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SPFL chief executive says no clubs made bullying allegations

Rangers hope to persuade clubs to open an independent investigation into league body's resolution on ending the season.

Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) chief executive Neil Doncaster insists no clubs made any bullying allegations to him at the time of the resolution to end the lower-league season.

Rangers have questioned Doncaster’s response after claiming allegations were reported to him that a club representative on the SPFL board subjected other clubs to “threats”.

Gers chairman Douglas Park has claimed Doncaster was “obliged” to investigate but the SPFL chief executive claims the discussions around the resolution were normal and no club asked for any issue to be taken forward.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s general meeting, when Rangers hope to persuade clubs to instigate an independent investigation, Doncaster told BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound programme: “No club has reported bullying to me and as far as I’m aware to (chairman) Murdoch MacLennan either.

“Clearly there are robust exchanges between clubs. We were aware particularly in the Championship that these robust conversations were ongoing but nobody reported any bullying to me.

“A number of people expressed concerns about language that was used. There were suggestions, I believe, that if the resolution didn’t pass then there might be an attempt to change the distribution mechanism in the Championship and perhaps make it more equal. That is the sort of discussion you would expect to go on.

“That’s what happens when you have got these rough, tough business people in the game. There are no shrinking violets.

“We expect there to be robust conversations. That’s wholly different from someone making a formal complaint of coercion or bullying, and that hasn’t happened.

“If any club has evidence of bullying and wishes to make a formal complaint then they should do so and it will be dealt with in a formal way.”

Just hours after Doncaster spoke, Inverness Caledonian Thistle released a statement saying the club had been subjected to bullying in the run-up to the vote on ending the season.

“We will testify to the bullying and threats made against our club on Friday 10th by an SPFL Board member and the threats against others by the same SPFL Board member.”

Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC statement

The statement said: “We will testify to the bullying and threats made against our club on Friday 10th by an SPFL Board member and the threats against others by the same SPFL Board member and how these threats were “reported back to the centre” and to the SPFL CEO directly on the day with evidence at any genuine independent investigation with the proper and appropriate scope, should there be one, or at any further subsequent action thereafter. These were threats and not robust conversations.”

A number of other clubs have also been critical of the SPFL’s handling of the situation – including Falkirk, Hearts, Stranraer and Partick Thistle.

Doncaster has rejected Rangers’ claims that a potential £10million liability for ending the season prematurely should have been made clear to clubs before the vote.

“The resolution did not trigger any liability,” he said. “Any liability any league around Europe may face is down to the inability to play games. That is caused entirely by the Covid-19 crisis and in our case by a government directive that makes it clear there can be no football played until June 10 at the earliest.

“So the way we end the season is completely irrelevant. Unfortunately people are trying to conflate two issues which are unrelated.”

Rangers have offered to fund an investigation themselves if clubs are concerned about the costs.

Doncaster said: “We will respect the outcome of the vote and I would hope others will respect the outcome of the vote because we are a democracy. My view is we are best spending our time and energy getting games back as safely as possible.”

Park had stated in an interview with Sunday newspapers: “This episode is far from finished. Rangers will have no hesitation in the future in shining a light on poor corporate governance.

“I would like to think the SPFL might recognise its failings and accept that an independent investigation is necessary. It is not too late for them to do so consensually and start to build a better future for Scottish football.”