29 November 2012

The King in Waiting

by Peter Ewart | CRO Contributor

David Longmuir had a very busy past weekend. He was already due to attend the Supporters Direct conference at Falkirk when he received a call on Friday afternoon about the Elgin debacle. Too many tickets sold. Game called off. 

Longmuir addressed the Supporters Direct meeting in Falkirk on Sunday as planned. He was presenting his plans for reconstruction to the fans: The end users. The consumers. What a nice change of pace for a Scottish football administrator. 

Notable then that one of the primary themes was a fairer distribution of money around the Scottish game. He pointed out the disparity of getting 10 times the prize money for finishing bottom of the SPL than for winning Division One. 

It’s a redistribution question that Rangers ignored for years, and I hope finally that we work to our fellow member SFL clubs to sort it out. That will of course meet strong resistance from current SPL clubs, but a compromise will have to be struck. After all, it's for the good of supporters up and down the country if all the clubs are present and accounted for financially.

The Elgin call off has provided an unexpected test of leadership for Longmuir, and when called upon how has he reacted? Only five days later we have the decision - Elgin will be fined £25k (peculiarly £5k of which to a charity of Rangers choice, a classy and unexpected touch) and pay Rangers expenses. 

It sounds pretty harsh for a 3
rd Division side, although points could have been deducted as well. Reverberations on Twitter indicated RFC support was overwhelmingly opposed to any such punishment.

There is reason to feel sorry for Elgin: had Rangers not ended up in Division 3 then it wouldn’t have happened. Division 3 infrastructure was never meant to cope with a club the size of Rangers. 

The flip side of that is that our presence in the SFL has started the redistribution of money in Scottish football by default. It presents a great opportunity for the smaller clubs to make good money for once, to clear their books up not for weeks or months but for years to come. 

Elgin made a mess of it, and it’s not clear whether by accident or actions of greed, but make a mess of it they did. And the level of the fine is commensurate to the fact that big TV companies and big TV contracts were involved. I can’t imagine ESPN were exactly pleased. Longmuir doesn’t want a repeat or to diminish the SFL’s ability to deliver big TV contracts in the future.

And it must be remembered that he is a football administrator. And rules are rules, they must be applied (with a little bit of common sense thrown in). Maybe not all football administrators are useless after all.

In contrast, think of the SFA and SPL faffing about re: Rangers and the way they effectively passed the buck to the SFL. Backward thinking, illegal punishments, inaction and paralysis dominate.

Think of the SFA faffing about over letting Levein go, or not actually letting him go, but not letting him be manager anymore whilst still paying him £35k a month for the remainder of his contract. They took an age and still made some shocking decisions.  

I’m not sure of the circumstances around the reconstruction plans taking shape but it’s clear the SFL and SPL weren’t working together on it. Longmuir and the SFL got a jump on the SPL by announcing their plans first, the SPL again made to look sluggish and reactive. 

Of course SPL teams will carry some weight around reconstruction, but they won’t have it all their own way and sorting it out demands quality leadership, something the SPL does not have at the minute. 

Longmuir will reiterate his ideas on reconstruction to the Professional Game Board of the SFA on Wednesday. The SPL will be pitching too. The future of the game is up for grabs. Battle lines will be drawn. What will the SFA do?

I have also been also impressed by his comments on inflated ticket prices for Rangers visits -- it’s what the SPL clubs did to our away fans for years and years, so it's certainly nothing new in our world.

Elgin apparently increased ticket prices on their oversold match, and Queen's Park popping for a maximum £20 a ticket for our game at Hampden on 29 December has raised eyebrows and drawn criticism from Longmuir. A football body standing up for the fans? That’ll do for me. 

Inability to lead and ineptitude from the SFA and SPL has crippled Scottish football, and the Rangers saga has only gone to magnify their failures. The game is suffering a long lingering death, entangled in politics and in-fighting, with further cracks appearing at board level. Who really thought Baldy Thompson being the first to jump ship?

David Longmuir and the SFL appear to be different. We have a king in waiting and the anointment should be at the earliest opportunity. Longmuir to head up a revamped and overhauled two tier SPL as a compromise? Don’t count it out yet. Money talks, and SPL clubs swimming in pools of debt facilitated by Neil Doncaster and Stewie Regan's abdication of leadership should not soon be forgotten.

So arise David Longmuir. You've got our backing. Now don't go bollocksing it up.