THE long running ‘cinch dispute’ between the SPFL and Rangers has taken yet another twist as Herald Sport reveal that the Ibrox club have been granted permission by the Scottish FA to take the league’s governing body to court as they pursue an apology and financial damages.

Here, we explain just how the deal came to be signed in the first place, why Rangers had a problem with it, and what might happen next as all parties search for an end to row that has now stretched on for over two years.

What is the cinch dispute?

The dispute between the SPFL and Rangers stems from the title sponsorship agreement that the SPFL signed with online car retailer in June 2021.

The Ibrox club contended that the deal would breach an existing contractual agreement they had with the Park’s Motor Group, and SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster was eventually forced to renegotiate terms with cinch that protected the level of investment, but removed any obligation for Rangers to display advertising for the brand at Ibrox.

READ MORE: Rangers set to take SPFL to court with SFA blessing over cinch dispute

That didn’t bring an end to the row though, with Rangers and Park’s now seeking an apology for the reputational damage they suffered as a result of the dispute as well as hundreds of thousands of pounds of legal costs.

The Ibrox club has now been granted permission by the Scottish FA to pursue that apology and their costs through the courts.

How did it all unfold?

The way that the cinch sponsorship deal was presented to the SPFL clubs and how it was agreed has, in Rangers’ view, exemplified the consistently poor governance that exists within the league.

Here is how it all transpired, leading ultimately to a situation where Rangers are ready to take the SPFL to court.

June 7th, 2021: The SPFL sends a briefing note and a written resolution to clubs to invite their support for a title sponsorship agreement with cinch. An urgent response is requested by June 9th, despite the clubs having the legal right to a 28-day period in which to respond to the resolution.

June 8th, 2021: Rangers notify Doncaster that they already have what they believe to be an exclusive deal covering Motor Vehicle Retail with Park’s Motor Group, and as such, will not be able to comply with the terms of the cinch agreement.

Sources told Herald Sport that Doncaster voiced scepticism over the existence of a contractual agreement between Park’s and Rangers, and later, that he believed it to only concern coaches.

Doncaster emails the SPFL board late that evening, well outside office hours, stating that a photoshoot was already arranged in London the following day where he would be pictured with cinch Chief Customer Officer Robert Bridge and the Premiership trophy.

He outlines his intention to press ahead and conclude the contract with cinch the next morning, and that if he doesn’t receive any objections, he will assume that he has authority to do so.

June 9th, 2021: Having received no responses to his email overnight, Doncaster signs the Heads of Terms and concludes the contract agreement with cinch that morning.

June 10th, 2021: With reports in the media confirming cinch as the new title sponsors of the Scottish Premiership, Park’s instruct legal firm Brodie’s to ensure Rangers do not breach their existing contractual obligations to them.

August 9th, 2021: The dispute remains at an impasse and is now referred to arbitration by the SPFL.

August 12th, 2021: Park’s writes to the SPFL to make clear its position as an interested party.

August 23rd, 2021: Citing concerns over confidentiality, Rangers had refused to provide a copy of their contract with Park’s to the SPFL. An interim interdict granted in the court of session backs their position, ruling that they do not have any obligation to share the contract with the league. The SPFL appeal the ruling.

October 20th, 2021: The Court of Appeal upholds the interim interdict, and further states that the SPFL broke the SFA’s rules on arbitration by failing to name Park’s as an interested party.

October 28th, 2021: The Scottish FA issue arbitration notice to Park’s and cinch.

November 8th, 2021: The SPFL indicate they wish to present a new motion on expenses at Court of Session hearing.

November 23rd, 2021: Hearing goes ahead despite the Scottish FA agreeing to pay expenses, and the SPFL’s new argument is dismissed. Expenses are awarded against SPFL, as hearing deemed unnecessary.

February to June 2022: Ongoing informal dialogue fails to lead to a resolution of the dispute.

June 10th, 2022: Written resolution sent to SPFL clubs asking them to agree to a variation to the cinch contract to exclude Rangers rights, and also from any future SPFL sponsorship contracts to any third party.

July 8th, 2022: Lord Clark awards interlocuter in favour of Park’s, confirming the legal status of the exclusivity provision in the contract between Park’s and Rangers, and SPFL Rule I7 is engaged.

June 2023: With no apology issued or costs being agreed, despite both being understood to be forthcoming from the SPFL, Rangers seek permission from the Scottish FA to take the league to court. The request is granted.

What is SPFL Rule I7?

The rule states: “That a Club shall not, other than in respect of a Commercial Contract relating to Radio Transmission or Transmission, be obliged to comply with this Rule I7 if to do so would result in that Club being in breach of a contractual obligation entered into prior to the Commercial Contract concerned being approved to be entered into by the Company the Clubs and each of them shall license and otherwise provide to the Company the use of such of their other rights, facilities and properties as may be required by the Company to enable the Company to enter into and/or fulfil its obligations under and in terms of Commercial Contracts entered or to be entered into by the Company.” 

What happens next?

If the SPFL produce a public apology to Rangers and Park’s over the reputational damage they have suffered as a result of the dispute, and satisfactory financial compensation can be agreed, then a court date may be avoided.

But if not, it appears that the Ibrox board are primed to launch legal proceedings against the league if their demands are not now met. If they were successful in that action, the cost to the league could run into many hundreds of thousands of pounds.