Celtic remain on course to be declared Scotland’s champions for a ninth year in succession after Dundee confirmed a dramatic U-turn on their crucial vote to abandon the season. The Scottish Professional Football League has also, as expected, started a consultation process on an expanded top flight.
The SPFL’s process of calling placings for the lower three tiers via a resolution descended into farce after it emerged Dundee rescinded their delayed ‘no’ vote last Friday. By Wednesday the Championship club had delivered a vote in favour – sufficient to pass the motion to trigger promotion, relegation and payment of prize money.
The Premiership now has a mandate to do likewise but has been anxious not to antagonise Uefa, which asked that no leagues were to be decided until the end of this month.
“Whilst more than 80% of clubs agreed with the directors’ written resolution it’s clear that others were strongly opposed,” said Murdoch MacLennan, the SPFL’s chairman. “There has been talk of voiding the season, making emergency loans and so on, but what has been agreed today is not just the best way forward, it was the only realistic way forward.”
Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers have thereby been handed championships. In the top league Celtic are 13 points clear of Rangers, having played 30 matches to their rivals’ 29.
Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer – all now facing relegation – have an element of hope via reconstruction talks that were in the pipeline before Dundee’s volte face. Ann Budge, the Hearts owner, and Hamilton’s Les Gray will head a taskforce with a 14-team Premiership regarded as the most realistic plan.
Whether Partick follow through with a legal challenge to the league remains to be seen. Their QC’s advice was that passing of the resolution would be invalid. Stranraer, who were eight points adrift in League One, have said ending the season is “grossly unfair”.
“At this unprecedented time we felt unanimously as a committee that no football club, Stranraer FC or any other, should be at a detriment due to this horrendous situation,” a club statement said. “It is grossly unfair that any club should be relegated from their respective league whilst a quarter of the season still remains.”
Dundee reflected on a period “fraught with anxiety, vitriol and conspiracy theory”. They added: “We have discussed options with a variety of member clubs to show solidarity to the clubs most negatively impacted by the SPFL proposal. Relegated clubs must have financial assistance to help soften the landing so they can begin the next season on a more equitable footing.”
A lower league chairman said Dundee, through an apparent wish to help demoted clubs, floated the possibility of diverting funds intended for those being promoted to ones being relegated. The chairman in question rejected the notion as “morally not acceptable” and it was not advanced any further.
Rangers have reiterated calls for an independent investigation into the SPFL’s handling of the voting affair. The league, which has called on Rangers to hand over evidence the club insist raises “very serious concerns”, has shown no willingness to allow such an inquiry.
Rangers are unwilling to provide documentation directly to the league, as reiterated in a letter sent to the SPFL.