Three meetings will take place next week that will shape the short and medium-term future of Scottish football.
At stake is league reconstruction, and all of the consequences of redrawing the way Scottish football is run, but also whether or not Rangers are found guilty of having breached registration rules in the way that the Ibrox club administered its Employee Benefit Trust scheme.
There may not be any resolutions next week, since no vote is planned for either the Scottish Premier League's general meeting on Monday or the Scottish Football League's meeting on Thursday, while the SPL Commission, chaired by Lord Nimmo Smith, is slated to run for four days, beginning on Tuesday, but there is no way of knowing how long the three-man panel will take to come to a judgment. After sifting through the extensive evidence gathered by Harper McLeod, the Glasgow law firm, they will also hear the case presented on behalf of Rangers Football Club plc, with the legal representation paid for by the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund, as the PLC is going through liquidation.
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Herald Sport understands that some SPL chairmen are considering questioning the price of the commission at Monday's meeting, with the RFFF being prepared to lodge in the region of £400,000 in case the PLC loses and is asked to cover the costs. Should they win, the SPL may have to pay those costs, which includes the time Harper McLeod staff have spent collating evidence.
Herald Sport also understands that in the case of the five individuals whose EBT payments were deemed taxable by the First Tier Tax Tribunal last December (with the rest being declared discretionary payments and so non-contractual) – all the payments were included in the contracts submitted to the SPL and the Scottish Football Association, and so could not be deemed as in breach of the registration rules.
Monday's meeting will also involve the SPL clubs discussing a 12-12-18 league set-up, as well as the financial distribution model and governance rules that would need to be agreed with the SFL for plans to progress. Despite Neil Doncaster, the SPL chief executive, hailing all 12 clubs as being behind the proposals, Stewart Gilmour, the St Mirren chairman, has said that they only agreed to consider them. Gilmour himself prefers a 14-14-14 model, while others in the SPL want a top-10 reintroduced.
While the structure of the leagues tends to be most prominent – Herald Sport also understands a 10-10-12-12 structure, requiring an additional two teams to be invited into the professional game, will also be raised – the financial distribution and governance issues are more significant. The SPL has already changed the way this season's money is distributed, and the team that finishes first – almost certainly Celtic – will take 17% of overall revenue, with the range from second to 12th place being 10.5% to 5%. In effect, the champions will retain a relative financial, and so competitive, advantage.
Even so, Peter Lawwell, the Celtic chief executive, has said his club are prepared to accept a reduction in their take of the income, as likely winners of the top division, should reconstruction occur. The benefit for the other clubs is that their income will rise, in return for agreeing to reconstruction, but on what terms? Instead of a one-in-12 chance of relegation, four SPL sides will enter the middle tier of the proposed 8-8-8 split of the two top-12 divisions. How that will affect them financially has yet to be clarified.
Governance is also a pressing issue, since the democratic approach would be one member, one vote in a new, merged league. However, the SPL clubs will investigate other voting structures, such as a 3-2-1 model for the three leagues, allowing the top-tier clubs to hold on to more power. Another method would be one member, one vote, but strategically setting the majority for significant decisions in such a way that the leading clubs retain a veto.
Some SFL clubs are keen to take the extra income, but others are wary of being marginalised in the merger into a single league body. The majority are unlikely, though, to accept Doncaster remaining in an executive role since the rows of last summer over Rangers' fate have not yet been calmed. It is also uncertain how many clubs will seek the views of their fans.
Despite the ongoing discussions, and horse-trading, the future is still uncertain for Scottish football.