Neil Doncaster: It is vital that clubs live within their means


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The Englishman stated: “Football and finance have often sat uneasily together. But with some of our clubs under intense financial pressure, it is no surprise that questions about ‘financial fair play’ have once again been raised in the context of Scottish football.”

“Crucial to an understanding of financial fair play, is an appreciation of why it is vital that clubs live within their means.”

Financial fair play was one of the key values spoken about by UEFA President Michel Platini back in 2009, as a means to ‘restore well-being in the club game in Europe’.

As Doncaster stated: “the concept would require clubs to balance their books over the medium term, not spend more than they earn, and operate within their financial means.”

“This is all seen as important for one key reason: because any club that is spending more on players than they can afford, is automatically gaining a sporting advantage over every other club it competes with. Whether the precise system of measurement used by UEFA is perfect is a moot point. But the logic behind the principle however is, I think, broadly sound. And it is this same principle that explains the position of the SPL.”

With one of Scotland’s top clubs in administration after serious financial mismanagement, critics have been rounding on the Ibrox side for what they see as gaining an unfair advantage over other clubs, running up tens of millions of pounds worth of debt in a bid to chase glory.

Doncaster added: “To turn a blind eye, to allow clubs to continually fail to make prompt payments as they fall due, would be to allow those clubs to gain an unfair sporting advantage over all those other clubs that pay their players, the taxman and other clubs on time. That is one of the reasons why, whenever the SPL receives a request from players to adjudicate on their contracts, it has a duty to do so.”

In what some fans, especially non-Old Firm fans, may find somewhat laughable given years of being convinced that the governing bodies in Scotland are biased towards the Old Firm, Doncaster stated: “It is vital that the Scottish Premier League continue to treat all member clubs even-handedly. It may put the SPL in the uncomfortable position of having to rule against member clubs in certain instances. Whenever we are requested by professional players to adjudicate on their contracts, for example, we should continue to do so. And, where appropriate, to rule in the players’ favour and to make orders for on-time payment by our member clubs.

“The integrity of the entire League – and the long-term interests of all 12 member clubs within it – demands that we do just that.”

The fall out of Rangers going into administration could have wide-reaching effects and has already seen Dunfermline fail to pay their players and staff their full wages for the month of February. Because of the Rangers ‘problem’ and with most of the clubs in the SPL stricken with debt, all SPL member clubs with gather around the table on Monday to discuss a potential change in the current rules on financial fair play.

He said: “It is important that we keep the whole issue of financial fair play firmly in the spotlight. Improving our rule book and making it less likely that our member clubs end up in financial difficulty in the first place should continue to be a priority. And with this in mind, all 12 SPL member clubs will meet this Monday. On the agenda will be our existing rules on financial fair play and whether our current rule book needs improvement in the face of the financial challenges being faced by several member clubs.

“If agreement in principle is reached, this could mean our clubs voting on new, tougher, rules on financial fair play at a general meeting, either in April or July this year. It will be a difficult debate. But it is vital that we do not shy away from these issues or bury our heads in the sand.

“It may be uncomfortable to address these thorny problems head-on. But the long-term health and prosperity of Scottish football demands that we do just that.”

Some strong words from the SPL chief executive, but when the member clubs to a man act in the best interests of themselves rather than the good of the game, words are rather meaningless unless such rhetoric is pushed through and put into force whether the clubs like it or not.

I can’t see turkeys voting for Christmas, and I cannot see Doncaster getting the necessary votes to push through such rule changes. UEFA on the other hand may have the final say in this matter and it may take outside influences to force the clubs into abiding by some sort of financial fair play ruling.


About Author


Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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