Gordon Smith has criticised the SPFL’s governance during the global health crisis, labelling the process around the ending of the leagues “a bit of a shambles”.
There may have been no football at any level in Scotland since mid-March but there has been plenty of drama off the pitch.
Rangers were one of several clubs to take umbrage at the actions of the SPFL surrounding an April ballot to end the Championship, League One and League Two campaigns.
Soon after a resolution calling for an independent investigation into the governing body’s conduct was defeated, the Premiership season was also declared finished, with final standings determined on a points per game basis.
Ladbrokes Premiership and SPFL Season 2019/20 curtailed as Premiership clubs reach unanimous agreement that top flight cannot be finished.
— SPFL (@spfl) May 18, 2020
Former Rangers player, director of football and SFA chief executive, Smith, who also worked for a time as a football agent, has seen the Scottish game from just about every angle.
He believes that over the last number of months, there have been clear flaws in the SPFL’s governance.
“I don’t think it has been handled that well, because obviously there was a lot of discomfort within certain clubs,” Smith told Rangers News. “I mean they didn’t win the vote but the fact that almost a third of the clubs voted for an independent investigation shows you that there’s disruption and that people aren’t happy with the way things have gone ahead.”
“It’s all very well to say that the vote wasn’t in favour of it but people are definitely a bit worried about how the whole thing is being run, how the decisions were made, whether people were getting the correct information etc. So, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it, that it has been a bit of a shambles in terms of the whole process.”
While the season is now officially over in Scotland, France and the Netherlands, other associations across Europe are pushing to finish their leagues.
In Germany, fixtures in the top two divisions have already restarted behind closed doors, while La Liga and Serie A are also preparing to return in the coming weeks. South of the border, all options are being explored in an attempt to restart both the Premier League and the EFL.
Within that context, Smith doesn’t understand the haste with which things were wrapped up in Scotland.
“My own opinion on it was that I thought they made an early decision to close the football down when we should have been waiting to see where the whole situation was going with COVID-19 – waiting to see whether we could actually kick off the football again and get playing again in the summer,” explained the former Ibrox and Hampden executive.
“There are eight games to go in the league and eight games can be fitted into a short space of time. In 1979, when I was playing for Rangers, we played nine games in May in 23 days. So, you can play a lot of games in a short space of time in order to complete it and I felt we should have held back.”
“Now, the reason they gave was about getting the money distributed. I still felt the money could have been distributed.
“They could have said, we’re giving you 80% of the money based on where you are in the league at the moment. If some teams drop a few positions after the games are played, they might have to pay some money back, while other teams might be entitled to a bit more. Or, if the games are not played, all you do is pay the other 20% and that’s it covered. Yet, they decided just to end it right away and call the whole season over.
“I know the games would have had to have been behind closed doors, initially, but other countries are doing it now. Germany are back playing, England are getting ready to come back playing very soon – so they’re not calling their season to a finish yet. Liverpool have almost got it tied up but they’re not declaring them as champions.”