THE PAUL CHALK COLUMN
Saturday, May 9
THE impact of the coronavirus on Scottish football offered a chance for better days when our sport is safe to return – with or without fans. The Faroe Islands was the first western country to resume play at the weekend, Germany will follow next Saturday and England are advanced in neutral venues hosting the conclusion of their 2019-2020 season.
Our Championship and Leagues One and Two have been called and the Premiership is set to be ended in the same manner, meaning Hearts will be relegated to the Championship. This follows Friday’s latest SPFL meeting where it was agreed that now is not the time for league reconstruction as clubs seek to channel their energies on how to get football back in a safe way.
Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack, speaking on behalf of the top-flight clubs, said the group sympathises with the relegated sides – Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer – but stressed that later and not now is when reconstruction can be put back on the agenda.
Premiership members meet again next week to plot the way back to playing and the decision to rubberstamp the conclusion to the campaign is imminent.
Given that Scottish football will not return until later this year at the earliest, why not grasp the opportunity to change the leagues for the better and, in turn, punish no club for a situation in no one’s hands?
It was the chance to relegate no team and add two worthy champion clubs in Brora Rangers and Kelty Hearts from the Highland and Lowland Leagues. There appeared to be growing appeal within the Premiership for that, especially as time is not against us. Kilmarnock added their recent backing to a 14-club top-flight and they were not alone. Yet, they were in the minority of Premiership clubs in tune with the fans who are bored of the current set-up.
Brora and Kelty issued a joint statement of, let’s just call it, frustration on Friday night. They say it’s unfair for them to be denied a right of potential passage to League Two.
Brechin City, League Two’s bottom dogs, stay where they are. Brechin’s chairman Ken Ferguson is one of the lower leagues’ representatives on the SPFL board, incidentally.
As I’ve written previously, Caley Thistle’s challenge of getting out of the Championship will be made much more difficult with the addition of Hearts now almost certain.
If ICT manager John Robertson does get a call from managerless St Johnstone with an offer to replace Tommy Wright then this may have been a tipping point.
Ibrox ‘explosive’ dossier wasn’t worth the wait
WEEKS upon weeks of Rangers keeping us all waiting, and for what? The Ibrox club have made serious allegations about the SPFL, claiming that the recent controversial vote and ‘Dundee-gate’ followed wrongdoing, coercion and even bullying from our football authorities.
That vote, of course, saw, the SPFL’s plan to call the Championship and League One and Two seasons passed in the end due to an apparent change of heart by Dundee to nail the required pass mark. All types of tantalising finger-pointing came from Rangers and they kept clubs waiting for the evidence that pretty serious stuff went on which led the majority of clubs – Inverness not being one of them – to vote yes for change.
One of Rangers’ claims was that Caley Thistle and Dundee were threatened by Alloa’s Mike Mulraney (SFA vice-president) and Dunfermline’s Ross McArthur (an SPFL director) that if they did not vote for the SPFL resolution then the said prize pot would be split into 10 equal amounts, meaning ICT and Dundee would get less than they deserved. These sides were second and third respectively when the campaign was ended by the coronavirus crisis. There has been no evidence of this at all.
I think the biggest point coming from Rangers is that clubs were not told that £10 million could have to be repaid by the SPFL (effectively the clubs, who are the SPFL) to broadcasters if the Premiership is called. In other words, Sky for example, would be due £10 million because the season would be incomplete.
That’s a pretty big omission and clubs may have voted no to prevent such a scenario. That said, the broadcasters got 30 matches from most top-flight sides out of the scheduled 38-fixture campaign. The amount of cash they could have shouted for by the TV giants had the season been null-and-voided would have been immeasurably eye-watering, certainly enough to plunge the knife into more clubs than might currently drop despairingly below the surface.
Clubs will decide whether everything put before them by the Gers is worth forking out for a QC-led independent investigation into our footballing leaders in Scotland. The feeling seems to be that, while the SPFL have questions to answer, we should move on from this sorry episode, which has further damaged our chief sport’s reputation.
Paul’s Alive and Kicking sports show is on North Highland Radio every Friday from 7pm. Listen via the station’s website, the TuneIn app or through your smart speakers. Follow Alive and Kicking on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest relevant sports news.