THE SPFL have been cleared of any wrongdoing by an independent investigation following the recent ballot to end the seasons in the three leagues outwith the Premiership.
Championship outfit Dundee were at the centre of the turmoil during the vote when they missed the original 5pm deadline earlier this month.
Confusion over whether the Dens Park club had or had not participated which led to a weekend of chaos with an impasse in getting the resolution over the line.
The chain of events prompted Ibrox interim chairman Douglas Park and the Govan side to lead calls for a probe into the situation. The club also demanded the immediate suspension of chief-executive Neil Doncaster and legal adviser Rod McKenzie.
Aberdeen and Hearts, who face relegation, were also involved in asking for a probe into the vote.
However, an investigation conducted by auditors Deloitte has concluded the SPFL have NO case to answer.
They checked phone records, e-mails and texts to piece together the full picture from an extraordinary sequence of events that placed the balance of power into the hands of the Tayside outfit’s managing director John Nelms. His club eventually voted yes the following midweek to trigger the SPFL’s decision to call a halt to the Championship, League One and League Two.
Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers were awarded the titles for their respective divisions while Partick Thistle and Stranraer were relegated.
Hampden chiefs will hold a meeting on Monday to deliberate on the future of the top flight, but there is unlikely to be any firm decision on Celtic picking up their ninth successive crown. The Parkhead club face a further delay before the inevitable conclusion is reached.
In an open letter to all 42 senior clubs, the league body’s independent non-executive director Karyn McCluskey detailed the findings. She wrote:
“You will all be aware of reports in the press, calling for an independent investigation and for the suspension of SPFL’s chief executive Neil Doncaster and SPFL’s legal counsel Rod McKenzie in relation to the resolution that enabled the payment of nearly £2million to Championship, League One and League Two clubs.
“The focus of the questions raised in the press concerned the events of the evening of Friday 10 April, when Dundee FC attempted to return a voting slip to the SPFL in connection with the resolution.
“In order to ensure complete probity and independence during this process, on Thursday 16 April, Deloitte LLP, a leading global provider of audit and assurance services, was appointed by the SPFL’s independent non-executive directors to carry out a comprehensive and independent investigation into the factual chronology relating to Dundee FC’s return.
“Deloitte has completed its forensic investigation and the findings confirm the following sequence of key events on 10 April 2020.
“Sequence of key events on 10 April 2020.
“1. An SPFL board beeting commenced at 17:00 on Friday 10 April 2020. At the start of the meeting 38 returns had been identified as received, and 1 further return was received during the meeting at 17:10, bringing the total number of returns to 39. Ladbrokes Premier: 10 returns in favour, 1 against Ladbrokes Championship: 7 returns in favour, 2 against Ladbrokes Leagues One and Two: 16 returns in favour, 3 against.
“It was noted during the meeting that one vote remained outstanding from the Premiership, one from the Championship, and one from Leagues One and Two.
“2. The board meeting concluded at around 17:15.
“3. At 17:15, Neil Doncaster called Dundee FC managing director, John Nelms, and left a message asking whether Dundee FC intended to submit a return.
“4. At 17:39, Neil Doncaster had a conversation with John Nelms and confirmed that as far as he knew, no vote had been returned from Dundee FC. John Nelms thought Dundee FC’s vote may have been returned, but would make enquiries.
“5. At 17:50, Eric Drysdale (Dundee FC club secretary) spoke to Iain Blair (SPFL’s company secretary and director of operations) asking whether Dundee FC’s return had been received. Iain Blair confirmed that it had not.
“6. At 18:00, a text was received by Iain Blair, from Eric Drysdale, intimating that the Dundee FC vote should not be considered as cast.
“7. At around 20:30, Ian Blair accessed the SPFL’s email quarantine system (which is a feature of the email system operated by a separate third party) at the suggestion of Rod Mackenzie and identified an unread email from Eric Drysdale that had been sent at 16:48 on 10 April 2020. Iain Blair released the quarantined email and it appeared in his SPFL email inbox at 20:55.
“Prior to identifying the quarantined email at around 20:30, no one from the SPFL had seen the email from Eric Drysdale.
“Deloitte’s examination of phone records, mobile communications (including texts) and email data has identified no evidence of improper behaviour by SPFL personnel concerning the submission of the Dundee FC vote.
“I hope that Scottish football will now focus on the significant issues that face our game, otherwise many clubs may not survive this period.
“We will have to be forward-thinking, and work collegiately to quickly present ideas and proposals to Scottish Government and others which will enable Scottish football to recover and progress.
“Make no mistake, this is a critical time for all clubs, and we must concentrate on what is important to the future of our game.
“SPFL independent non-executive director”