North of the Border

All or nothing or something in between

April 10, 2013
By Neil White
(Archive)

This week, Scottish clubs get ready to vote on their future, Charles Green talks himself into a corner and Dunfermline's difficulties continue.

ALL OR NOTHING OR SOMETHING IN BETWEEN

Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson is keen to get the Scottish League reconstruction voted in
GettyImagesDundee United chairman Stephen Thompson is keen to get the Scottish League reconstruction voted in

Celtic weren't quite crowned champions; Dundee prolonged their relegation by a week. The membership of the top six in the SPL was decided in the final round of fixtures and Queen of the South won the Challenge Cup contested by the teams outside the top division, a match that ended in much the same way as a Friday night out in Dumfries. Mostly, though, this was another messy week away from the pitch.

The votes on league reconstruction take place on Monday and Friday next week. The one on Friday, between the lower-league clubs, will not happen if the proposals do not receive the necessary 11-1 majority among SPL clubs on Monday. That majority rule - in place to provide Rangers and Celtic with a veto on major issues in the old days, and the days yet to come - is one of the wrongs the new proposals fail to address.

St Mirren stated they will vote against the proposals with a statement on their website that asked questions of their peers that have yet to be answered. They are opposed to the sporting structure of a split after only 22 games, with the 'middle eight' having their points total reset as the bottom four of the SPL and the top four of the First Division reform as a new mini-league. They want a larger league, in accordance with the results of all existing supporter polls, including that recently published by the SFA. However, the ace card was this:

"We ... do not accept that this is a take-it-or-leave-it situation. We do wish to keep working towards one organisation, an all-through distribution model and getting closer to our supporters' wishes of a larger league, while being fully aware of the commercial and financial pressures of operating a football club."

After St Mirren came out against the plans, Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson said: "I am quite hopeful there's going to be a lot of pressure put on lots of people this week. If people think there's another option on the table, there's no other option on the table. It's this or nothing else."

St Mirren are asking a simple question. Why is it "this or nothing else"? With consensus on the need for a fairer financial distribution model across all divisions and a single governing body, what is preventing an immediate adoption of these principles, while allowing more time to negotiate the best possible sporting model?

These issues are raised only in a unilateral statement by what may end up as the lone dissenting voice in the SPL. Unless the debate is made public, Scottish football supporters may end up with a system to which they are opposed and no idea why it was forced upon them.

GREEN MEANS "GO"

It was quite a week for Rangers and their chief executive, Charles Green. First, the farcical saga of a hoax telephone call to the striker Francisco Sandaza took a serious twist when his contract was terminated as a result of comments made to a man he believed was a football agent. During the call, Sandaza allegedly revealed details of his contract.

This, Rangers argue, constitutes a material breach of that document, resulting in his dismissal. Sandaza is contesting his dismissal, perhaps correctly assessing that after two goals in 14 appearances in the Third Division he is unlikely to see another deal as sweet as the three-year agreement he signed last summer, reportedly rising to £10,000-per-week in the final 12 months. If Sandaza can bring to the table the reality that footballers and their agents routinely discuss their wage levels and chances of a transfer while under contract, he may have a case.

Green claimed that he would have sacked Lionel Messi in the same situation. This, of course, is ridiculous. Sandaza had been an expensive mistake, although was not beyond redemption. On form, the 28-year-old would be capable of 30 goals in the third tier next season, but Rangers appear to have used this situation to cut loose a high earner who was not delivering.

Charles Green Rangers meeting
PA PhotosCharles Green has courted controversy throughout his time in charge of Rangers

The chief executive has been equally ruthless with the support staff around Ally McCoist, his manager. Chief scout Neil Murray and physio Pip Yates have been removed from the payroll and this week McCoist defended his frontline coaches, Ian Durrant and Kenny McDowall, as reports surfaced that Green planned to empty the dugout. Tensions between the manager and the chief executive appear to be rising.

Finally, Green gave an interview to the Scottish Sun on Sunday in which he told of how he used terms widely deemed to be racially offensive to describe colleagues. He did so, in the context of the interview, to illustrate his open, multi-cultural upbringing. That's some context.

It is difficult to imagine how a chief executive of such a large and influential body thinks the use of this language is going to play out in his favour. Equally misjudged was his initial response, in the face of condemnation from Show Racism the Red Card, that those offended had "fallen into the trap" of giving a knee-jerk reaction to comments taken "out of context". Again with the context.

TAX DEDUCTIONS

Dunfermline Athletic were docked 15 points for going into administration, the result of pressure from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over unpaid tax.

This places the Fife club in the mix from relegation from the First Division. They are in the relegation play-off spot, still eight points clear of Airdrie United, the bottom club, but three behind Cowdenbeath in eighth.

Their chances of getting out of that jam on the field are limited by the cuts made to the wage bill by releasing seven first-teamers. However, if the reconstruction plans are passed, there will be no relegation from the second tier as two top leagues of 12 are formed.

Either way, if Dunfermline can't reach an agreement with creditors over the summer, a further ten-point penalty and a required guarantee of £150,000 may well be too much for the administrator to handle.

The clock is ticking for another Scottish club. Meanwhile, the people running the game are apparently holding to ransom the financial change that would save them and greatly reduce the pressure on others.