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SPFL group denies trying to lead the Scottish game into civil war

Resolutions aimed at changing the way Scottish football is governed are not intended to lead the game into civil war, according to Mike Mulraney.

Mike Mulraney, Bill Darroch and Les Gray are three of the club chairmen seeking to drive change in the governance of Scottish football. Picture: SNS
Mike Mulraney, Bill Darroch and Les Gray are three of the club chairmen seeking to drive change in the governance of Scottish football. Picture: SNS

The Alloa Athletic chairman heads a group of representatives from the Scottish Professional Football League who intend to table four proposals at the Scottish Football Association's annual general meeting on May 27. They will also be discussed by the boards of both governing bodies at a meeting tomorrow.

The resolutions were seconded by three members of the SPFL board: Les Gray, the Hamilton Academical chairman; Stenhousemuir chairman Bill Darroch; and Eric Riley, the Celtic financial director. Since the genesis of the motions was a meeting among representatives of Cham­pion­ship clubs earlier this season, Mulraney has assumed a prominent role in their development.

The involvement of Riley is perhaps of greater intrigue, with the decision of Celtic to second the resolutions bringing greater weight to the calls for change. The Parkhead club are not at the forefront of proposals but it is reasonable to assume that the sentiments behind them are consistent with their wishes.

The four resolutions to be put forward at the SFA agm are: that the seven-man Professional Game Board (PGB) is increased to eight, with the new member representing senior clubs; changes to the criteria for office bearers; SPFL clubs are given a say whether a new club is elected for full membership; and control of the budget for youth development, which is currently in the hands of the SFA.

The relationship between some of Scotland's clubs and Stewart Regan has been fractured before - there was dissent at the way the SFA chief executive handled the question of which league the Rangers newco should enter in 2012 - and it is possible that there is a residual resentment towards his governance of the game.

Mulraney was adamant that the motive behind the new resolutions is simply an intention to continue to improve Scottish football. He was also critical that details of the four proposals have emerged so close to tomorrow's meeting.

"I believe, and my colleagues believe, that some of the SFA's rules and regulations are archaic to put it mildly; that's what is driving it," Mulraney told Herald Sport. "We're in the process of discussions with the SFA and it is more than disappointing that this came out two days before the board meeting. It's been called a ­'takeover' or a 'civil war' but that is bonkers. We are members of the SFA. We can't take over ourselves."

He believes that the procedure for becoming an SFA office bearer - for example, the president is required to have first served one year on the PGB, or non-PGB and four years on the SFA council - is too restrictive.

"We should be electing and selecting the best candidates, not based on how long they have been in the post," said the Alloa chairman, who runs Mulraney Group of Companies.

"I understand that some people might take a different view to me - and I respect their right to do so - but quite frankly I think that it's bonkers."

Mulraney also defended his ­ambition for clubs to take control of football development, which has been relatively successful under the stewardship of Mark Wotte, the SFA performance director, as well as Jim Fleeting and Andy Gould.

"The suggestion was that we wanted to take over the budgets. That's absolute balderdash. What we are suggesting is that it would be appropriate that [the PGB] has a place in a cohesive policy from the four-year-old kid playing community football to the 24-year-old playing for Scotland. Is that so unthinkable?"

A spokesperson for the SFA has stated simply that: "Any member club can propose a resolution to be voted on at the agm [on May 27]."

There have been concerns that the resolutions - particularly that which would hand control of the performance department to clubs - could unsettle sponsors of grass-roots football, which collectively contribute £4m of funding. Mulraney dismissed those fears. "I think sponsors will welcome football moving into the 21st century," he said.

"What [the SFA] want is for us to do nothing this year and that's why they didn't put any proposals forward. I've had it put to me that 'oh, well, we'd have done it in a year or two' but that's not good enough. If it's going to be okay to do in a year or two then it is okay to do it now.

"We are open to the SFA's suggestions for alternatives; we'll give consideration to anything. Our ears are open and we are happy to listen and we are happy to talk. What we are not happy to do is just wait because people think we shouldn't do it now. I don't understand that."

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