Aberdeen, Motherwell, Livingston, Rangers, St Johnstone, and St Mirren have jointly dispatched a letter to the SPFL executive.

A letter was jointly sent by Aberdeen, Motherwell, Livingston, Rangers, St Johnstone, and St Mirren to the Scottish Professional Football League executive on Thursday. The clubs expressed “serious concerns” regarding the independence, transparency, and governance of the SPFL in a report. It is understood that Aberdeen FC is the only club involved in the audit process. The letter aims to gain clarity on various issues to allow the clubs, as SPFL shareholders, to determine if further action is warranted. The clubs criticized SPFL Chairman Murdoch McLennan for hastily releasing a statement that they believe did not accurately represent the full findings of the report.

Furthermore, the statement was released without the consent or awareness of members of the SPFL Board or the clubs within the SPFL membership.

“The SPFL Board plans to convene at a later date to deliberate on the contents of the draft report, making it highly inappropriate for the SPFL Chairman to have made any public remarks prior to that meeting.

“Regarding the report itself, there are deep concerns among the clubs and others about its independence, given that the SPFL Executive received the initial draft of the report and made alterations to it before presenting it to SPFL Board members.

“Out of the 42 member clubs, only one had the opportunity to contribute to the investigation outlined in the report, apart from current or former SPFL Board members.

“Despite numerous requests from the clubs, the report has not yet been shared with any of the member clubs, despite the clubs bearing the cost of its creation.

“The handling of the Independent Governance report has exacerbated the clubs’ governance concerns, and it is now the responsibility of the SPFL Board and Executive, for the sake of trust in those managing our sport, to address these clear and deeply troubling concerns promptly.”

While the issue initially arose from the disagreement over sponsorship, it is understood by STV that the clubs’ concerns are not solely focused on that matter but extend to the review and general governance of the SPFL.

The SPFL has been contacted for a response.

Concerns regarding the management of the SPFL arose when the league entered a dispute with Rangers regarding a commercial arrangement. Cinch, a car company, was announced as the title sponsor for all SPFL divisions in 2021, but Rangers declined to endorse the brand. The club cited a pre-existing agreement with Park’s of Hamilton, a rival car retailer owned by former Rangers chairman Douglas Park, as the reason for their refusal to participate in sponsorship activities.

This disagreement escalated to legal action, resulting in the SPFL issuing an apology to Rangers and contributing to their legal expenses. SPFL chairman MacLennan expressed relief at resolving the dispute and announced the initiation of an independent review, slated to commence in October 2023.

The review, subsequently detailed by the league, appointed Celtic’s Chris McKay and Ross County’s James MacDonald to a sub-committee, with SPFL independent non-executive director Karyn McCluskey appointed as chair and an external auditor to be engaged. The review aimed to assess the league’s corporate governance policies and procedures, evaluate the board’s effectiveness and compliance with legal and regulatory standards, and ensure the implementation of risk mitigation measures.

An SPFL spokesperson emphasized the league’s commitment to comprehensive and independent governance review, particularly in light of its growth ambitions, to align with current best corporate practices.

The previous month, the governing body announced it had commenced implementing suggestions from the review, overseen by external auditors Henderson Loggie.

In a statement, SPFL Chairman Murdoch McLennan described the review as “highly beneficial and productive,” noting, “After thoroughly examining the preliminary report, I feel reassured but remain vigilant, avoiding complacency.”

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