SPFL responds to Rangers dossier, including £10m liability claim

The SPFL has rejected the “false characterisation” of its governance set out in Rangers’ dossier of evidence which was sent to member clubs on Thursday.

Rangers need 32 clubs to back their call for an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the recent vote which ended the lower-league season and handed the SPFL board the authority to do likewise with the Premiership campaign.

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The club had previously called for SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster and legal adviser Rod McKenzie to be suspended and made their case to fellow members this week.

Claims in the dossier included that the governing body neglected to tell clubs about £10m in potential liabilities to broadcasters if the season was stopped early, and that clubs could receive money from the SPFL without final league placings being decided, which would have been the case if they voted for the SPFL’s resolution.

In a letter to member clubs on Friday, signed by all SPFL board members apart from Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson, the league dismissed the claims which they called “baseless, damaging and self-serving attacks”.

In response to Rangers’ claim that it was not disclosed that clubs could be faced with £10m of potential liabilities from broadcasters if the season was not finished, the SPFL said: “By 30 June, a huge number of professional player contracts entered into by SPFL clubs will have expired, rendering it practically impossible for many clubs to field a team after that date, far less the same players who have so far participated in the season 2019/20 competition. It is also well understood by SPFL clubs that curtailment of the Ladbrokes Premiership season 2019/20 could lead to claims being made against the SPFL.

“The SPFL board has received detailed legal advice on the potential for claims – and indeed the likely cost, if any, arising from such claims. Analysing that advice, together with making recommendations to member clubs and putting into place detailed measures to address such claims, is a fundamental part of the role of the board. It would be entirely inappropriate for the board, and against the interest of every SPFL club, to publicise where such claims may come from; what legal defences the SPFL may have available; and the potential amount, if any of successful claims (which can only ever be conjecture at this stage).

“What those behind the ‘Rangers dossier’ have failed to appreciate is that the potential for any claims against the SPFL does not result in any way from a decision by the members to permit the board to bring an end to the Premiership competition. Such a decision would result from a conclusion that the matches in question in the Premiership cannot now be played.

“Whilst it may be becoming more difficult to foresee the circumstances in which the remaining Premiership matches can be completed, no decision has yet been taken. There is no question of the board failing to advise the clubs of a potential £10m (or any other size of claim) arising because the Premiership is brought to a premature end because of a decision either of the members or of the board. That was not reported to you because it is simply not the case.

“The central complaint of Rangers is simply wrong and is based on a complete misunderstanding of the situation in which the League and its broadcast partners find themselves.”

The letter also rejected Rangers’ claim that the SPFL told clubs they could only receive their end-of-season money by voting for the resolution and pointed to the case of Gretna, who went into liquidation in 2008 without being able to pay back an advance of money lent to them by the governing body at the time.

“As our chief executive explained on the radio last weekend, making fee payments to clubs based on their final league standings was the only realistic and practical way of the SPFL getting substantial monies into the hands of Ladbrokes Championship, League 1 and League 2 clubs. That remains the case, irrespective of the erroneous claims in the Rangers dossier,” the letter said.

“Those who continue to suggest that there were other ‘simpler’ means of getting money into clubs’ hands are being either economical with the truth or are once again demonstrating a lamentable lack of understanding of the current reality of Scottish football.

“If the SPFL were to lend substantial sums out of the funds to be paid out as fees, based on final League position, how would struggling clubs repay overpayments where they do poorly in the next few games? How would we be able to pay the additional sums due to clubs which had done better than during the earlier part of the season? And how would we deal with any clubs which became insolvent or were not entitled to have been paid anything? The fundamental problems with making loans to clubs, and the possibility of clubs defaulting on those loans, are well understood by those clubs who lost money as a result of the insolvency of Gretna.”

Rangers had also questioned why the SPFL and Scottish FA sent a letter to UEFA on April 4, six days before the vote, in which it was stated that “the vast majority of SPFL clubs are calling for curtailment of the 2019/20 season in Scotland”, and questioning why the information had not been disclosed to clubs.

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