Caley Jags at centre of furious dispute ahead of inquiry vote

PAUL CHALK REPORTS

                                                                                                                                                    Tuesday, May 12

CALEY Thistle have claimed they were “bullied and threatened” ahead of the recent controversial vote to decide final placings in the Scottish League, apart from the Premiership.

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Ross Morrison…Caley Thistle ‘bullied and threatened’.

A statement signed by ICT chairman Ross Morrison and chief executive Scot Gardiner yesterday pulled no punches as all 42 senior clubs prepare to vote today on whether to support a demand by Rangers for a QC-led independent investigation into the decision.
Inverness want that detailed investigation to happen and are prepared to provide evidence of bullying, ahead of them voting against the SPFL calling the Championship and League One and League Two seasons in order for clubs to get their prize money.

Dunfermline Athletic chairman Ross McArthur has hit back at these claims, saying it is “clearly apparent” he has been made out to be the guilty party. 

Caley Thistle says these threats were made in a WhatsApp group, but McArthur labelled the suggestions as “not only regrettable, but extremely embarrassing”. He slammed ICT, adding it was “the behaviour of Inverness that has continually been aggressive and confrontational”.

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Scott Gardiner…Scottish football has ‘plunged into a shambles’.

He said that the online exchange, where he was speaking as Dunfermline chief and not in his role as an SPFL board member, was certainly not a threat but “simply a potential consequence of their action not to back the SPFL resolution currently put in front of them, in favour of a counter-resolution which was being mooted at that time”.

The Inverness club are furious with SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster and called the management of the leagues “arrogant” and “aggressive” and described the crisis Scottish football has been plunged into as a “disingenuous, incompetent shambles”.

At least 32 of the 42 clubs must vote for an independent investigation today for that to become a reality.

Scot Gardiner made the headlines early on in this saga when he spoke about the “missing” Dundee vote, the day after the Dens Park club club told Caley Thistle and others that they were voting against the SPFL resolution.

Gardiner was angry at Dundee holding off from voting in that way and this was amplified when early the following week, the Taysiders cast a yes vote. That was the one vote that swung the outcome in favour of the SPFL having a mandate to call the campaigns. The circumstances surrounding that changed Dundee vote “raises serious questions”, say ICT. 

Caley Thistle also weighed in with their views about league reconstruction being taken off the table last Friday. As well as denying them the chance to join Championship winners Dundee United in a bolstered 14-club top-flight whenever next season starts, it will put the seal on relegation for Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer from their respective divisions.

Caley Jags said of the outcome on Friday made by a 15-person task force which effectively shut the door on league reconstruction: “It was, in our eyes, as inevitable as it was depressing. The incredible numbers co-opted on to the group at the outset was one of the reasons why we believed, perhaps understandably, cynically, that it was being set up to fail from the very beginning.”

At the time of writing Aberdeen are the latest club to confirm their intention to back an independent inquiry, along with Partick Thistle and, of course, Inverness and Hearts, while Falkirk and Stenhousemuir are tipped to go for the probe too. The 42-club video call kicks off on Tuesday at 11am.

Caley Thistle have come under fire from many directions for their stance at the centre of an explosive dispute, but have also gained plenty of praise for putting their heads above the parapet.

Sunday’s 2000-word document finished with words of warning about Caley Thistle’s future. It described the club as still being in “survival mode” and, while saying the UK Government’s furlough scheme, which covers 80 per cent of employees’ wages until the end of June is a godsend, it is trying to “navigate through uncharted waters”. The uncertainty for so long over which league Caley Thistle would be in next term has hindered the club as a business, but with fans wanting to help by buying season tickets they are now advancing that with news on this due before the weekend.

Paul Chalk’s Alive and Kicking sports show is on North Highland Radio every Friday from 7pm.

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