An independent investigation has cleared SPFL bosses of wrongdoing over the ballot that saw Dundee vote decisively to end the Scottish lower league season.
In an open letter addressed to clubs, media and supporters, independent, non-executive SPFL director, Karyn McCluskey, revealed an inquiry by auditors, Deloitte, into phone records and email data had found “no evidence of improper behaviour by SPFL personnel concerning the submission of the Dundee FC vote.”
The Dark Blues have yet to comment on the investigation, which effectively cleared under-fire League chief Neil Doncaster and his staff of malpractice during the vote process.
However, Doncaster’s critics – most notably Rangers – are unlikely to remain silent.
Dee managing director John Nelms found himself at the centre of controversy on April 10 after Dundee’s original vote against the SPFL’s season-ending resolution was “quarantined” by the SPFL’s email server.
The subsequent events, which culminated five days later in Dundee switching from a “no” to a “yes” vote, were a subject of speculation and a source of rancour.
But Deloitte’s investigation has now revealed a timeline.
The letter revealing its results said: “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 £2 million 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.
“1. An SPFL board meeting 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.
“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.”
The letter, signed by McCluskey, a former senior police officer, concluded by warning: “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.”