A vote on how to end the soccer season in Scotland turned into a total mess, highlighting how tough it will be for leagues to untangle the end of this halted season.
The need to bring the curtain down down on the Scottish soccer season was great, and pressing.
Geographically, a mere border might be all that stands between the sport in Scotland and the riches of the Premier League south of it, but there is much, much more that divides the two soccer-spheres.
While England continues to kick the can down the road in the hope that a solution to the halted 2019-20 campaign will emerge, the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) felt the need to hold a vote on whether to end things prematurely, with so many of its member clubs desperate for end-of-season prize funds to be released. Without it, they said, several clubs would go under.
However, what should have been a simple one club-one vote process turned into a farce.
One team missed the deadline to lodge their vote only for the deadline not to be a deadline at all — it turned out clubs legally had 25 more days to come to a decision. The entire vote ultimately rested on that club’s call and so this opened them up to lobbying from rivals and even the league body itself.
The rhetoric became so toxic that Rangers even called for the suspension of SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster and an independence investigation to be conducted, expressing concern over what they say was the “bullying” and “coercion” of member clubs. “The SPFL has conducted a process which has been misleading and deeply flawed,” Rangers’ statement said. “No fair-minded person can take the outcome of this vote seriously.”
All this hints at what might eventually come for the Premier League and many of the other leagues around Europe currently scrambling for a solution to the unprecedented situation the coronavirus pandemic has caused. While Scottish soccer might have conjured up a special brand of tartan chaos it’s not unreasonable to expect other countries and leagues to experience similar problems.
Almost all of the SPFL’s member clubs voted out of self interest and that natural urge made a consensus near impossible. Teams at the top of the table voted differently to those at the bottom. It seems inevitable that when the time comes the Premier League will experience the same thing. Why would Liverpool and Norwich City vote the same way?
Soccer needs strong leadership to guide it through this difficult time. That might require some autonomy in decision-making. Coming to any conclusion through pure democracy, as is usually fairest, might not be possible.
The sport must learn from the mistakes made in Scotland and see where they went wrong in order to plot the way forward.