A Moment Of Clarity?

Neil-DoncasterWell, the New Year has barely begun and already Neil Doncaster is demonstrating to the world his total ineptitude and unsuitability for the job he holds.

Today, completely unprompted, he gave an interview to the BBC Sports hack Chris McLaughlin, where he flat out said that Sevco and Rangers are the same club. Although McLaughlin asked him to repeat the assertion, to get it properly on the record, he did not challenge Doncaster on it.

As it stands then, it is now the official position of the SPFL to support the Survival Myth, in spite of the numerous contradictions inherent within it and regardless of the reputational damage it does to our league competitions, and the sport as a whole.

Already the statements are being condemned on websites such as Video Celts. The CQN Facebook page is asking for an official statement from Celtic, and even the politics blog Wings Over Scotland has jumped into the debate.

Stuart Campbell has chosen to focus on McLaughlin’s failure to tackle what is a blatant lie, and to echo sentiments I have on this site and others before; that the way in which the media bows to power, and helps to maintain cushy relationships, including those which are harmful, even dangerous, is absolutely scandalous. He is right to do so, and his article lays out a cogent argument against Doncaster’s nonsense.

I, of course, want to concentrate on the footballing aspect of it.

Doncaster spoke today in his role as the head of the SPFL and so this goes way beyond McLaughlin’s failure to highlight the contradictions in what he has said. If those remarks are not disavowed, then the game in this country is now unmistakably run by men who have no problem with corruption being allowed to flourish.

Doncaster’s comments go much further than merely getting his facts wrong. Today he has legitimised debt dumping and fraud, and because his role is that of the figurehead for all the member clubs he has spoken for them and tied them to this statement, which is precisely why the CQN Facebook moderators are so concerned. And they are right to be.

For the part three years, this matter has been the subject of much discussion and debate, but the governing bodies have resisted comment, and this has been a deliberate policy and one that has allowed the issue to go unresolved, at least officially.

The people running our governing bodies are weak, and they were too afraid of the Ibrox club and its reach. They believed their own nonsense about Rangers being “too big to fail”.

They decided that the supporters of that club would never accept the truth, although there was a point when every sports writer in Scotland, and even people within the club itself, were stating, for the record, that if the club failed to gain a CVA that liquidation would mean the end.

Every decision that was taken in the aftermath of that, from the members making them start from the bottom, to the decision to place Sevco in preliminary rounds in the cup competitions instead of seeding them as should have been the case (seeding is based on the prior year’s league position, not on the current one), as well as UEFA’s three year ban, not to mention giving oldco Rangers a vote on which league the newco played in– it all pointed to the clear truth, that the club which plays out of Ibrox is a different entity to that which did before.

The whole notion that football clubs “cannot die” has been disproved again and again and again, from Ireland to the former Eastern Bloc countries.

It is a nonsense, and it insults the intelligence of fans to pretend otherwise. Ask Gretna supporters how they feel about it. Ask the fans of Hearts, who fought like tigers to prevent their own club sliding into the abyss. Why did they bother?

Doncaster has gone on the record and made a highly contentious set of statements today, which are legally dicey and procedurally nonsensical, and he has stated that these are the official positions of the organisations he represents. If that’s the case then the clubs should have no problem standing behind them when supporters start emailing to ask, right?

I’d like to see the official minutes where this issue was discussed and the vote on it was taken.

When did it become fact that clubs are separate from the companies that own them?

If it’s true, how was it legal for virtually every member of the Rangers first team squad to leave their contracts and go and play somewhere else?

Where is the piece of paper, where is the agreement from the clubs he is there to represent, on which he is basing these spurious, contemptible claims?

Was it passed with a big majority? A small one? Was legal opinion sought?

Doncaster is saying that football clubs in Scotland are immune from paying what they owe. He’s saying they can run up huge debts, liquidate and start again. This isn’t a small matter. This is fundamental to the way our sport is run, and on what basis clubs exist.

He is not mandated to take a decision like that on his own … so I repeat, if he is not simply giving his own opinion – and one would think doing so in this way is a sacking offence – then when did this become fact?

The decision to make Sevco start in the lower leagues is solely based on them being a new football club, one which starts at the bottom because that’s how it has to be. Without that, there was no legal basis for what happened to them.

Is that what he’s claiming? That what the SPL and then the SFL did was illegal?

Because that, too, is surely a sacking offence unless he’s clarified it with the clubs.

It also feeds into the Victim Myth, which, as we all know, is one of the most divisive and pervasive, dangerous falsehoods currently running riot in the game. He is legitmising the views of the lunatic fringe of the Rangers support who claim the rest of Scottish football acted out of spite and hate. Does he have any idea what that does to the image of our game? Does he care?

Doncaster says that the issue was “put to bed” by the Lord Nimmo Smith Commission, which itself is completely discredited in the way it arrived at its decisions, and ought to be the subject of a review and possible re-sit based on the evidence the guys on The Scottish Football Monitor, in particular Auldheid, uncovered, and which I summarised on this site in the article Justice Undone.

Yet even if the Lord Nimmo Smith commissions were still regarded as credible by the vast majority of football fans, Doncaster has actually misrepresented its stated position, and I am sure he’s done so quite wilfully.

Page 32 of the Smith Commission report makes it quite clear where they stand.

“We see no room or need for separate findings of breaches by Rangers FC, which was not a separate legal entity and was then part (although clearly in football and financial terms the key part) of the undertaking of Oldco.”

Doncaster is not only stating, as fact, a change in policy he is not authorised to make but he is doing so hiding behind a report who’s words he has twisted into the very opposite of what they say.

Are we really going to stand for this?

Are we really going to let this stay on the record, as the “official position” of one of the governing bodies of our game?

