How trust in the SPFL has evaporated after a week of tomfoolery

The SPFL’s resolution passed but at what cost?

In exactly 500 words the SPFL proudly confirmed their resolution to terminate the Championship, League One and League Two season had passed with 81 per cent of the 42 member clubs in favour.

In the statement they confirmed Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers had won their respective divisions but failed to mention Partick Thistle and Stranraer’s relegation until a clarification was issued. The organisation’s chairman Murdoch MacLennan claimed the proposal was “the only realistic way forward”. Chief executive Neil Doncaster called it a “positive result”. It was also announced a league reconstruction task force for a revamped Scottish Premiership had been set up. Chaired by personnel from the two bottom sides in the top flight.

Conspicuous by its absence was any mention of what had unfolded over this past week, aside from MacLennan saying it was “always going to be a highly-charged and passionate debate”. Talk about underplaying a situation. Some of those in the UK Government would have been admiring such insouciance.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster's position has been called into question. Picture: SNS

From the SPFL announcing their resolution on Wednesday, 8 April until the time of writing there have been 42 (FORTY TWO) statements issued by member clubs or the governing body relating to the proposal (if this writer’s counting skills are any good).

This past week has been the mental equivalent of taking part in Takeshi’s Castle. Instead of comically zipping around in giant rice bowls, WHAM, Rangers are calling for the suspension of Doncaster. Instead of a facing sumo wrestler, BOING, Partick Thistle are seeking legal counsel. Instead of flinging your person at a velcro board, WHACK, the SPFL are releasing results of an incomplete vote.

At what cost?

It has been shambolically hilarious. Or maybe hilariously shambolic. Once again strengthening Scottish football’s position above WWE as the greatest sports-entertainment business around.

Hearts chairman Ann Budge will lead a task force for league reconstruction with Hamilton's Les Gray despite her criticism of the SPFL. Picture: SNS

The head honchos at the SPFL and Scottish FA - they are intertwined in the eyes of many - are figures to be shot at, easily criticised and used as an excuse. If rated on trust prior to this messy situation, the SPFL would have been somewhere between ScotRail and the email you receive asking to divert funds to a country you have never visited before.

Any trust which existed evaporated like an email sent by Dundee to the organisation’s inbox.

At exactly 5.44pm on Friday, the SPFL published the results of the resolution indicating the pressure was on one team and one team only for it to pass. Which it did, confirmation landing on Wednesday afternoon.

Okay, they got their way, but at what cost?

Of this whole ordeal, the thing which should most concern those at the top is their credibility. It currently lies in a thousand pieces in the car park at Mount Florida.

This is a period in time which was meant to remind us how much we love football, how big a part it plays in our life and everything that comes with it, meeting friends, creating bonds, how special it all is.

That feeling still persists. We are all pining for that moment we can go back to our stadium and spend our Saturday moaning, groaning and booing. But at the same time, the tomfoolery of it all has deepened suspicions, widened divisions, increased antipathy and rancour, and, of course, fuelled the conspiracy theorists.

Some fans will have understandably grown weary and simply fed up with Scottish football.

Front up

There was never going to be a solution which placated everyone. For that, the SPFL had an unenviable task. There is no right answer and they thought their recommendation was the best proposal.

There will be those who will be delighted with the outcome, either due to self-serving interests, tribalism or both. Which is absolutely fair. Others will have been left with a bad taste in the mouth.

There have been winners and losers. The SPFL have a foot planted firmly in both camps. Their recommendation has passed, but in a way which has been reputationally disastrous.

Doncaster, MacLennan et al, will have to front up and explain thoroughly the thought process behind it all, while key questions will require answering as alleged evidence sitting with Rangers hangs over the head of the organisation. Why were clubs ushered into a decision? Why did they release the statement on that Friday? How did Dundee know it was their vote which was missing? How did they see fit to pursue a resolution which became a laughing stock? Why do those in such positions of power never own or even just admit mistakes?

If anyone thinks the announcement on Wednesday was the end of it all they are foolishly naive. The SPFL won’t simply be allowed to swiftly move on, while league reconstruction, an idea they seemed to be reluctant to embrace, is likely to trundle on for the next six weeks.

The SPFL may have distracted from the coronavirus pandemic but equally they strengthened that desire to be sitting in the stadium with an exasperated look to a friend as you witness your bungling centre-back pairing trip over one another, rather than witness the off-field bungling of the last week.