SFL President Brown McMaster made the following ridiculous statement yesterday:
"If [Livingston had] appealed in due time, we'd have put the three games off, there's no question of that. But there comes a point when we need to make a call."we've done our best to avoid fixture chaos. Mr McGruther was asked he (was certain he) could fulfil all 36 fixtures in the First Division next season and he said, 'No'." We thought the lowest risk was to have them in the Third Division."
Looking at the time table of events you can see just how ridiculous this statement was.
Up until Wednesday of this week, when the team were relegated on a vote to Division Three, Livingston were still living in the hope that the agreement made with the SFL by Neil Rankine, Gordon MacDougall and Ged Nixon (on behave of the Livi for Life Supporters Trust) would hold firm. They had presented a business plan as requested by Monday and come up with a bond of £720,000 (the equivalent to 18 aways games' receipts at the top grossing First Division club). As a result there was no financial risk for the season on that agreement, the bond was there.
A club has 10 days to appeal any decision made by the SFL. So having been told on Wednesday, the options of both the perspective owners and Mazars the administrators had to be looked into on Thursday. On that day the club intimated to the SFL that they were prepared to honour their fixture against First Division Ross County, clearly an indication of the formal announcement on Friday that they were going to appeal the decision. How much more timely could the club have been. Should we have started to appeal the desicion of the SFL in advance of the meeting on Wednesday, is that what would have please Mr McMaster.
Also why is Mr McMaster asking Mr McGruther whether he can fulfill fixtures in Division One. Only last week that question was answered by the consortium, the SFL seemed pleased with the answer, although they were going to impose a bond.
McMaster has also aluded to the case of Hamilton nine years ago where the players refused to turn out against Stenhousemuir over a dispute about unpaid wages. The team that is now in the SPL were deducted 15 points on that occassion. But McMaster said:
"The circumstances are slightly worse that they were with Hamilton. This has been a calculated decision by the people in charge, by Donald McGruther, who's the club interim manager."
About the only thing I can agree with is that there have been calculated decisions being made. Reading a lot of the comments from people associated with Airdrie who are the chief beneficiaries of Livingston's demotion they are clearly self interested rather than Scottish football interested. I've also seen comments from sources within Dundee which clearly hint at the bitterness that they still feel over Livingston surviving in the SPL when they were demoted. Of course if they hadn't hit the post in the last minute and played better football it wouldn't have come to that.
As a fan of Livingston Football Club of course I'm sad at some of the things that previous owners of the club have done. Overspending at unsustainable levels (Keane), challenging the league with court action at every turn (Flynn) and well then you have Massone, heaven knows what has gone on there. But in the interests of football and those that love football what are the other clubs doing?
Many of the fans have bought the second most expensive First Division brief and would be low on a list of creditors to get their money back should the club go up. They now are facing the most expensive seat possibly in the Third Division.
How can a club with reportedly £1.8m debts hope to come out of that black hole with Third Division football. The league says they have set the precedent with liquidation procedures over Gretna. That may be so, and what exactly happened there, did those debts get paid off, did that team survive?
If like in English football the points deduction had been the only penalty then it would be football that decided the fate. The club would have struggled to stay up this year, but at least would have had a revenue stream to eat into the debts. Sure we may have dropped down to the second for 2010-11 but we'd have had a season to prepare for that rather than 3 days to prepare for Division Three football.
The one people who have allowed due time in all of this are the SFL themselves. At the end of last season they could have taken some action to ensure that Angelo Massone could have fulfilled the fixtures for next season. They could have demanded a bond off him to cover the costs, after all it is the seeming lack of money that anyone seems to have seen from that source that is the major problem. But no they have left the management of the league down to a goal mouth scramble in the last week before the season kicks off. Then seemingly expects the club they are taking action against to make instantaneous decisions as to what to do next.