Saturday, July 07, 2012

Rangers newco: Hamilton hit back

Another day, another statement.

Hamilton this time, again capturing the anger that SFL feel about the position they've been put in. And still no response from the SPL "no to newco" majority that could help allay these fears.

Coupled with the earlier statement from Raith might we be moving to a position where the SFL clubs refuse to take any vote on admitting the Rangers newco? That would certainly heap the pressure back on the SPL and SFA.

The full statement:

As you all know I attended the SFL meeting earlier this week to discuss the various proposals put to us by the SFA/SFL/SPL. We have subsequently had a board meeting to discuss the consequences of each of these scenarios. It is also now apparent that Rangers Newco will not play in the SPL next season.

As you are aware the proposal being favoured by the governing bodies is that Rangers Newco are parachuted into the Irn Bru SFL Division 1, contrary to Scottish Football League rules. If our Governing bodies ever get round to tabling any firm proposal to vote on it is unlikely in our opinion that this proposal, in isolation, would be acceptable to the members.

We believe that a complete overhaul of the game is required for the good of Scottish Football. League Reconstruction, play-offs, a fairer financial distribution model and a more effective Corporate Governance are some of the major issues which require to be addressed. The current circumstances we find ourselves in have created an opportunity for these changes to be implemented.

We believe the problems facing the game are not of the SFL’s making and as such would strongly suggest that the SFA, our governing body, take immediate ownership of the current situation in tandem with the two League bodies, and table a set of proposals at next week’s meeting providing a solution for the way forward in the best interests of Scottish Football.

In the meantime the situation changes daily and it is our view that HAFC and the other SFL clubs should not be put in the position to vote on something which may destroy Scottish Football.

Thank you for your support in these most challenging of times.

Les Gray
Chairman HAFC


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Rangers newco: The wrath of Raith

In a football story jammed with villains, Raith Rovers have offered up one of the few men to be hailed as a heroe.

Director Turnbull Hutton has consistently called out the SFA and the SPL on their bullying and their half truths.

It was Hutton spoke of "corruption" on the steps of Hampden, the parish councillor taking the fight to the doors of Westminster.

On Friday evening Raith released a statement regarding next week's SFL vote.

It should make the SPL and the SFA - and anyone who does actually care about Scottish football - uncomfortable.

Note the focus on the question of Rangers' ownership. As far as I'm aware this is the first time any other club has expressed concern about the medium term viability of the Duff and Phelps/Charles Green carve up of the oldco's assets.

Perhaps nothing more than conjecture. But as I mentioned last week Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster are taking an even bigger risk in so heavily pushing for the First Division compromise if they are not absolutely certain of the sustainability of the new Rangers ownership.

Attention is also brought - as it should be by each and everyone of us - to the essential cowardice of the SPL voting "no" and then shutting up shop, refusing to disown their own chief executives tactics and offering no support to the SFL clubs.

The Raith statement in full:

The club has this evening received the notice of resolutions to be voted on next Friday and we are told to expect an information pack at some time next week. We hope that this pack will present a more balanced report to SFL member clubs than they have so far received.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, financial information provided by Neil Doncaster showed an unrealistic worst case scenario. It showed the impact of potential total loss of 3 TV contracts, all of which had been inexplicably agreed on the basis that the broadcaster could walk away if either Rangers or Celtic were not in the SPL. His information did not, however, set out the potentially positive impact of negotiating replacement contracts with other broadcasters or alternatively the much mentioned possibility of launching SPL TV (which we understand could have been launched within a matter of months).

Mr Doncaster warned SFL members that if these contracts were indeed lost, this would mean the annual payment to the SFL under the Settlement Agreement would either be greatly reduced or not paid at all. Raith Rovers FC believes this not to be the case, and that the SPL would remain both contractually obliged and able to pay the £1.9m – £2m annual sum, even in that worst case scenario. We call upon the SFL Board to clarify its view on this vital point urgently, before club boards finalise their positions on these important votes.

We are also concerned that there has not as yet been an opportunity for clubs to receive legal advice from the SFL and/or debate the potential consequences on the smooth running of our league in the event that the Courts are asked to annull/strike down any of the corporate transactions that have led to the current position of Sevco Scotland Ltd as owners of certain assets of the Rangers oldco. Indeed, the position as regards the potential sanctions to be applied by the Scottish FA via its Appellate Tribunal has also still to be bottomed out. In summary, we remain concerned that the SPL clubs have overwhelmingly voted to pass on this potential time bomb, which may yet explode once passed to the SFL’s jurisdiction, and we are being asked to accept this new company into membership, worse still in our top division.

