What are teams actually voting for? Why do Dundee suddenly have all the power? And what is all this about Rangers possessing evidence from a whistleblower against the SPFL? – Everything you need to know about the voting chaos in Scottish football
- Scottish football has been thrown into chaos over a vote to end the season early
- The SPFL announced Dundee were the only side not to cast their vote on time
- Rangers voted against the bill and have called for an independent investigation
- An explosive statement caused shockwaves as the SPFL still seek a resolution
- Sportsmail has looked at the key questions and what needs to happen next
Having organised a vote to get clarity on the future of the 2019-20 season, Scottish football has emerged with more questions and more uncertainty than they had before.
The vote, organised by the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), gave teams in the top four divisions the chance to cast a vote as to whether they wanted to end the season early.
The referendum among teams offered up a yes and no option and a threshold was set but the SPFL have emerged with some difficult questions to answer over how the vote was conducted, why they announced it was incomplete and whether Championship side Dundee have been put under undue pressure.
Steven Gerrard’s Rangers have rejected plans to end Scottish seasons early due to COVID-19
Fans now find themselves even further in the dark as to how the future looks regarding promotion, relegation, league reconstruction and when exactly clubs in desperate need of end-of-season prize money will get it.
With that in mind, Sportsmail has looked at the key questions and issues and has tried to make sense of what has become a minefield for players, managers, fans and executives.
What are teams voting on?
The 42 teams in the top four divisions of Scottish football were asked to vote on whether they wanted the season concluded early, rather than wait out for the chance to resume at a later date, by 5pm on Friday, April 10.
The vote focused on concluding the Championship, League One and League Two, but if successful, would have seen calls grow to follow suit for Premiership sides, leading to Celtic’s ninth consecutive league title.
Scottish clubs were voting on whether to end seasons in the second, third and fourth divisions
Rather than use the current standings, the SPFL, should the vote be successful, were to use a points-per-game average for remaining fixtures, thus ensuring every side finished on a level number of matches.
The immediate impact of ending the other three divisions would see Dundee United promoted to the Premiership.
Raith Rovers would move up to the Championship and Cove Rangers would join League One, with Partick Thistle relegated to the third tier and Stranraer to the fourth.
Everyone got their vote in on time, right?
Well, no, not exactly.
The key issue surrounded the Championship with Dundee named as the side who had not submitted their ballot by 5pm on that Friday.
The Championship club are at the centre of a battle, which could end up in court, after their crucial vote against voiding the season was not registered on time due to technical problems.
Issues with the Scottish Professional Football League’s IT system led to a delay, during which Dundee informed the SPFL board that their vote should be disregarded.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Partick Thistle, the sides who would be relegated should the season end prematurely, voted against the proposal and that left the score at seven votes to two in the second tier.
Dundee managing director John Nelms has the power of Scottish football in his decisive vote
The SPFL need eight votes to press ahead with concluding the campaign early.
The bizarre episode has since seen many twists and turns over what was on the initial ballot and how Dundee intend to vote.
On Radio Scotland, Inverness chief executive Scot Gardiner went on record to say he was told by Dundee secretary Eric Drysdale at 4.52pm on Friday that his club had voted against the SPFL bill – eight minutes before SPFL deadline.
But in the back-and-forth that has since transpired, the league body have insisted the club later made contact to say they wanted their ballot disregarded with confusion reigning.
In short: Dundee are the side still left to cast their vote.
Dundee hold all the cards now?
In a nutshell – and now every other side knows it.
Sportsmail exclusively revealed on Monday that Dundee are believed to have been subjected to strong lobbying from other clubs urging them to support the resolution over the weekend.
It is understood that the prospect of friendlies against top-flight opponents was mentioned in several such discussions.
One of the key areas of contention with Dundee and their vote is that given the SPFL need eight agreements in the Championship, it all comes down to how officials at Dens Park vote with it now poised at 7-2.
It is also worth noting that the club’s bitter rivals Dundee United, who are based across the road from them, would be promoted to the Premiership should they vote to end the season early.
While the SPFL set a 5pm deadline on Friday, they technically have a 28-day window before they are obliged to make their vote. Expect pressure to pile on the club from all angles the longer they wait.
Dundee are third in the table, harbour promotion ambitions and now hold all of the cards
Dundee did issue a statement on Tuesday stating that they would not be making any further comment on the resolution, which they are ‘discussing in the coming days’.
The statement read: ‘Over the past few days, we have entered into various positive discussions with reconstruction at the forefront of these.
