The Scottish Professional Football League has defended chairman Murdoch MacLennan by insisting he has acted “impeccably” during his business links with a company connected to Celtic majority shareholder Dermot Desmond.
League chiefs were forced to respond after Rangers chairman Dave King reiterated his call for an investigation into MacLennan’s recent appointment as non-executive chairman of Irish-based Independent News & Media Group (INM).
Desmond is listed as a major shareholder in INM – which publishes titles including the Irish Independent and Belfast Telegraph – along with Denis O’Brien, who has a minor stake in Rangers’ Parkhead rivals.
King made his initial demand for a probe on Tuesday, when he claimed MacLennan’s new role was a conflict on interest, before following it up on Wednesday with a second statement which alleged MacLennan had not informed SPFL board members of the two Celtic shareholders’ interest in INM.
“We need to be told if the SPFL chairman chose not to disclose the conflict,” King said
“If it transpires that he did in fact make the required disclosure then to whom did he address this and why did that person not relay this critical information to SPFL board members?”
The SPFL – which quickly slapped down the Gers’ chiefs demands on Tuesday – has now followed up once more with a lengthy statement backing its chairman.
“Rather than attempt to communicate through the media, it is far more appropriate that any substantive issues are presented to the SPFL board for careful and detailed consideration, based on a sound legal analysis of the
facts,” it said.
“To date, there has been no such representations to the SPFL board and it notes Mr King’s statement of 30 May.
“In its statement of 29 May, Rangers FC claimed ‘a business relationship’, existed between the SPFL Chairman and minority shareholders in a SPFL club, despite no evidence of such a relationship being presented. There is no mention
of the previously claimed ‘business relationship’ in the 30 May statement.
“In the 30 May statement the central allegation has now become that ‘there was non-disclosure of the conflict that immediately arose when the SPFL Chairman accepted’ his appointment as a non-executive director of International News & Media PLC (IN&M plc). As with the 29 May statement, no detail was provided to support this allegation.
“Within the space of about 24 hours two different and very public allegations have been made against the SPFL chairman without, in either case, an approach first being made to the SPFL with concerns or seeking clarification.
“The existence of a conflict of interest and the steps to be taken where it arises in a company context are set out in the Companies Act 2006. There has been no attempt to explain the factual basis of the claim that a conflict of interest, or circumstances which might reasonably have been regarded as likely to give rise to a conflict of interest, had arisen.
“The facts are that minority shareholders in IN&M plc also hold minority shareholdings in Celtic plc, which in turn holds just over 2% of the shares in the SPFL.
“The chairman of the SPFL holding a non-executive position on the board of IN&M plc, does not constitute the basis for the existence of a conflict of interest or of circumstances which might reasonably have been regarded as likely to give rise to a conflict of interest, on the part of the SPFL chairman.
“The provisions relating to the criteria for appointment of a chairman of the SPFL and for an appointed chairman of the SPFL to be entitled to continue in office are set out in the Articles of Association of SPFL Limited. The chairman fulfilled those criteria on appointment and continues so to do.
“As the above analysis shows, the SPFL chairman has behaved impeccably in this matter and in keeping with good corporate governance.”