The clubs make up the membership of that body, and the fans are the lifeblood of the clubs. We are entitled to answers on this issue and I would hope that every supporter in Scotland is writing to his or her club in order to get them.

Today’s interview was an attempt to justify the catastrophic failures of governance in our top flight, which had led to the leagues not having a sponsor. It’s been over a year since the SPFL was founded, and to have not gotten the job done in that time is disgraceful.

What exactly are the clubs waiting for before they convene a meeting and chase this guy? Only in Scottish football could we continue to put up with rank incompetence on this level, allowing a halfwit like this to make such statements unchallenged on a day when he should be getting raked over the coals for the magnitude of his own mistakes.

McLaughlin even gave him an out, seeking to put the blame for Doncaster’s failures on the “uncertainty at Rangers”.

I might accuse the Sevco board of many things, but I will not accuse them of that. Our leagues do not have a sponsor because no-one will negotiate terms with a man who is on the record as having said the product he’s selling is worthless.

When is the media going to get off the fence when it comes to this guy and Regan and call them what they are?

In order to do it, of course, the media would have to come to terms with its own failings.

At one point in the interview Doncaster said “”It’s vital for everyone within the game – clubs, the league, the association, the media – to help talk the game up as best we can.”

I laughed listening to that, at the sheer brass neck of it, and it’s even more amazing to me that McLaughlin didn’t see the irony in his own question, the kind of question that perpetuates the falsehood that the prosperity of the game here is dependent on a club calling itself Rangers.

We are three years down the line, and the success stories we’re seeing everywhere in our sport have happened with the Ibrox NewCo in free-fall. The one club that has been affected – Celtic – is still posting record profits, albeit suffering slightly on the park.

It’s time this ridiculous and dangerous notion was put to bed once and for all.

There’s one other thing that bothers me about these statements today and it’s this; if you watched the interview or read the transcript it is quite clear that Doncaster was not asked a direct question on the issue of the NewCo-OldCo debate. He very deliberately steered the discussion in that direction himself, with no prompting at all.

I find that extremely suspicious, and I worry about why he did that.

It looks to me as if Doncaster has been tipped the wink about what is coming next at Ibrox. Is he laying the tracks for Sevco II? I would urge everyone reading this article to think very carefully about that, and to consider what it might mean.

If Doncaster is right, and the position of the SPFL is that clubs do not die, then there is no legal basis on which a liquidated team which started up again could be denied its place in the league … which is what brought us to the edge the last time.

There is nothing in the rule book covering this. I cannot articulate that enough.

It is at the “discretion of the SPFL Board” what to do with a phoenix club now; the decision will not be left to the members. Despite lengthy debates on what to do with clubs which enter administration, and despite a very clear need to actually put down in writing what will happen to phoenix clubs, the governing bodies has dithered and nothing has been set in stone.

I wrote at some length in a previous piece about how the SPFL and the SFA had automatic relegation for clubs in administration voted down … and this is an even bigger issue than that. That piece was a warning against complaceny, and yet here we are, sleepwalking into it, and having the people who failed us last time dictating the terms of the debate.

Neil Doncaster’s comments today have started 2015 by lobbing a hand grenade into the room. He either doesn’t realise that – in which case he’s too incompetent to stay – or he knew exactly what he was doing and there’s an agenda being pursued.

Either way, how much longer are our clubs going to put up with it?

Or to ask a different question … is he, after all, speaking for them too?

Inquiring minds want to know.

(This site depends on you. You can help us out by making a donation at the PayPal link at the top or the bottom of your page, depending on which device you are using. Thanks, from the bottom of my heart friends, and I hope you all had a Happy New Year.)

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35 comments on “A Moment Of Clarity?
  1. If hes not pulled up on this by either the media ( no laughing at the back) or by clubs ie Celtic then the games a bogey, there is no integrity left in Scottish football if any club can just do reckless spending without a care as they know they won’t be punished.

    What about business’s that trade with Scottish clubs? How will they react to this? Surely none of them will give any club a line of credit as the club won’t care if they shaft the business they’ll still be free to carry on as the SPFL have given them a free license to do so as the only debt they have to pay is a footballing one

    I’ve a feeling if this isn’t sorted out ASAP then the game up here are going to lose thousands of fans through this interview where the need of one set of fans is greater than the rest of the other clubs put together

  2. I have just tweeted the official Celtic feed to ask if they agree with Neil Doncasters statement. I won’t hold my breath waiting for a reply.

  3. Fine article.I dont think Doncaster has any idea of the storm he has started with these comments today.I also think this will come back to bite him,and the SPFL,big style.the man really is as dumb as he looks.

  4. Thanks James for yet another excellent piece. Has Doncaster any idea of the damage to the game in general these statements could cause??!! I am not going to be treated like a mug, so have emailed my own club (Hearts) to ask where they stand on this. I have put a fair bit of money into Foundation of Hearts, but will have no option but to stop contributing unless I receive a satisfactory response.

  5. Good read. I cannot believe that Doncaster spoke without due authorisation from the SPFL board. If so, then the game’s up. This is the manipulation of which Strachan spoke. And the chairman of my team, Dundee United, must therefore be complicit. That is very disheartening, to say the least.

  6. Fair play THEOLDSHED. Time for Peter Lawwell to ask questions on behalf of Celtic and its support. The normally mouthy Stephen Thompson needs to say something too.

  7. THEOLDSHED, that’s what the powers that be don’t comprehend this is not just a Celtic/Rangers thing, this involves every club in Scotland, your own club Hearts I’d imagine will be very interested in Doncasters views after all the trouble you went through to get a CVA and for the tireless work put in by the fans not to mention financial as well when all you had to was go down the Sevco route

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