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Peace reigns as SPFL and SFA settle on compromise

STEWART REGAN, the chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, declared himself content last night with potentially granting an extra spot on the main board of his organisation in a peace deal that will allow it to hold on to the £12m annual budget for football development.

Doncaster and Regan were all smiles after the meeting yesterday. Picture: SNS
Doncaster and Regan were all smiles after the meeting yesterday. Picture: SNS

The boards of the national association and the Scottish Professional Football League staged a three-hour meeting at Hampden Park yesterday afternoon to settle on a compromise following 48 hours of claim and counter-claim about another civil war breaking out within the game.

A group of SPFL clubs, spearheaded by Mike Mulraney, the chairman of Alloa Athletic, had planned to raise four resolutions at the SFA agm - now rescheduled for June 18 - in what was painted in many quarters as an all-out power grab.

However, the only resolution which will now be forwarded in its original form is the one which proposes that an additional member of the Professional Game Board be appointed to the seven-man SFA main board to sit alongside current representative Peter Lawwell, the Celtic chief executive. For that to be passed, 71 of the association's 94 members would have to vote in favour. A resolution seeking changes to the elections of SFA president and vice-president has been amended to state that anyone standing for office must have completed at least one year of service within the national association or another recognised football body rather than the previous four. It will also go in front of the members on June 18.

As a trade-off, the SPFL's intention to take a definitive say on which clubs can become full members of the SFA has been ditched in favour of a fresh resolution, which will deal with the appointment of new full members in the regard that they will need to be licensed clubs.

Perhaps the most divisive issue raised by Mulraney had been the need for a change in the way professional clubs were currently engaged in the SFA's flagship performance strategy, fronted by Dutchman Mark Wotte, and other elements of grassroots development. It had been regarded by critics as an attempt by clubs to gain direct access to monies set aside for youth development.

The SFA has struck an agreement to continue managing funds earmarked for all projects under those umbrellas, but a statement issued by both boards last night suggested there will be a closer relationship.

"The Professional Game Board will, in future, be involved in the budget-setting and policy-setting processes for Scottish football, with the Scottish FA Board retaining overall responsibility for the financial budget relating to performance and football development. The resolution on this issue will be withdrawn." Regan and his counterpart from the SPFL, Neil Doncaster, left the National Stadium together around 6pm, posing happily for photographs and claiming both sides were comfortable with the end result of the afternoon's negotiations.

"We have got to a position that everyone is happy with," said Regan. "We have got a good position for Scottish football. All parties that have been involved are happy with the outcome. We are all pleased. It's a great outcome. The Scottish FA is committed to the objectives outlined as part of the McLeish Review on Scottish Football, especially since we are beginning to see green shoots throughout our national youth teams and via our performance strategy.

"It is important that we continue to work together with the SPFL, as with all other football bodies, to ensure that we take the national game forward both at senior professional level and in grassroots."

The SFA president Campbell Ogilvie and vice-president Alan McRae both refused to go into detail as they exited Hampden Park following the break-up of talks at around 4.30pm, but one source close to the association stated the belief that nothing had been lost.

Doncaster stated that the professional clubs have settled, for the moment at least, on what they see as a greater degree of involvement in key issues of the national game.

"I am very pleased," he said. "It is a good outcome and a good agreement. Today's discussions were very productive and have given us a platform on which to continue the progress made since last year's league reconstruction. The SPFL aims to work in partnership with the Scottish FA to ensure the senior professional game in Scotland is as vibrant as possible. The agreements reached at Board level today demonstrate that relationship and will give the professional game the increased influence it has been seeking."

Other members of the SPFL board were less forthcoming. Stephen Thompson, the Dundee United chairman, raced for the exit alongside Aberdeen's chief executive Duncan Fraser and refused to acknowledge interview requests from media.

Mulraney, the man who put his name to the resolutions, had been the public face of the SPFL's attempts to increase their influence. However, as he left the national stadium, he clearly felt his job had been done.

"It was a very productive day and I think there will be a joint statement coming out just directly," remarked Mulraney. "I am afraid that is all I am going to say at the moment."

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