The letter which the SFL chief executive drafted and was duly sent to his 30 member clubs ahead of their epoch-defining decision whether to admit Rangers newco into the first or third divisions eschewed the emotive language for a more tender tone.
"In the face of the quite unexpected pressures we have all experienced," the letter read, "I would like to make it quite clear, and leave you in no doubt, that you have the complete freedom to make whatever choice you see fit on Friday. No-one should feel under pressure of threat to make a decision that you feel is not in the best interests of our game.
"Whatever you decide, your board will support it," the missive continued. "Your board will always be directed by your wishes and will take all possible steps to ensure we carry them through on your behalf. If that means being at the forefront of a new future for Scottish football, or for good reason deciding to let others create that future, then we will have allowed our democracy to work."
The A4 sheet of paper – and the jointly-authored statement outlining a memorandum of understanding between Scotland's three football governing bodies which followed it – were the fruits of a three-hour SFL board meeting at Hampden and approximately two years worth of discussions on the SFA's professional game board.
Up for grabs for the clubs who cast their votes in tomorrow's special general meeting at Hampden will be the promise of an "enlarged top tier for Scottish Senior Professional Football" from 2013-14 onwards – a new working group will be created which will consider 14-team and 16-team options and maybe more besides – the introduction of a pyramid system for all SFA licensed clubs from 2014-15 onwards, and a guarantee that Scotland's third and fourth tier clubs would not get any less in percentage terms than they currently do from the settlement agreement which was agreed at the start-up of the SPL in 1998.
Potentially crucial details such as a standardised promotion, relegation and play-off structure, and an increase in the value and number of parachute payments will be considered by a specially-convened working group, which will comprise three soon-to-be-announced representatives from both the SPL and SFL along with an independent chairman appointed by the SFA. They will be given a deadline of the end of November 2012 to reach a conclusion on their talks, or face the prospect of the SFA implementing a new structure themselves in time for season 2013-14.
Considering how long it has taken to reach this point – Doncaster, the SPL chief executive, has previously been scathing about a 16-team top division and spent much of recent times pushing a 10-team top flight – it might have been thought that the small fry of the Scottish game would be acting as lobby fodder right now, immediately jumping to attention and accepting this deal. But that, it appears, is far from the case. Prior to yesterday, the maths among those who have declared was thought to be firmly in favour of Sevco Scotland starting off life in the third division rather than the first division, and it remains far from clear to what extent this development will change the arithmetic.
Indeed, Herald Sport has learned that the vote could even be postponed for a week if enough clubs go the way of Clyde, who feel that the resolutions themselves are ambiguous and liable to misinterpretation. Resolution One talks of admitting Sevco Scotland as associate members to "the league", rather than a particular division, and Resolution Two allows the SFL board to promote this newco Rangers directly into the first division, subject to satisfactory conclusion of this SPL-SFL deal on restructuring.
Gordon McDougall, the Livingston chairman, re-stated his club's opposition to a Rangers newco coming into the first division, and said the vote at this stage was too close to call. "There will be comments on the 16-team SPL in the paper which Mr Longmuir will put out," McDougall said. "Whether or not that will be enough to persuade people to allow Rangers into the first division is up to the individual clubs. I still favour the newco joining in the third division. That's what their manager has said he wants and it's quite clearly what their fans have said that they want and I would support their wishes.
"How would I see Friday's vote going? It's very close – and that's not me sitting on the fence, it genuinely will be very close. It could go either way. It's important to say that I'm not at all against certain aspects of league reconstruction. What I am against is Rangers being railroaded into the first division, with one issue piggy-backing on the other. I very much support the idea of one league body and a lot of the other items.
"The meeting went better than expected and there were several issues cleared up. Now we go back to our clubs and reflect on things and form an opinion. If we go much longer than that then you start to think about having to put the start of the season back. We need an answer because we're all tired of it. We're spending all our days working on this when we're just two weeks away from the start of the new campaign and we all have work to do at our clubs for that."
Stewart Regan briefed the SFL board meeting yesterday, but the mood music was conciliatory after the conflict of the last few weeks which have led to veiled threats about the 1998 settlement agreement being under threat. The original payment was £1.4m but that has risen in line with the Retail Price Index to the £2m mark and it must be paid in perpetuity, unless the SPL's income falls below the £6m earned by the SFL in 1998, in which case the payment may be reduced.
Opening up the league to a pyramid system may threaten some of their existence but for the first time, SFL clubs were offered a glimpse of their future yesterday. It remains anyone's guess whether they will fall into line and accept.
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