Without all of this information, and the opportunity for clubs to further discuss these issues on a fully informed basis amongst themselves before the formal SGM, in a similar format to last Tuesday’s meeting, we are concerned that the fairness and transparency of the process itself is at risk of being compromised.

Raith Rovers FC will consider its stance with regard to attendance at this meeting once we receive the information from the SFL.


Friday, July 06, 2012

Rangers newco: Understanding "no"

This post isn't aimed at any one club.

It's not aimed at any one director, chief executive or chairman.

It's written more in bemusement and sadness than in anger.

If there is an overarching theme it won't be a profound one. It will more likely be "what the hell is happening to our game."

Rangers won't get into the SPL.

We know that. We know it emphatically because 10 out of 12 SPL votes made it so.

Kilmarnock, for reasons that their explanation didn't quite explain, abstained.

Charles Green, owner of the new Rangers but dispatched to Hampden as a proxy vote for the old Rangers, voted yes. The Rangers fans might not trust him but at least he voted for the right side.

So I'm confused.

The SPL clubs overwhelmingly thought they could survive without the newco Rangers.

But Neil Doncaster, the SPL's missionary among our footballing natives, and Stewart Regan, chief executive of the neutral Scottish Football Association, are arguing that not just the SPL but Scottish football itself "WILL DIE" unless Rangers get back to the SPL in just one year.

Rangers need to be admitted to the SFL and pushed straight into the First Division.

Anything else would be madness, a living death or a painful suicide.

I'm still confused.

To get Rangers into the First Division the SPL and the SFA - still a neutral governing body until they declare themselves not to be - will try and persuade the clubs that make up the Scottish Football League.

By persuade they mean bully and threat.

And if they blow and they blow and they blow and they still don't blow the SFL house down?

Then they'll build their own house. With a moat. And a drawbridge.

And they'll raise that drawbridge. And they'll never, ever let the peasants in. Even if they're starving to death.

Let them eat cake.

So I'm still confused.

What does "no" mean in Scottish football?

When ten SPL chairmen say "no" to Rangers in the SPL what do they mean?

Do they just mean "no?"

Or do they mean "no, obviously that's no to the top flight but yes, yes, yes to getting them back in to the First Division. Or failing that the newly created SPL2?"

Do they mean "no, 'cause that's the best thing to do for football. As long as we can still whore ourselves to the corporate sponsors who like us to be trapped in a duopoly?"

Do they mean "no, just like our fans wanted to hear, so we can sell season tickets even though we meant yes to the SFL1 and cunningly side stepped that issue with our oh, so clever linguistic mastery?"

It would be nice to know more about "no."

Because right now it looks like people are taking the piss.

Until somebody defines "no" Kilmarnock's vote looks a totem of principle simply because it didn't hide behind a false righteousness.

It makes me doubt everyone.

What does a First Division chairman mean when he says "no?"

Does he mean "no is no but we'll agree to join the SPL2 if the diddy teams vote no as well?"

Confusion extends my befuddlement beyond the complexities of a simple "no."

What is a governing body?

Is the SFA supposed to govern every level of the game in Scotland and build the foundations for our national team to thrive?

Or are they supposed to send their chief executive out into the lower leagues with a suitcase full of used notes in one hand and a gun in the other?

Is that how the SFA dispenses justice "without fear or favour?"

What is a league competition if it can't survive without one of it's participants?

What would happen to competition in next season's First Division if Rangers didn't win it?

Would the SFA step in, without fear or favour, and promote them anyway? For the good of the game?

It's all very confusing.

It doesn't have to be.

The SPL chairmen who said "no" could sack Neil Doncaster today.

They could announce plans for a vote of no confidence in Stewart Regan.

They could disown the tactics of the men who have led us here, who have dragged the game to this stage.

They won't though. And that stinks.

It's wrong when a club says "we're being bullied but we have to say "yes" or we'll go out of business."

It's even worse when so many people hear that cry for help and say "screw you, spineless bastards" instead of condemning the bullies.

