Saturday, 14 July 2012

Failing The Richard Scudamore Test

Yesterday, the Scottish Football League voted to accept Servco (Scotland)’s application for Newco Rangers to play in their league next season.  Crucially, the SFL voted that Newco Rangers, like any other new applicant, start in the Third Division – very much against the wishes of the SPL, their chief executive Neil Doncaster and the chief executive of the SFA Stuart Regan.

As I have previously posted, placing Newco Rangers in the Third Divison is not only the best way forward out of this situation for Scottish Football (and also for Newco Rangers – as to be fair to them many of the fans of “old” Rangers realise) but the only credible option available.  The strange thing in all this though is that while the clubs in the SPL voted to refuse Newco Rangers entry, and the SFL voted to treat Newco Rangers as a normal applicant in a dignified fashion, the heads of our game have behaved in an unedifying fashion that at times may have verged on bullying.  In short Neil Doncaster and Stuart Regan have lost their credibility.

The arguments put forward from Doncaster and Regan are that sponsors will walk away from the game if Newco Rangers were to start their new life in the Third Division.  The contract for broadcasting the SPL is up next year and the thought is that BSkyB would not be interested in showing the SPL without “their” quota of Old Firm games.  It’s this doomsday scenario which prompted the season ticket meeting at Greenhill Road where the board of St Mirren outlined why in the whole they supported bending the rules and hoped that Newco Rangers were allowed to skip two divisions to start in the tier below the SPL – or as it was put this was “the least worst option”.  This brings us to the title of this post.

Richard Scudamore as you may well know is the combatative Chief Executive of the English Premier League.  You might be annoyed at him for describing Manchester City’s championship win not as an exiting moment or by esposing some other football fan cliché but as a shining example of “inward investment to our game”.  But he does go and bat for his organisation, and then some.  He managed to see off Blair’s (half hearted – remember this was the late Tony Banks baby) attempts to set up a regulator for football and has managed to negotiate an increase for the next set of television rights.  Say what you like about his achievements and his perennial appearances on television defending sometimes the indefensible, but at least he defends his organisation.  Can you say the same about Regan and Doncaster?

Regan & Doncaster have, since HMRC confirmed what many people knew already and dismissed Green’s CVA proposals, bent over backwards for the corporate sponsors and have constantly put the case for them.  What they have never done is what Scudamore does with aplomb, and go and bat for their members and put the case that essentially things have changed and that they should continue to back a clean version of Scottish Football.  Rather than talk up the game, Regan & Doncaster have constantly talked down the game.  Whether the sponsors will now take flight is another matter & we will see if this is the case.  Interestingly enough with all the (justified) ire directed at Regan & Doncaster, there has been no talk of fan boycotts should there be a mass exodus of sponsors from the Scottish game.

Whether yesterday’s actions now draw a line under the implosion at Ibrox, or this is only the first chapter remains to be seen.  We may even get a hint of what is to come on Monday when the SPL meet to discuss the identity of “Club 12” – with maybe Doncaster and Regan poised to push for discuss SPL 2.  It is now clear that you can include the careers of Stuart Regan and Neil Doncaster to the list of casualties in this episode, given that there were calls for a vote of no confidence in Regan at yesterday’s meeting.  When the dust settles on this crisis and people in Scottish football have retained their clear heads, Doncaster and Regan should announce their intention to leave their posts, any other outcome will exacerbate this crisis.

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