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The SPFL's biggest challenge is yet to come, and there is little to suggest they can face it down

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hislopsoffsideagain

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The phrase 'club statement' now fills one with almost as much dread as 'root canal surgery', or 'Andy Halliday at left-back'. There have been exceptions - Stenhousemuir and Kelty Hearts leading the way - but most cases have involved people who think they're cleverer than they are and who have too much time on their hands using the word 'dignity' whilst throwing it away spectacularly in a multi-paragraphed ranting word salad.


It would be nice to think that the result of today's vote on having an independent inquiry might bring a break from these lunatic pronouncements. The number of clubs in favour of such an inquiry - thirteen - was higher than I expected but not high enough even to hint at a general lack of confidence in the league, let alone actually triumph.

Whether it does so or not now depends on whether those who still have an axe to grind find other avenues of attack. A previous suggestion by Rangers of going to CAS sounds more like desperation from a slightly unhinged supporter on an internet forum than a real possibility. However Hearts may well feel the cost of relegation is high enough to justify risking a legal challenge. I've long wondered whether this might throw a spanner in the works not necessarily because the Jambos would win but by holding up the start of the 2020/21 season long enough that the other side has to back down. One shudders at the thought of what animosity would develop should this scenario occur.

Whichever side of the divide you come down on - and, depressingly, it has been treated by too many as a case of being either pro-Rangers or anti-Rangers when there is so, so much more at stake here - there is a compelling argument here that letting things get so out of control is evidence that there is a total failure of leadership at the SPFL. A competent organization would have largely ignored the Rangers dossier and kept quiet until, as was always inevitable, they won the vote on an independent inquiry.

Instead MacLennan, Neil Doncaster and other members of the board have come out all guns blazing, throwing allegations back at their accusers and keeping the pot boiling over instead of turning the heat off. They may feel that they are entitled to do so given the personal nature of some of the attacks but they've been impugned before and still managed to take it on the chin,

After all, Doncaster earns his £350,000 salary as Chief Executive not because of outstanding business acumen but because he has proven willing, for that money, to be the face of the organization and therefore the target and lightning rod for criticism. He has had plenty of that over the years without resorting to an almost permanent slot on BBC Radio Scotland to defend himself; why change that now?

The thing is, there's so much childish mud-slinging going around that it is becoming increasingly easy to forget the trigger for this whole palava - the farce over Dundee's vote on bringing the lower leagues to an end. I'm quite prepared to believe that one man's 'bullying' could be another's 'robust conversations', given emotions will have been running high. I'm also prepared to accept that getting 42 different clubs who are almost all entirely fixated only on their own short-term self-interests - I think putting that in bold was justified - to agree on something may well require a bit of harassing and harrying with strong-worded reminders about potential ramifications and with artificial deadlines.

But whilst Doncaster and co. would no doubt argue that they have done nothing illegal that is not the same as doing nothing wrong. There was publishing the result of the April vote before everyone had voted. There was allowing (and effectively encouraging) Dundee to change their vote. There was openly offering the reconstruction carrot and then putting so many cooks into the working group that there was no way in hell the broth would be edible, all the while being quite aware that Premiership clubs would torpedo any plan regardless.

But Doncaster survives because he is still, to enough clubs, a useful idiot. At any given time the status quo suits a large enough number that reform and progress is impossible. This has been the case for several years and there is no reason to expect this will change, especially because of the arcane decision-making system - what the league calls 'democracy' - where potentially three clubs in one division can shoot down a motion supported by the other thirty-nine.

Whether reconstruction would have actually been a positive move in the short-term or the long-term is still open to debate - not least because it feels like it hasn't properly been debated. If it is true that this has just been a distraction from the much, much bigger problem - the fact that clubs can't play football currently, don't know when they will be able to play or under what conditions, and might go bust before that day comes - then the SPFL now should have no excuses for being fully focussed.

But there will be considerable battles ahead here. There will be questions of closed-doors matches, player safety, supporter access and safety and probably plenty more. There will be a myriad of opinions, and a myriad of different needs. And ultimately the league will need to get the vast majority of the clubs to agree on a plan to tackle this enormous crisis.

Good luck with that, lads.

Still, it could be worse. Imagine if John Nelms was on the board: he'd have probably given away the TV rights for magic beans.


Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.

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