Scottish soccer may just have been saved yesterday afternoon by 25 of the 30 Scottish Football League Chairmen who voted to send Sevco Scotland to the Third Division of the SFL.
It should all have been so simple.
There was no question whatsoever of Gretna 2008 FC being invited into the SFL. As a new club, they started at the bottom level—that being below the level of the SFL.
By all rights, Sevco Scotland, who own Ibrox Stadium, the former home of the now-defunct Rangers Football Club, should have applied to join the West of Scotland League and sought to make their way back on sporting merit.
In a breathtaking display of arrogance, they applied to join Scottish soccer not at the bottom level, but at the top—applying to join the Scottish Premier League, despite being a brand new club with no playing history, no past membership of any soccer league and meeting none of the financial criteria necessary for membership.
The moment Sevco Scotland’s application to the SPL was made, the governing bodies of Scottish soccer failed in their duty to the game.
Sevco should have been sent away with a flea in their ear by the Scottish Premier League, but instead, their application was not only entertained, but the member clubs asked to vote on whether or not to accept it.
Incredibly, Sevco was even allowed to cast a vote in the ballot.
Rangers FC are in liquidation, a process that could take up to a year to complete. For reasons best-known to themselves, the SPL continue to regard Rangers FC as a member and allowed Rangers to vote on whether Sevco could join or not. Rangers administrators, Duff & Phelps, appointed Sevco as their proxy and so Charles Green was allowed to cast the only “yes” vote.
As we know, the SPL clubs voted by 10-1 to reject Sevco’s application, with Kilmarnock FC abstaining.
The pantomime then continued with Sevco pitching up at the Scottish Football League seeking membership. Showing incredible humility, owner Charles Green declared that Sevco would accept whatever division the SFL chose to place it in.
Let’s just say that again—a brand new club with no playing record, no audited accounts and no past membership of any soccer league would accept whatever division the SFL chose to place them in!
Before we continue with this ever-developing story, let’s just consider the situation which preceded yesterday’s SFL vote.
The SPL and the SFA not only took delivery of an application from a brand new club to play in the top flight, they asked the SPL member clubs to vote on whether to accept it or not.
That was failure No. 1.
Then when Sevco was rejected for membership of the SPL, the SFL took delivery of an application and again asked their member clubs to vote on it.
That was failure No. 2.
Failure No. 3 can be laid at the feet of the SFL board, who asked their member clubs to vote on resolutions to:
i) Accept Sevco into the league (no mention of which division) and
ii) Give the board permission to place “Rangers,” in Division 1, subject to their negotiating a favourable deal with the SFA and SPL.
Before we consider the SFL vote, let’s see what the person charged with the good governance of Scottish soccer, SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan, was doing.
Well, Stewart Regan was warning the SFL clubs of the impending doom of Scottish soccer if they did not vote Sevco straight into Division 1. That’s right, not Division 3 where new members would expect to start, but Division 1. The second tier of the Scottish soccer pyramid.
In this campaign, which amounted to little more than bullying and intimidation, Regan was aided and abetted by his SPL counterpart, Neil Doncaster.
Quite what the SFL vote had to with Doncaster is anyone’s guess. What happens in the SFL is none of his business.
With Scottish soccer almost in a state of civil war, 18 of the 30 members of the SFL had already intimated they would vote for Sevco to be placed in Division 3 before the meeting began, amid dark mutterings about a lack of trust, and confidence, in Regan and Doncaster.
To their enormous credit, the SFL Chairmen held firm and voted to accept Sevco into the SFL, but refused to countenance elevating them straight to Division 1.
The BBC today reports that at the meeting, a call for a no-confidence vote on Stewart Regan was proposed and seconded, but struck down by SFL President Jim Ballantyne, on the grounds that the meeting was not an appropriate setting for such a vote.
Respected Channel 4 News journalist Alex Thomson reports on his blog that even at this late stage, Rangers may still be back in the SPL for the start of the season. Surely, this would be a step too far for fans of Scottish football, already dismayed by the lengths the authorities have gone to in order to retain a “Rangers” presence in the game?
What is clear this morning is that the positions of SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan and his SPL counterpart Neil Doncaster are utterly untenable.
They have failed to provide any leadership during this crisis, and with the SFL season kicking off in just two weeks’ time, there is still a lack of clarity over who will be Club 12 in the SPL.
Both have sought to break every rule in the book to enable a brand new club to enter Scottish soccer at as high a level as possible, in clear opposition to the wishes of the clubs and fans.
The victory of the fans and the clubs over the SFA and SPL Chief Executives means this Scottish soccer civil war over Sevco may just have reached its Gettysburg moment - there's still a long way to go, but there's only going to be one winner now.
Sevco have been accepted into Division 3, but having made such a special case of them, how can anyone ever have any confidence that their matches will be refereed fairly?
Regan and Doncaster must go.
And then attention must surely then be turned to the figure of former Rangers director, EBT recipient and still President of the SFA, Campbell Ogilvie…
Follow Daniel O'Connell on twitter @DanielOConnel18