Good Afternoon Caley Thistle fans,
We write to you today to update you on the clubs plans moving forward and to reflect on what has sadly been a dark chapter in the history of the SPFL. It is important to note that throughout this difficult and stressful period we have done our utmost to act with honesty and integrity. We trust this has been apparent to you our loyal supporters and to the wider football community.
League Status Update
Fridays announcement on the collapse of the reconstruction talks was in our eyes, as inevitable as it was depressing. We have been in close contact with key members of the inordinately large “task force” since it’s inception. The incredible numbers co-opted onto the group at the outset was one of the reasons why we believed, perhaps understandably cynically, that it was being set up to fail from the very beginning and nothing we heard from our colleagues did anything to really dilute that opinion. When people you respect openly state shortly after the process started that they believe they are wasting their time and predict what they think will happen and ultimately did happen, it was hard not to share their disillusion.
It was in our opinion, entirely consistent with the disingenuous, incompetent shambles that began on Wednesday April 8th and we concur with the view of other clubs that not for the first time during this process, the breaking of the news prior to it being formally made known to those who would be damaged the most was a disgrace.
We won’t revisit the entire farrago or look to address all of the the arrogant, aggressive, mismanagement of what has been a stain on the reputation of the SPFL but we will try to enlighten everyone with regards to the stance we took at the beginning of this grossly mismanaged process.
When the club was given notice of the Championship club zoom conference call which was due to take place on the 8th April, there was no indication of what was to be discussed at all. There is nothing unusual in that as previous club conference calls had all been general updates. Rumours began to circulate on the night of the 7th that we would be asked to vote on clubs being relegated in order for fee payments to be paid out. We spoke to a fellow Championship club that evening for confirmation of this and they told us that they too had also heard the rumour and they were so alarmed that they had actually asked our SPFL Board representative if it was true. He assured them it was mere speculation and so while we were wary, we did not believe it could be possible as we had all been talking about finding a solution which allowed for no individual club being put in a worse situation than we were all already in.
It was a huge shock on the morning of Wednesday the 8th when STV was leaked the story that we would in fact be voting to relegate Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer but not Brechin City and we would have 2 and a half days to either do it, or come up with an alternative solution – something the SPFL Executive were insisting was simply impossible anyway. We were then promised that this critically important and lengthy resolution document would be with us prior to all of the divisional meetings starting at around noon. The Premiership clubs were dialling in at noon, the Championship at 1pm, the 1st Division at 2pm and Division 2 at 3pm.
We believe that the Premiership clubs were not furnished with the document until after their meeting ended at 1pm which is quite astonishing. Our meeting was delayed until several minutes after 1pm due to what seemed like a panicked and delayed information dump of the resolution to all clubs and the press and after the usual preambles and our SPFL CEO finished speaking, we were left with less than 30 minutes to ask questions on a crucial document which we were frantically trying to speed read, while at the same time listen to the complex “reasoning” that was being given by our SPFL CEO and our SPFL legal advisor. In short, they presented the resolution as the only option. Numerous times the phrases “a gun to our head” or “take it or leave it” were used by various clubs on the call, including by ICTFC.
Without going into the specifics at this time, please know that 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.
We believe that serious questions remain over the actions of the MD of one club during the now infamous vote on April 10th and what happened between the submission of their legally binding ‘No’ vote before the fake 5pm deadline and 5 days later when they became the only club out of 42 to have “negotiations” with the CEO and Chairman of the SPFL and with “big hitters” or persons unknown, before being allowed to vote for a second time. This time to carry the SPFL Board’s resolution with a Yes vote. A genuinely independent investigation is the only possible route to try and uncover what happened and it may or may not reveal the reasoning behind their apparently contradictory statements since then.
To be absolutely clear, since the shutdown on Friday 13th of March by the SFA, the BOD and Management of ICTFC has had and still have no issue with the clubs in 1st place of each division being awarded the league title if there is no possibility of winning those titles on the field of play, none whatsoever. We had and have absolutely no issue with any other club in the the SPFL voting anyway they felt was correct, none whatsoever. We have excellent relations with most clubs and this was never an us and them situation until the SPFL hierarchy made it thus. The fatal flaw in this whole process in our opinion was the conflation of two different things, that being the advancement of league fees in any shape or form by the SPFL and the forced relegation or expulsion of Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer but not Brechin City. That is why we supported the alternative but ultimately stymied Rangers resolution along with Hearts. We were trying to separate the two as we believe they could and should have been all along. This would have given us time to step back and talk to one another about exploring the options which would allow for the least damage to our fellow members.
Since then, we too believe that questions must be asked about the failure of the officers and Board of the SPFL in its primary duty of care to ALL 42 of its members, as has been stated by many other clubs in public but more often in private. The repeated use of the yes voting 81% as a validation of the Board’s position is risible at the very best. If a vote is seen as a gun to your head and if you don’t vote yes you will be financially disadvantaged during a complete industry shutdown with zero revenue coming in to any club and subsequently 81% vote for it, that does not validate the SPFL Board’s resolution, far from it. In effect you are voting under financial duress and it is disingenuous to continue to repeat that figure without putting it in that context. This however seems to be a consistent SPFL trope for a number of years now.
