PETER Lawwell has been an effective and inspirational chief executive of Celtic for the past 14 years but that doesn’t mean the club’s supporters always agree with him. The Green Brigade, for instance, have had their fair share of differences of opinion with the 58-year-old and when it comes to the thorny matter of whether the association should assent to an independent review of the EBT era at Rangers the same could equally be said of Gary Hughes, the Celtic season ticket holder who has a seat on the SFA board, who disagrees with Lawwell over how his organisation has handled the saga.

“I have no qualms whatsoever about what the association did and how it managed its matters through that period. Peter is very professional, he has been great not just for Celtic but for the Scottish game,” said Hughes “He represents Scotland tremendously well on things like the European Club Association and things like that. Listen, in any boardroom there is going to be debate. And any boardroom where there is passion, you are going to have heated debate. The good thing about this organisation is that we take decisions. I respect everyone round this table’s view on things. And sometimes you have to disagree.

“That is how a board should function. If it plays a compliant role then one, the executive don’t have the right checks and balancee. And two, you aren’t making sure that the organisation will continue to be effective.”

Hughes, an operating executive at APAX Partners, an equity and venture capital firm which specialises in things like due diligence and organisational change, joined the association’s eight-man board of the national governing body as their second independent non-executive director in 2015, experiencing a baptism of fire as a board member on the very day that Dave King’s suitability as a fit and proper director of Rangers came under the microscope.

While the whole Rangers EBT saga kicked off back in 2011, he dutifully pored over 800 pages of backstory to get the facts which would inform his decision and has reached the conclusion that the SFA had taken independent legal advice on board at every stage of the process. So when Celtic chief executive Lawwell called into question the “accountability, transparency and leadership” being offered by Scottish football’s governing body when the board resisted the idea of a fresh review into the saga in light of new information from various court cases, Hughes respectfully agrees to disagree.

“If I was to be honest with you in terms of the time time spent around this board table a lot of it has been spent discussing Rangers,” he said. “I came in right at the point when we were looking at the Dave King fit and proper question. That was actually my first board meeting would you believe.

“But to be fair, what I did do before I joined the board, was that I probably went through about 800 different pages of documentation from 2011 onwards to get myself up to speed with it, because I needed to be. The guys here were outstanding in terms of giving support.

“People are interested in this subject. And what I would say as well, it was fascinating, and revealing for me, when I went through the disclosure for want of a better way of looking at it, was how professionally each decision was made. In terms of taking senior external counsel’s advice. There was nothing in that process which was quick or easy.

In some ways you might argue it was laboured, but professionally laboured if you might call it that.

“I have no issues whatsoever with the conclusions it came to.”

Where exactly this story goes next is anyone’s guess, with the SPFL board set to consider their next move on Thursday. The league’s position is complicated as the position paper requesting a review was signed off on Ibrox managing director Stewart Robertson’s very first day in office, yet was one where he had no input into the decision. He may have his say, as may individual member clubs including Aberdeen and Hibs, who have gone public to say they have no desire for a review.”

Hughes describes the occasional tensions between the SPFL and SFA as akin to those between a commercial organisation and regulator but, as the SPFL’s 42-member clubs are all among the SFA’s 108 members, feels that all stakeholders should be able to ditch the vested interests and work together to grow “the GDP” of the Scottish game.

“One of the things somebody said to me when you get involved in football is ‘everybody supports a football club’,” says Hughes. “What we have got to have is professional dispassion. You are actually going through decision-making processes and the decision-making process here was very professional.

I approached it with a professional and almost non-aligned view.

“Everybody who comes and sits round this board table has a football allegiance. You have Mike Mulraney from Alloa, you’ve got Alan McRae who has the Cove Rangers background. Peter [Lawwell] was part of this board for a long time, he was party to a lot of decision making, he understands the process we went through.”

Hughes feels the SFA has come a long way past the Henry McLeish report from its old image.

“When you actually think what the organisation has been through in the last few years we have gone through quite a governance overhaul,” he said. “If you look

at the association compared

to a lot of the other international associations – and Uefa have said this to us as well – we are probably up there in terms of our overall governance structures. The fact

we have two independent non-executives, to some extent from outside of football, it is actually quite far reaching and I don’t think the SFA has got the credit for what it has achieved. The governance structures that have been changed, moving from the blazers to an appropriate congress, it has been quite a journey and in terms of leadership I think Stewart has done a pretty good job.

“Everybody’s job should be to grow the GDP of Scottish football. If we can align on that – and I think there is more commercial alignment on that than ever – we will be in a good place. To a great extent, we as a football nation need to be looking forward, not looking back, and I don’t think there would be any significant consequence coming out of an enquiry. In some ways, prolonging the debate is not good for Scottish football. But that is not the reason we didn’t go down that route. We took professional advice and based on that advice we couldn’t see any tangible benefit from that review.

“The SPFL have got a remit which is almost entirely a commercial remit, to drive revenue for the game, while we have a broader remit. The way I tried to describe

it the other day was ‘how many regulators are liked?’ We have to develop the game from grassroots upwards, we have to develop the women’s game. That is not necessarily the SPFL’s remit. There is a significant crossover but also a significant area where the two associations have completely different agendas. My observation in terms of how the two organisations work is that they work pretty well considering they don’t have the same agenda.

“This is a personal comment as opposed to anything else, but 50 per cent of being in football can be completely exhilarating, but 50 per cent can be frustrating as well. I won’t tell you which 50 per cent is exhilarating and which 50 per cent is frustrating.

“Do I like some of the comments you have to take from taxi drivers? No. But do I have to take the advice of everyone who wants to have their say on Scottish football? No. But in terms of the experience around this board table, is that it is a very experienced board. We don’t take decisions lightly. We take good input and good professional advice and we have good debate.”