A sell out SPL Saturday?

That's a sell out.

Don't let them get away with it.

Shout and scream at your club. Write, email, phone and petition the SFA.

Don't give up until they stop this madness and apologise for the bullying, for the threats, for sheltering under the myth that they're doing what the fans want.

Demand they apologise to each and everyone of us for their complete lack of imagination when it comes to rebuilding this exasperating game of ours.

Until they do, there's only really one option:

Just say "no."

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Thursday, July 05, 2012

Rangers newco: Looking for a revolution

A drookit summer has seen Scottish football drowning in uncertainty and indecision.

We finally got a decision yesterday. The SPL chairmen voted against letting the Rangers newco into the top flight.

That was hardly surprising. Some of the chairmen - 10 said "no" - might have voted with a heavy heart and some might very well be daft.

But not daft enough to risk losing the core of their own support.

A predictable decision and not one that removed much uncertainty.

Too many clubs - the Rangers newco among them - don't yet know what league they will be playing in when the season kicks off in just a few weeks.

That the SPL saying "no" would force Rangers into the Third Division seemed the most plausible outcome until a few days ago.

Then the argument that the only way for Scottish football to survive was to parachute Rangers into the First Division was unleashed.

If the SFL clubs didn't agree then the SPL - whose role in all this should have ended yesterday when they said an emphatic "no" - would engineer a breakaway SPL2 to accommodate the newco.

Last night that theme was picked up by the SFA's Stewart Regan in a series of quotes that should - in a game governed by any sanity - disqualify him from holding office.

He has certainly destroyed any lingering hope that the SFA will adopt a neutral stance in any of this.

I don't really care that Regan diminishes himself with every utterance. I do care that he diminishes our game when he's doing it.

When a director of a First Division club stands on the steps of Hampden and denounces our game as "corrupt" then something is rotten to the core.

And for what?

Regan is giving up. Aided and abetted by the SPL's Neil Doncaster - who should really be run out of Hampden forthwith - he's surrendering.

He's seeking comfort in a broken business model. His vision of Scottish football is one where any real change is possible only if it suits the needs of television companies whose commitment to Scotland is half hearted at best.

He's saying that we can only thrive if we fix the game to allow a quick route back to the top flight for a club that has seen the most gargantuan mismanagement in Scottish football history.

A quick fix that most fans of that club seem to reject themselves.

He's saying that it's OK to bully lower league clubs if it provides solace for all the SPL clubs who have mismanaged their own finances.

And he's turning this cowardice on it's head and painting himself as some sort of hero.

He sees something heroic in saying that he's worked out a way to return as quickly as possible to a flawed status quo.

We deserve more. More than Regan and Doncaster, a couple of middle ranking marketing men who have fallen into the trap of believing their own lies.

More than footballing authorities who care not a jot for moving the game forward.

What could we learn from this long, bleak summer?

We know that fans care about the future, that they're prepared to speak up and show their passion.

Would the future of the Scottish game be better served by harnessing that passion or by allowing Regan to disenfranchise more and more supporters?

We've seen that the SPL experiment has failed. It's failed to create a sustainable model for its clubs, failed to create an environment that could predict or halt a huge corporate collapse in its midst.

The SPL was the game's attempt to hitch a lift to a promised land,  to the riches of unfettered sporting capitalism. Scottish football didn't get there. It got run over and left behind.

Greed, chasing the quick buck, canoodling with corporate sponsors and ignoring the fans hasn't worked.

But the fans are still there. They still care.

Could we not take the positives from that and create a more sustainable game, a more sensible game?

A new football model for Scotland that has fans and communities at its heart? A game that we could again be proud of?

It won't be easy. Of course it won't.

But if Dundee United or Hibs, Hearts or Aberdeen, Kilmarnock or Elgin, Cowdenbeath or Stranraer are surviving only on the back of four Old Firm games a season and 30 pieces of Sky's silver then we need to make hard decisions.

We need to reinvent. We need to involve the fans in that reinvention.

And we need to do it quickly.

It will take vision though. It will take inspiration.

When we look for vision or inspiration at Hampden what do we find?

Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster.

Their vision condemns us to relive the mistakes of the past. Their vision won't halt the "slow, lingering death" of Scottish football it will only perpetuate it.

Don't believe them, stand up to them. Tell your club how you feel, shout it from the rooftops.