‘Given our discussions and considering all aspects, we don’t feel we are in a position to comment further on the resolution that was put forward.
‘We understand that this may bring more questions than answers and we will look to give a much more substantial account of the past few days at the conclusion of this process.
‘Our supporters should know that we are, as always, looking out for the best interests of both Dundee Football Club and Scottish football as a whole.’
Dundee United are in position to be promoted if the Championship season is ended early
Why did the SPFL announce it as incomplete?
Premiership (nine YES votes required): 10 in favour, 2 against
Championship (eight YES votes required): 7 in favour, 2 against
Leagues One and Two (15 YES votes required): 16 in favour, 3 against
This did come off as bizarre, given the obvious scrutiny it would place on the side – Dundee – that were yet to make their stance known.
The public statement ensured the glaring eyes from clubs across the country, desperate for the season to end so they can access their end-of-season prize money, were focused on Dens Park, rather than SPFL headquarters.
Dundee are third in the Championship table with ambitions of promotion and now, technically, have the league over a barrel given it is public knowledge, thanks to this announcement it was incomplete, they have the deciding vote.
It may have been a decision made to try and alleviate some of the heat off the SPFL but all it has done is raise further questions as to how this has all been handled.
How has this all gone down?
The SPFL have been accused of a hap-hazard job overall with pressure building on chief executive Neil Doncaster.
Hearts owner Ann Budge was among the critics as she questioned whether the SPFL had sought to ‘unduly influence’ voting by connecting cash to the outcome of the ballot on concluding the season.
Budge later went on to brand the fallout as ‘hugely embarrassing’ for Scottish football.
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster has come under scrutiny for their handling of this process
Inverness CT chief Gardiner added: ‘It’s radio silence.
‘We have no idea what’s going on now, it’s baffling to us.
‘We are now all in the dark. I have not spoken to the league. I don’t know what’s happening. Only one club knows in relation to this. I have it here, Dundee vote submitted. After that, who knows.’
All the vote has done has brought added confusion and scrutiny with the votes now public knowledge as to who wants what across each of the divisions.
What would it mean for the Premiership?
The vote is focused mainly on ending the seasons from the second tier down with concerns still over the validity of the European spots for next season’s UEFA Champions League and Europa League.
UEFA chief Alexander Ceferin has already looked to deter leagues such as Scotland from following Belgium, the first European country to prematurely call an end to their domestic season.
‘Everyone is aware of UEFA’s desire for the family of European football to work together to resolve the issues that confront us all,’ SPFL chief Doncaster said recently.
‘We are keen to work with UEFA and remain in discussion with them over the situation in Scotland.’
But was the top flight to follow suit – they do have a 10-2 majority – it would see Neil Lennon’s Celtic make it nine-in-a-row while Edinburgh giants Hearts would be relegated.
Celtic are 13 points ahead of Rangers at the top, albeit having played an extra game, while Hearts are four points adrift at the foot of the table at the time of suspension.
Should the Premiership end the season now, it would see Celtic win a ninth straight title
Rangers had anything to say?
Oh, boy, did they have something to say.
Rangers called for the suspension of SPFL chief Doncaster and its legal adviser Rod McKenzie and demanded an independent probe into the league’s handling of the coronavirus crisis ballot.
In a stunning statement, the Ibrox club revealed that through a ‘whistleblower’ they believe they possess damning evidence related to the so-called ‘missing’ vote presented by Dundee.
‘Rangers Interim chairman Douglas Park attempted to discuss this evidence with SPFL chief executive, Neil Doncaster, who initially refused to do so,’ said the statement.
‘The SPFL followed up that call with an e-mail, which we believe was a thinly disguised attempt to silence legitimate concerns.
‘Rangers will not be bullied into silence. We believe it is in the interests of all Scottish clubs and supporters that the evidence, which is alarming, be addressed as quickly as possible.
Rangers produced a damning statement over the weekend which took aim at the SPFL
‘The voting debacle and the evidence we possess raise serious questions concerning the corporate governance of the SPFL.’
The statement, which ran 354 words, went on to lambast the ‘farcical conduct of this affair’ in the eyes of Park.
‘It seems to me to bring the corporate governance and business operations of the SPFL into sharp focus,’ it went on to say.
‘It is an example of an undemocratic culture, which has existed within the SPFL for far too long.
‘As a member club, we are disturbed by the evidence that has been presented and feel there is no choice but to call for an independent investigation into this entire matter.’
Suddenly, a civil war had broken out and the Scottish football soap opera was building to a dramatic crescendo.
