THE outcry over the downright bizarre and really rather murky SPFL vote on the early curtailment of the 2019/20 season three years ago prompted the governing body to call in auditors Deloitte in an attempt to quell growing unrest.

As any Rangers, Hearts, Partick Thistle or Stranraer supporter will be able to tell you, Dundee had initially opposed the move to award titles and dole out relegations on a points-per-game basis in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

But the Dens Park club’s email intimating that was not received by league officials at Hampden before the cut-off point – it was only found in a quarantine folder several hours after the deadline had passed.

Following a flurry of telephone conversations and text messages between the two parties, they withdrew their return, backed the motion and Celtic were crowned Scottish champions for a record-equalling ninth consecutive occasion.

Those who suffered as a result of the outcome argued that North Korea had held more transparent and democratic elections.

READ MORERangers win SPFL apology and compensation as cinch row resolved

However, Deloitte, whose operatives scrutinised phone records, text messages and email data in what was described as a “forensic” probe, found there was no evidence of improper behaviour by any member of SPFL staff.

Appeals by Karyn McCluskey, the independent non-executive director, for everyone involved in the game in this country to put the whole sorry affair behind them and focus on tacking the issues caused by the pandemic, though, fell on deaf ears.

Rangers, who had, along with Aberdeen and Hearts, called for an independent investigation to be carried out, were absolutely incensed. They explained they were “alarmed” by the “narrow scope” of the inquiry and also by the “failure to examine wider fundamental issues”.

Backed by Hearts and Stranraer, they submitted a members’ requisition calling for a general meeting in a bid to have another impartial and more comprehensive post-mortem carried out. That failed to receive anywhere near the required backing. The ill-feeling over the episode has lingered.

The Herald:

So senior officials at Ibrox must have been cock-a-hoop yesterday when, as part of the settlement in the long-running cinch dispute, the SPFL, who were also forced to publicly apologise both to Rangers and Park’s of Hamilton and make a contribution to their legal costs, agreed to commission an independent review of governance. 

Their joy may well have proved short-lived. It was subsequently announced that McCluskey, James MacDonald of Ross County and Chris McKay of Celtic had been appointed to a sub-committee and will lead the process “under a specific remit” and “within the context of current articles, rules and regulations”.

Corporate governance policies and procedures, the effectiveness of board meetings, compliance with legal and regulatory requirements and internal control systems will be assessed by an “external auditor” in order to “help ensure the SPFL can avoid any such dispute in the future”. 

READ MORESPFL announce independent governance review as Rangers row resolved

There would appear to be uncanny parallels, when it comes to the limited brief anyway, with the investigation into the vote on the curtailment of the 2019/20 season.

Rangers will doubtless be unhappy with the “narrow scope” and the failure to “examine wider fundamental issues” once again.

Having to apologise and pay a six figure sum towards legal costs – which will be split three ways between the Rangers Charity Foundation, the SPFL Charitable Trust and a charity nominated by Park’s of Hamilton – was a major humiliation for the SPFL and no mistake.

“We are delighted to have finally drawn a line under this dispute,” said their chairman Murdoch Maclennan in a statement yesterday. “I am very happy to apologise if there has been any damage to the reputation of Rangers or Park’s of Hamilton.”

Delighted? Very happy? You can bet that nobody was uncorking the champagne on the sixth floor at Hampden yesterday. 

The Herald:

It was immediately suggested by online snipers that chief executive Neil Doncaster, who has been given the nickname “The Teflon Don” because of the number of crises and controversies he has ridden out during his turbulent 14 year tenure, will pay the ultimate price with his job.

READ MORENeil Doncaster's astonishing SPFL exit cost amid 2 year notice period

Will he, though, survive once again? He has cast doubt on the veracity of Rangers’ stance publicly during the protracted stand-off over the record £8m cinch sponsorship deal. He may well, despite the courts not backing up his view, retain the support of influential figures within Scottish football.  

It hardly sounds as if the independent review of governance will be calling for heads to roll when they are done.

A Rangers spokesperson welcomed the “satisfactory outcome” of the saga yesterday and no wonder: getting an apology, having their legal costs covered and securing a longed-for examination of how the SPFL functions was like recording a 3-0 triumph in a cup final at the end of a long and wearying campaign.

Will they be content with the findings of the investigation? That remains to be seen. But it will be no surprise if the enmity which exists persists for some time to come. And that will do nothing to help Scottish football move forward and embrace the myriad challenges it faces on and off the park.