Every fan of every club should have had enough of being let down by non entities like this.

It's our game and they are our clubs.

Now is the time to prove it.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Euro 2012: Spanish ayes

With football looking no closer to breaking out in this strange Scottish summer it's with some sadness that one says "cheerio" to Euro 2012.

Brutal honesty, of course, means conceding that Spain's triumph was as far removed from Scottish football as Craig Whyte is from Andrew Carnegie.

This Spanish team play, to borrow a line from Bobby Jones, a game with which we are not familiar.

The only lessons we can learn from them are long term ones. Lessons that will evade us for as long as the siege mentality of our current civil war continues.

But thinking about Scottish football only sullies the moment.

The dull, boring Spaniards. All that possession, all that winning. The dullards.

That always looked like a premature verdict on this side. On Sunday they showed why they're the best in Europe, the best in the world and the best in Europe all over again.

The possession was emphatic, the passes delivered with intent, the Italians toyed with and ultimately destroyed.

A decent Italian team that had exceeded expectation and impressed so much against Germany.

But Spain weren't going to let them upset the football odds on Sunday night.

Where the wonderful Andrea Pirlo could dictate against other teams he was frustrated here, where Mario Balotelli was so explosively untameable against Germany here he was all but sidelined.

Spain were just too good.

Andrés Iniesta just seems to get better and better. He's now won three Champions Leagues, a World Cup and two European Championships.

He's 28 years old.

He represents the freakiest reality of this side. We're already discussing them as the greatest ever - some cling to the Brazil of 1970, Bob Crampsey forever championed the 1958 vintage - but they have time on their side.

They're young. They proved on Sunday just how hungry they still are.

It's a shame not to linger on what they've already achieved. But the mind does stray to what they might yet achieve.

You can't stop debates about the "greatest." But this Spanish collective could yet provide a definitive answer.

> The tournament? Enjoyable, intriguing, exciting.

A Golden Boot for Fernando Torres proves that this was a championships defined not by the goalscorers but the creators.

Pirlo and Iniesta stood above the rest. When people are able to play football this well we can only weep about the circus that surrounds the game.

They are pure footballers, sent to thrill and amaze us. Together they offer a potent and timely reminder about what made the world fall under the spell of this game.

Watching them over the last month has been an antidote to the suffering caused by prolonged exposure to fitba'.

> Sweet sixteen.

Hard not to feel that expanding the tournament to 24 teams in 2016 will dilute what has, in 2012, been a perfectly formed championship.

It might help Scotland qualify but 24 is an unwieldy number.

Size isn't everything.

> How we watched.

Nothing new in the BBC hammering ITV in the final head-to-head.

It's not ideal though. Proof that ITV still can't get football right and also an excuse for the BBC to stick with the Lineker, Hansen, Shearer, Lawrenson diamond formation.

Lazy, smugly matey and with little new to say they let the viewer down.

Lineker is now seen as a sports broadcaster and as such is untouchable. Shearer hasn't delivered on the money the BBC paid to get him so should be jettisoned.

Lawrenson now sounds like he hates football. Time to put him out of his misery.

Replace them with people that will challenge him - Lee Dixon shows promise - and Alan Hansen might just be reminded why he was once highly rated as a pundit.

Encouraging Lineker to contribute more than being the smug ringmaster of a nineteenth hole debate would also help - he doesn't need to turn to Hansen to analyse a striker's contribution, he can do it himself.

ITV threatened interesting panels but it didn't quite come off. The Warsaw studio could have inspired but ended up making all concerned look awkward.

Jamie Carragher isn't for me but Roberto Martinez was a sound choice.

Roy Keane's views on Ireland seem to me to be a manifestation of an internal conflict between his natural superiority complex and a deeper self loathing. But he could offer something of the maverick if properly marshalled.

Sadly Adrian Chiles looks scared of both Keane and advert breaks. For an ITV football host that's a horrid combination.

Morecambe and Wise also struggled when they jumped from the BBC to the commercial channel but their place in TV history was already assured.

Adrian Chiles has given us Working Lunch and The One Show. A footnote to a footnote in the book of great TV presenters it's hard to see how ITV can persevere with him.

Until we remember that his understudy is Matt Smith, the unthinking woman's trumpet.

Time for another ITV rethink.