RANGERS’ STATEMENT IN FULL
We have been presented with evidence via a whistleblower that raises serious concerns surrounding the SPFL’s processes relating to its stewardship of the voting on the resolution presented to member Clubs.
Rangers’ Interim Chairman, Douglas Park, attempted to discuss this evidence with SPFL chief executive, Neil Doncaster, who initially refused to do so. The SPFL followed up that call with an e-mail, which we believe was a thinly disguised attempt to silence legitimate concerns.
Rangers will not be bullied into silence. We believe it is in the interests of all Scottish clubs and supporters that the evidence, which is alarming, be addressed as quickly as possible.
The voting debacle and the evidence we possess raise serious questions concerning the corporate governance of the SPFL.
Mr Park said: ‘The lack of leadership and responsibility from the SPFL as a members’ organisation has shocked me. If ever there was a time for complete openness and transparency, it is now. Crucial decisions are being made on the issues of promotion and relegation behind closed doors and without proper time for consideration or debate.
‘The farcical conduct of this affair seems to me to bring the corporate governance and business operations of the SPFL into sharp focus. It is an example of an undemocratic culture, which has existed within the SPFL for far too long.
‘As a member club, we are disturbed by the evidence that has been presented and feel there is no choice but to call for an independent investigation into this entire matter. Each member of the SPFL board has a duty to its members to ensure that such an investigation is instructed without delay.
‘All we ask for is equality and respect. In the past few days, we have become alarmed at a seeming lack of even-handedness and fair play from the SPFL. This is surely unacceptable and, if substantiated, must be remedied.
‘Other member clubs, who have seen the evidence we hold, share our concerns.
‘We call for the suspension of the SPFL’s Chief Executive, Neil Doncaster and its legal adviser, Rod McKenzie while an independent investigation is conducted.’
Did the SPFL respond to the allegations?
They had to, they had no choice following the explosiveness of what Rangers put out on Saturday night.
Accused of ‘farcical conduct’ and calls from one of the country’s top teams to see the man at the helm, Doncaster, suspended immediately, silence was not going to cut it.
And so SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan countered back to the ‘serious allegations’ levelled against the governing body.
‘It is extremely concerning that Rangers have chosen to make a number of very serious allegations against the SPFL, its corporate governance, its culture, its office-bearers and its business operations,’ he said.
‘In the often-heated atmosphere of Scottish football, rumour and misinformation can very quickly reach fever-point.
SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan issued a robust defence of colleagues on Sunday
‘However, allegations of a lack of even-handedness and fair play go to the very integrity of the league and I would expect Douglas Park to present compelling evidence to back up his claims, or to withdraw them.
‘I anticipate that the SPFL Board will convene early next week to discuss a wide variety of issues and I will be writing to Mr Park asking him to urgently communicate any and all information he possesses in order that the board can take whatever steps are necessary.’
The ball was back in Rangers’ court. Prove their claims by evidence or face the consequences…
Will leagues be restructured if no resolution is found?
This appears to be the preferred route for clubs like Hearts that will be the most affected by any decisions to end the season early.
Nobody is surprised by Budge and the Hearts hierarchy pushing for this following a dismal campaign.
But it would bring about all sorts of complications if the SPFL were seen promoting those who had earned it but overlooking relegation-standard seasons to boost the number of teams in the Premiership.
More teams would mean more games and that could dramatically affect the broadcasting arrangement.
Part of the TV deal means that there must be four Old Firm matches – between Celtic and Rangers – per season and so adding more teams may make that impossible to fulfil.
Broadcasters, with all due respect to any sides profiting from the rejig, would likely not be impressed if their access to Celtic-Rangers matches was reduced.
It is not impossible – but brings with it plenty of questions that, so far, don’t seem to have any answers to go with them.
Hearts owner Ann Budge has questioned if SPFL sought to ‘unduly influence’ the vote
Is it time to scrap the vote and start again?
There is no escaping the fact that the whole process has been a mess from start to finish.
A vote that was supposed to bring clarity to the situation and money to those who need it most has led to damning indictments over conduct, mystery over a ‘missing’ vote and Dundee have suddenly become the most powerful football team in Scotland.
Rangers claim they have a whistleblower, Hearts have stuck the boot in and Inverness have revealed a WhatsApp group between themselves, Partick Thistle and Dundee.
And so yes, it could be time to rip it all up and come back with something else. Or, Dundee nip it in the bud, cast their vote and both the clubs and SPFL can look to resolve it and put this embarrassing episode behind them.
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