. Failure to pay Players and / or to notify such failure to the SPL would be a breach of SPL Rules.

Resolution 7 proposes a requirement in the SPL Rules that Clubs report to the SPL any failure to make payments to HMRC in respect of PAYE and NIC (a Default Event). Any Club suffering such a Default Event will be subject to a Player Registration Embargo. Any failure to report a Default Event shall be a breach of the SPL Rules.

Resolutions 2B and 5 require the support of a minimum of 11 Clubs to be adopted; all other Resolutions require the support of a minimum of 8 Clubs to be adopted.

If adopted the amendments to the Articles and Rules will have effect from and including 14 May 2012 (the day after the last day of Season 2011/2012).

No further comment will be made in respect of these proposals until after the General Meeting on 30 April at which they will be considered by the Clubs.

So there we have it. On April 30th the 12 SPL clubs - Rangers will be represented by their administrators - will vote on the framework that would let "Rangers 2012" begin life in the SPL.

Shocked?

Perhaps.

Perhaps not.

I've argued since this whole affair blew up that the SPL - a league founded on greed and self-preservation or, if you prefer, a league founded to maximise commercial revenues - would likely find more solace in keeping Rangers close.

That has led them to this point. Of finding a way to keep Rangers in the SPL while still being seen to punish them.

The sort of compromise that Neil Doncaster will be well used to, the sort of compromise that he was an architect of when a Leeds United newco was admitted to the English Football League.

Hence a three season deduction in revenue and a two season points deduction of ten points.

Given the SPL's silence as they've ferreted away on these changes we might expect them to have been better. Immediately there appears an inconsistency in the severity of punishments being handed out for administration and liquidation.

And a ten point deduction for two seasons doesn't seem much. Half-hearted to the point of being meaningless.

It's a bad idea for the SPL to give the impression that Doncaster's drafted these changes on the back of Ralph Topping's cigar packet. But that's the impression that will linger.

Things to remember: these rule changes still need to be passed by the SPL's 12 men in suits. And Rangers are not yet liquidated, they might never be liquidated.

Still the Scottish football public is agog and aghast.

"Too lenient" cry the massed ranks of non-Rangers supporters.

"Too harsh" cry the Rangers fans.

"Badly timed" say Ibrox administrators Duff and Phelps while announcing a delay to their announcement of the preferred bidders. The interested parties are given time to digest the proposed rule changes and how they might affect their plans for the club.

Anecdotally I'm hearing a lot of people saying they'll be finished with the SPL if a new Rangers are allowed a place in the SPL under new rules.

I understand that argument but my own view will always be that I support my team not the league they play in and I will continue to do so.

I've also heard from Rangers fans arguing that they should say "screw the SPL" and join the SFL in a fit of pique.

With your club in something of a fix some humility would not go amiss. But there is an interesting theory wrapped up in the outrage: Rangers spending three seasons fighting through the league structure might actually reinvigorate the whole of Scottish football.

What we have learnt throughout this process, however, is that putting a 'For Sale' sign up outside Ibrox does not spark a rush of bargain hunters. The SPL might be flawed but I'm not sure all those interested in trying to clean up Rangers' mess would trade the top flight for the Third Division on a point of principle.

For prospective buyers it might really be a case of "SPL and sort of bust" or "SFL and completely bust."

It is likely that clubs will be voting on these changes with certain issues remaining unresolved.

The SPL will - rightly or wrongly - shrug off Rangers' outstanding tax issues by saying such matters should be dealt with by the relevant authorities not a football league.

They'll try and body swerve the morality of liquidation, of the businesses left out of pocket through Rangers' mismanagement, in much the same way.

The results of investigations carried out by the SFA and the SPL themselves might be harder to dodge.

But, if nothing else, the SPL is a refuge of the brass necked and the two faced. They'll sit out those controversies and say "actually those investigations are only relevant to the old Rangers, not this shiny, new mob we've let in to the league."

Those riders again: liquidation might not happen, the SPL clubs might not vote in favour of these proposals.

Liquidation might happen though, it might be unavoidable whatever the demands of the fans and whatever the intentions of the new owners. And the SPL might vote "yes."

We've seen today the ill feeling that will bring. And the damage it will do to the game.

I've said all along that the SPL decision makers were going to have a decision to make. A hard decision.

A decision that would cause a rammy like none we've seen before.

Nothing was decided today. But we got a glimpse of where we're headed.

That nobody is happy suggests we're on the road to a very SPL-like resolution. Please none of the people all of the time.

It's hard to see how, in the view of the paying public, the SPL can emerge from April 30th with anything other than an even more damaged product.

There remains a future for Scottish football.

It just doesn't look very bright right now.

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