Scottish Football, Sevco, SFA, SPFL

The Order Of The ‘Brass Neck’

Good Evening. [And please give generously to The Clumpany’s #BearsForBears appeal by clicking here].

Messers Regan and Doncaster are a couple of cards aren’t they?

Worthy of official honours. 

Perhaps they should be made Knights of the Order of the ‘Brass Neck’?

They are undoubtedly heroic leaders of our game! Apart from when they say a controversial matter is for the other’s organisation to deal with. Or when they suggest that they simply carry out their members’ wishes.

I have written about them on several occasions:


Football 6-1 Regan/Doncaster

Neil Doncaster’s Cyborg Super-Squirrels

Sawing Neil Doncaster In Half

Once in a while they pop up to remind us quite how astonishing it is that they are still in office. And this week they have both put in a noteworthy appearance.

A few days ago, Neil Doncaster announced his plans to go overseas and save the universe from the wicked machinations of some of Europe’s top (i.e. richest) clubs. As you know, they have been floating the idea of a closed-shop Champions League, which might exclude the Champions from ‘smaller’ nations such as Scotland.

I will leave you to read up on his progress, but I wanted to highlight a couple of things he said in a related Q&A with Keith Jackson 

The full Keith Jackson Q&A with SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster on plans to block Scotland’s access to Champions League

“It’s not for me to use such a word.”

What extraordinary hypocrisy! We all remember Mr Doncaster using that very word in 2012 when he and Regan failed (spectacularly) to have Charles Green’s Sevco Scotland gerrymandered into either of Scottish football’s top two tiers. 

And of course he also used it in late 2010, when arguing for a 10-team SPL.

Perhaps Mr Doncaster didn’t quite want to go as far as actually crying ‘wolf’ on this occasion. Perhaps he thought no one with any actual influence would take it – or him – seriously… This time.

But his finest moment in the Q&A was this:

Yes. The same Neil Doncaster, who 

  • argued for Sevco Scotland to be fast-tracked into Scottish football at the highest possible level, 
  • spoke about clubs ‘shedding debt’; and 
  • sought to indicate some sort of continuity between the two Ibrox clubs by speaking of an unspecified bit of the paid-for (but not by Sevco yet!) LNS report! 

Incidentally, that’s the same Lord Nimmo-Smith who also said this:
Yes folks, Neil Doncaster really did say

“Fair competition is absolutely at the heart of football. The impact on fair competition and the idea of getting somewhere on merit… would be terrible.”

You have to admit that it’s so absolutely breathtaking that it should only be read by folk who have easy access to an oxygen cylinder. 

Quite how Mr Doncaster retains the confidence of his member clubs (and I AM looking at you here, Mr Lawwell) is anyone’s guess. Do Clumpaneers have any convincing theories about this? 

Meanwhile, Stewart Regan has made his presence felt over the past 24 hours in relation to a meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which was attended by the new FIFA President, the SFA-backed Gianni Infantino

The IFAB is the (sort-of-separate from FIFA) rule-making body of world football. The SFA, FA, IFA and FAW founded it in 1886 to agree standardised laws of the game. FIFA was founded in 1904, agreed to abide by the IFAB’s laws, and its representatives (now numbering four) first joined the IFAB in 1913.

Like the “British FIFA Vice-President” (elected by UEFA members from a shortlist proposed by the Home Nations), the IFAB is a somewhat bizarre anachronism. But it gives the SFA a peculiarly-privileged position in world football. 

And so it was that Stewart Regan was able to tweet the following:

I thought Mr Regan’s ‘marvelling’ at Gianni Infantini  [*gasp*] using easyJet to travel was nothing short of embarrassing. It almost looks like crawling! And fair play to @andygraham66 for pointing out the privileged travel arrangements of the SFA  hierarchy, which so concerned the Daily Record last year.

But the tweets that really caught my eye were the ones about the proposed changes to the game. Mr Regan may have boasted about ‘radical experimentation’, but neither of the ideas he mentioned are as radical as 

  • the reinvention of the concept of ‘liquidation’ which continues to occur on his watch in Scotland (and in defiance of UEFA rules and insolvency law),
  • the innovation which was Sevco Scotland’s ‘conditional membership’ of the SFA in July 2012, or even
  • the secret 5-Way Agreement which may or may not have set the terms (and possible sanctions) applying to Sevco’s entry into senior football. 

It could be that the 5-Way Agreement is an additional series of rules and undertakings applying only to Sevco. It could be that (remarkably) the governing body made some promises to Sevco. Perhaps in relation to some form of special treatmentBut we simply don’t know because it’s a secret! [A secret shared – incidentally by Neil Doncaster…]. 

Perhaps Mr Regan would like to propose such clandestine approaches as acceptable forms of administration across world football when attending future meetings of the IFAB?

Go on, Mr Regan. I DARE you!

Personally, given my overall impression of the governance of Scottish football and the events of 2012, I find the idea of the SFA being able to shape the laws of world football utterly abhorrent. I also don’t see why a small clique of nations should have such disproportionate influence on the way the game is run, but that is a wider point.

The SFA (or rather the company of which its senior officers are directors) often can’t even manage to provide a decent playing surface at Hampden, for Heaven’s sake! And when faced with what they defined as the ‘crisis’ of Rangers going to its grave, the normal systematic application of rules and processes seemed to go out of the window.

Why on earth should these folk have a privileged and disproptionate influence on the way the world’s favourite sport is played? I personally don’t think they deserve it, or are up to the challenge. 

Perhaps FIFA’s reform programme will do away with the anachronistic IFAB. But for the time being, global football is stuck with it. Just as Scottish football is stuck with Neil Doncaster and Stewart Regan.

I think I need a drink…