Appallingly, the SPFL Chairman and the SPFL CEO have also used their office to attack SPFL member clubs who did not agree with arguably the most important resolution in the history of the SPFL and it’s utterly botched aftermath and they have deliberately and shockingly chosen to do so in public. And in what looked suspiciously like a co-ordinated attack, all the while calling for unity and solidarity!? It is also bemusing to hear them so publicly state they are unaware of any threats or bullying during the period of the 9th or 10th of April when the CEO knows what happened as it was reported to him and they continue to accuse anyone who spoke out against this take it or leave it offer as having an agenda which should be questioned!
We fully admit to having an agenda, that is that no fellow member of the SPFL should be more financially damaged than we all already have been since the complete shutdown of our industry. We believed that no club should have been relegated or expelled during an unfinished season. We were not prepared to vote for that, even though we would have received the 2nd highest amount of fees in the entire 30 club payout – we could not do it. It was, in our opinion, a wretched resolution with wretched consequences but given the circumstances and manner it was presented in, we can totally understand why so many clubs voted for it. Very many had no choice because of the desperate need for finance and openly said so.
It is stating the obvious when we say that the pandemic was not the fault of the SPFL Board and leadership, but what happened next most certainly was. To criticise member clubs who they are employed to represent equally and who had the outlined agenda above would again seem to raise serious questions about the agenda of those criticising us.
The fact is that while the ICT management, players, staff, and supporters were also going to lose the opportunity to win our way into the Scottish Premiership via the play-offs, being in the semi-final position as we were, this was barely ever mentioned as the consequences for others were so dreadful. Similarly the other play-off positioned clubs in all the other divisions as well as the Highland and Lowland League candidate clubs were all deprived of their shot at glory and a return on their sporting and financial investment. Something we all worked so hard for throughout the season. We understood that if there was no way for anyone to properly go on and win a title or promotion on the pitch during a global pandemic then so be it. We believed that would be looked at favourably and reasonably addressed via reconstruction talks and as we are in extraordinary times, perhaps the extreme financial damage and the lack of sporting integrity this resolution was creating would have been taken into consideration.
We now know that a number of Premiership clubs have put an end to that opportunity and that was their prerogative although this decision will now cost Hearts, Thistle and Stranraer huge additional financial damage. We find these forced demotions abhorrent and utterly beyond our Board’s belief in fairness and sporting integrity. Our heart goes out to each of the wrongly expelled clubs and their fans but especially to those who in the coming days and weeks will lose their jobs and livelihoods because of this. They are fellow SPFL members and colleagues of all of us who work in the game. This did not need to happen and they have been let down badly.
Tuesday will bring forward the next stage of this process when all 42 clubs will vote again, this time on a straight forward resolution re an independent investigation with perhaps the last opportunity to discover how and why things went so badly wrong from the beginning and who was responsible but please be assured that ICTFC will move forward regardless of how that vote goes. One thing is certain, with regards to the governance and leadership of the SPFL, we all deserve better.
As previously stated, at Caledonian Stadium the club has a small team of staff which has not been furloughed as we have continued to work on plans for our future and for what happens once we have a little more certainty in the football world and in the real world outside of it. We have held virtual Board Meetings to keep the Directors up to speed and to take their council as we face the challenges the rest of the football world faces. Many fans have asked us about Season Ticket sales for next season and in all honesty, we did not want to go out to the support with these until we had more certainty re which division we would be in and more importantly having at least a steer on when we may start playing football again. We now have certainty in one area re our participation in the Championship but less so on the restart of the new season. That said, having listened to the fans and their huge desire to help the club, we will fast forward our Season Ticket options and get the information out to you in the next week or so. We will also have exciting news to announce this month re a new technical partner and this will have a huge impact on our retail offering both in-store at Caley Stadium and online.
We will also go live next week with a number of opportunities for fans to make a financial difference to the club by making a purchase of some fantastic but strictly Limited Edition items and we will also be able to announce some interesting news re our ICT25 Memberships. We will also be launching our Player of the Year vote online this coming week when fans can vote for their favourites. Through no fault of our own we have lost our summer concerts this year but we are already in talks re some exciting new gigs at Caley Stadium in the summer of next year and we are at contract stage with two new commercial partners so there is still a lot to be positive about.
Towards the end of our Board meeting last week, one of our Directors commented if it was fair to say that the club, as a business was still in survival mode and we all agreed that we most certainly are. The Govt furlough scheme which has been such a Godsend for all businesses is due to end in June and with no end in sight for the lockdown, we continue to try and navigate the club through unchartered waters. The chaos and uncertainty created by our own League since the start of April has not helped any Scottish club but we believe that if our hard work and the plans we have come to fruition, then our future can be secured but it would be a lie to say that anything is guaranteed.
We will need your backing like never before but our final thought is for the safety of you and your families, loved ones and colleagues. Please stay safe, stay strong and thank you for all of your generosity and support so far. It will not be forgotten.
We know you will continue to support the club even in times of hardship for all of us because it is what you do in the spirit of TogetherNess
Scot Gardiner Ross Morrison