Friday, January 28, 2022

SPFL Isn’t Fit For Purpose; It’s Time To Force The Issue

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Kenny Stewart
Chief Football writer for The 4th Official. Always honest and won't shy away from the truth.

Parks of Hamilton, owned by Rangers Chairman Douglas Park, had to go to court this week in order to stop the SFA from arbitrating on the disagreement between Rangers and the SPFL regarding the governing body’s new sponsorship deal with online car dealership ‘cinch’.

The dispute stems from Rangers’ refusal to fulfill contractual obligations for cinch. Rangers have argued that according to the SPFL’s own rules, they don’t have to due to existing contracts they already have in place with a competitor to cinch.

Parks of Hamilton argued (successfully) at the court of session that any interested party had the legal right to be involved in the arbitration process according to the SFA’s own rules. Parks of Hamilton are an interested party, as ruled by the court of law.

Going by media reports, both the SFA and SPFL argued that Parks of Hamilton had no right to be involved in any dialogue or discussions regarding this predicament the SPFL now find itself in.

The process has now been stopped in its tracks as Parks will now have to be invited to the meeting of the arbitration panel, SPFL and Rangers. That seems fair and above board, as Parks of Hamilton has the right to be there to look after their own interests.

Why would the SFA and SPFL argue against their own rules in a court of law? Well, that’s a question for them, but it seems highly illogical, and Rangers have described it as “antagonistic” for those bodies to argue against their own rulebook.

This is nothing new, of course; Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer successfully took the SPFL to court last summer only for the court to rule that the SFA’s arbitration process would take precedent over the court ruling.

Rangers and the SPFL have been at loggerheads for years. The SFA and Rangers haven’t seen eye to eye on anything for a long time either.

The issue is basically this.. the SPFL have a new sponsor. Rangers have a contract with a competitor. Rangers argue that according to SPFL rules, this permits them to refuse to provide what the new sponsor has paid for.

The new sponsor is ‘cinch’. Rangers have been told they must provide cinch with advertising within their stadium and for their logo to be used on Rangers kit along with a few other odds and ends.

Rangers say that due to this interfering with a contract they already have in place, they have the right to protect their own interests and not provide this.

The situation is a mess. Rangers have argued that all they’re doing is following the SPFL rules on this.

It appears the SPFL has managed to tie itself in knots and got its knickers in a twist about this.

Rangers claim they provided the SPFL board with plenty of notice on what they would or wouldn’t do. They stated they had a deal in place that the cinch sponsorship would jeopardise and leave Rangers with the possibility of being sued for breach of contract.

Who’s right and who’s wrong? Time will tell but let’s be clear here. Rangers appear adamant they are doing nothing wrong while the SPFL seem to be panicking and as ever trying to railroad people into submission.

They even seem to be attempting to get other clubs to gang up on this issue. An open letter was sent to all clubs which didn’t name Rangers but did call them “one club”.

In the letter, it stated that the SPFL would seek arbitration by the SFA to determine who was right and who was wrong. The reason for asking clubs to get in touch with the SPFL was also written in this letter, telling all that once arbitration starts, no one else can get involved.

This situation does Scottish football no good. If Rangers are in the right here, then what on earth are Neil Doncaster and his sidekicks up to here?

Neil Doncaster of the SPFL
Neil Doncaster File Photo File photo dated 01-08-2015 of SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster. Issue date: Monday January 18, 2021. FILE PHOTO EDITORIAL USE ONLY PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xJeffxHolmesx 57600776

The fact Parks of Hamilton went to court and successfully argued they had the right to be involved in the process while the rulers of the professional game in this country argued and lost is yet another piece of evidence that this shower of shysters aren’t fit for purpose.

This deal is worth £1.6million per season for the next five years to Scottish football. Take away the £100k for a third party doing the negotiations and the best part of £400k for Neil Doncaster to lead the SPFL; well, it doesn’t leave a lot for the 42 clubs involved in the professional game, does it?

Rangers vowed last summer that the status quo cannot remain. They’ve been open and crystal clear about the fact the SPFL doesn’t appear to have a light shone upon them.

This is an organisation that told us last April that Dundee’s email had not been received therefore allowing that club to change its vote on whether to end the season early or not. That was shot down in court last summer when they actually ended up admitting it had been received before the deadline set.

The same organisation also told us last year that playing the season out would cost the clubs millions while failing to acknowledge or admit to their members that finishing the season early would cost double the amount they claimed halting the season immediately would.

Think about that. The decision to stop the season early last season cost the league and its members £10 million; playing it out would’ve cost £5 million.

You know, we have Sky as our TV contractor, the same as in England, right? The same place that did manage to end their season? This is top flight football, for goodness sake. In Scotland, it is run by the laughing stop of Europe. The SPFL is a joke league; it really is.

That’s what you’re dealing with here with this organisation. They’re hopeless. It looks like every single decision made by them is a masterclass in ineptitude.

My understanding is there are many clubs not happy with this, as was the case with their bully tactics of last season.

How many clubs have a contract with Parks of Hamilton? This isn’t just about Rangers; it’s about carrying out due diligence and adhering to your own rules instead of thinking you can just do what you want without the fear of repercussions.

