09 April 2013

Scottish Fans Deserve Better

by Peter Ewart | Contributor

The next two weeks will set the course for the Scottish football leagues for the next season. We will see if sense will prevail and reconstruction, whatever shape it may take, will be introduced no earlier than season 14/15 onwards.

That is the least that clubs, players and fans who started the season expecting promotion and play-offs should expect. But is it what we will get?

The level of ‘debate’ on reconstruction has been pathetic so far. None of the major questions have been answered. Where is the Sky deal? Do they have a break clause regarding viewing figures? Why must reconstruction happen right now? What are the financial consequences?

Hugh Keevins’ devastating investigative journalism was brought to the fore in his piece last week. The SFL clubs had met with Doncaster and all their fears had been alleviated - we were led to believe.

At one point Record Sport "understands Neil Doncaster was even asked to prove the SPL’s television contract with Sky and ESPN was watertight and not in danger of collapse because of declining viewer figures."

He produced the contract, which still has four years left to run, and rubbished the scare stories. How? Why? What did it say? No, Keevins doesn’t bother pushing it any further. The piece then goes on to the finances, quoting Doncaster:

“The SFL clubs wanted greater clarity and they got it.” And later in the piece, “There were questions being asked about finance and we answered them.”

What questions? How were they convinced? Why the secrecy? Where is Rangers' prize money? Has an Uddingston pub showing the SPL on Polish TV sounded the death knell for the SPL? What about Hearts? No, there was none of that. It was simply left that some questions were asked and they had been answered. Well I feel far better informed and reassured after reading that don’t you? No?

That David Longmuir has instead been interrogated in the media for being ‘pro-Rangers’ because he had the wit to add words of caution to the proposals shows the parochial joke that Scottish football has become. The SFL’s due diligence had thrown up significant issues. If being cautious means you don't walk blindly into an ill-conceived, poorly thought-out, and rushed set of proposals that the vast majority of fans don't want, then cautious has to be the way forward.

BBC Scotland Sportsound covered the breaking story on Saturday that with St Mirren and Ross County set to vote against the 12-12-18 proposal that the vote would be lost at SPL level, even before an SFL vote.

Since then St Mirren have gone on to make a very sensible statement on why they won’t be able to support the proposal. Unsurprisingly, conspiracy theories of Charles Green’s visit to St Mirren Park on Easter Sunday abound. It will be interesting to see what Ross County, or indeed other dissenters do, in advance of the vote.

What happens next only time will tell, but it could go one of a couple of ways. First, realising the error of their ways, the chief architect of the 12-12-18 proposals Neil Doncaster, and partner in crime Stewart Regan, decide they'll spare themselves the ignominy of losing both the SPL and the SFL votes. As an SPL proposal, if it doesn’t even get through the SPL vote it will be a damning verdict on Doncaster’s leadership.

With the 'now or never’ proposals roundly rejected both he and Regan will take their long overdue leave and hand over Scottish football to some progressive thinkers with the best interest of the game at heart. That is admittedly far fetched, as their behaviour to date gives us no reason to think Doncaster will walk from his £200k-a-year gig or Regan leave his either. Their continued presence has created a vacuum. Scottish football can only move forward after both of them have moved on.

The SPL might actually realise that it really should have taken the opportunity to change the 11-1 ‘Old Firm veto’ voting system apparently so loathed by all clubs outside Glasgow. If that was the case then why has a vote to change it not even take place since Rangers absence from the top league?

With 12-12-18 rejected, everyone could then take stock and a more considered and developed proposal can be implemented in 2014/15, without the 12-12 into 8-8-8 nonsense. All clubs could start next season with a clear view of the structure to come.

The alternative course is that St Mirren and Ross County get hounded by the bigger bhoys in the SPL and make a retraction of the statements of opposition. They can say clarifications and assurances had been given and that they are now able to support the proposal, which would then be taken to the SFL, who are apparently split down the middle at 14-14 (plus Dunfermline to come). Those SFL clubs currently not in favour can then have the SPL2 threat applied and the proposals can be forced through. I sincerely hope that clubs are allowed to decide for themselves.

If the current proposals gain momentum because not to do so would be pro-Rangers, then Scottish football is in even more trouble than we thought. If reconstruction truly is to be a stepping stone to the transformation of the Scottish game, then 12-12-18 should be rejected as the rushed secretive farce that the vast majority of fans see it for. All real football fans deserve far better than what is on the table, so let’s take the time to get it right.