This is now an official body running the game in Scotland that genuinely can’t get anything right. When their own members have to take them to court to try to get them to do what’s right and those that have been piling fortunes into our game for decades feel they have no choice but to bring them in front of a judge, what chance have we got?

The cinch deal is pathetic, utterly woeful. By the time everybody else gets their cut, it works out at about a million quid getting split between forty two clubs. That’s laughable.

Ann Budge
Heart of Midlothian v Queen of the South SPFL Championship 27/03/2021. Heart of Midlothian owner Ann Budge sits in the stand during the SPFL Championship match between Heart of Midlothian and Queen of the South at Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh, Scotland on 27 March 2021. Editorial use only PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUK , Copyright: xMalcolmxMackenziex PSI-12275-0040

Let’s recap here. Three members clubs took them to court last summer; the Court agreed with their argument but were told that had had to be thrown across to the SFA to arbitrate. Colour me surprised, but the SFA ruled in the SPFL’s favour.

Rangers have been telling all and sundry that the SPFL doesn’t like a light being shone on their antics, writing a dossier laden with serious questions that were never properly answered, such as why our game is undervalued and, more importantly, undersold. By the very people put in place to succeed in promoting and selling our game to TV companies, advertisers and sponsors.

Parks of Hamilton have successfully proven in a court of law that yet again, the SPFL board simply don’t believe that their own rules apply to them, so much so that the SFA and the SPFL argued in court that this shouldn’t be the case.

Seriously, what chance have we got when a guy on £388 thousand a year can’t read the rules or his ‘legal eagle’ can’t understand the rulebook he helped to write?

Then there’s old Murdoch, the man who fires out open letters regularly to attract the bully boys. This lot are in charge of running the professional game in this country; I wouldn’t trust them to run my barbershop if I went on holiday for a fortnight. I’d be in total meltdown for the entire holiday, sitting there on my sunlounger thinking, “what the hell I’m I going back to??”

I wrote last week on The 4th Official (you can read it here) that the SPFL could’ve sold the TV rights to our league for up to £100 million a season. I got the usual lambasting from Celtic supporters on Twitter. Water off a duck’s back to me; I just laugh at the hot takes, but here’s the thing…

If you believe we couldn’t sell our game for a total approaching £100 million then, fair enough, I aim high. If you honestly believe £30 million a year is a fair deal for Scottish football, then you’re not thinking clearly.

Our game is being badly presented, weakly sold, amateurishly ran, and completely undervalued by the very people given the responsibility of upholding standards and seeking the very best on offer to its members.

I’ll repeat it for the hard of thinking, if Sky Sports could admit that the four Old Firm games (yes, OLD FIRM) made them £8 million per game twenty years ago, how much are those four games worth in today’s money?

I’d hazard a guess atleast £12 million a game. That’s before you consider Aberdeen v Rangers/Celtic, Hibs v Celtic/Rangers, Hearts v Hibs, the Dundee Derby. Hearts v Rangers/Celtic.

Now, no one is saying these are the biggest games on the planet but seriously, if Sky can promote Bournemouth v Fulham as a classic, why are they treating our game with such disdain?

They don’t promote it, they don’t sell it, and they don’t try to help in any way. They use our game as the support act for the Championship and the Premier league while giving us scraps to feed off.

That is down in the main to the clowns that are running the SPFL. No one else is to blame, only them. Rangers even told the rest of the members of the SPFL that they knew of overseas TV companies that wanted to buy our game but got nowhere. How bad do you need to be at your job to be unable to sell something that another person wants to buy?

Norwegian football has £70 million coming into its league every season from TV, yet here we are with the biggest Sports channel on the planet giving us way less than half of that.

Again that is down to no one else but Doncaster and his band of brothers.

That’s what I meant by our game being undersold last week, and here we are this week with one of the biggest investors in our game over the last fifty years having to take these inefficient hacks to court.

It’s time for the clubs, the members of this organisation, the chairman and investors at clubs to ask what the actual heck is going on here?

This is about more than some poxy and embarrassing sponsorship deal with a car company; this is about gross negligence and complete failure. This organisation isn’t fit for purpose; it’s time for the clubs to force the issue on the continued failings of the SPFL to get anything right.

Until that happens, we’ll see more multi millionaires taking these irrelevant fools to court and humiliating them time after time.

The SPFL is not fit for purpose. Of that, there can be no doubt.

Editorial Note: Did you know this article was published first on our exclusive Patreon page? If you love Rangers while sick and tired of the same old biased MSM coverage, this is for you. The 4th Official needs your support. Due to the unprecedented situation as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, the digital media space has been completely devastated. There has been a massive shortfall in revenue (even while viewership is up) as we scramble how to make sure that we go on with our daily job. We are proud to put up exclusive stuff on Scottish football as well as an early release of our podcast interviews with relevant personalities of the game (recent guests have been David Martindale, Matt Polster, Greg Docherty, Daniel Stendel & a lot more) on our Patreon account and hope you would support us in these tough times. We have supporters from atleast 9 countries, and you can be too by chipping in just £2.99/month (or become an annual supporter). Become a proud Patron of The 4th Official!

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