SPFL sent warning as football chief lays bare the damaging financial pitfalls of ‘null and void’

Football chief Paul Lawler last night outlined the potentially chaotic consequences of declaring a league null and void.

Fans of clubs such as Rangers and Hearts want it enacted north of the border as the SPFL so far fail to reach an agreement on how best to conclude the 2019-20 campaign.

Null and void, however, is one nuclear option which has been kept well off the table.

South of the border, the threat of possible repayments totalling hundreds of millions to broadcasters alone made it a no-go area for the English Premier League.

However, as Lawler explained, financial implications from a null and void can devastate any tier of the game, even well down the pyramid in England.

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Scottish football crisis

The decision of the FA Council to take the stance with divisions below the EFL has sparked outrage and sponsors BetVictor have almost immediately ripped up an agreement with the National League.

The FA Council’s move also hit Lawler’s organisation the North West Counties Football League as the chief executive’s descriptions of how even the ninth-tier of the English game is affected gives a startling indication of what Scotland could face.

It’s not just sponsorship and broadcast where cash can be an issue. The National League’s complaints to the FA included South Shields seeking clarification on whether refunds for all tickets bought by supporters for those annulled games would be issued.

They asked about money being returned for costs accrued by clubs over the last six months for coach travel to away fixtures, which in their case amounted to approximately £20,000 for just one club.

In Lawler’s own letter to the FA on behalf of the NWCFC, questions ranged from lost sponsorships right through to refunding of fines for disciplinary issues which were gained in league matches which are now null and void.


If that image was to be mirrored in Scotland, what would it mean for clubs who have paid cash to launch an appeal against a red card or fight a Notice of Complaint which came about during a game which is declared null and void.

For example, Rangers were fined £10,000 over Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos’ Old Firm gestures during a game against Celtic in December and were also hit with a further £5,000 punishment for failing to control their players during a match against Hibs at Easter Road in the same month.

If those games were deemed not to have taken place, is that money refundable?

Is the money the Ibrox supporters paid to get into each of those matches refundable? Or the cash paid by any fan to watch any game this season which has been declared not to have actually been played?

Lawler can see justifiable reasons for anyone to think so if his take on what has happened at his level of the game is a guide.

To add insult to injury, he was told by the FA that the fines issued for misbehaviour would not be paid back to clubs, despite the records of the matches being wiped away for good.


Lawler explained how null and void can bring up various unconsidered issues as he told Record Sport: “The English Premier League has an awful lot of money involved, but there is also money invested at our levels and all other levels of the game. The principles are the same.

“People have invested hard-earned money into something that is declared null and void and that causes quite a lot of upset.

“Football-wise, it’s obvious. Some clubs have gained automatic promotion and others are in position to win promotion and it has been taken away, but there are a lot of other unintended consequences.

“That was my complaint to the FA. We rushed into a decision without thinking of those unintended consequences.

“While there are contractual matters with sponsors at Premier League levels, it’s the same for all levels. As a league, I’ve got it for our sponsors.

“Fortunately, we are close to ours and they are understanding of the position we are in, but from a finance point of view, that could have hit our league very hard if you had to pay money back for not finishing a season.

“Clubs have sponsors as well. If they have signed a sponsorship for a season and it is deemed for whatever reason not to have taken place, I’d guess they are within their rights to ask for that money back.]

“If you are a supporter and you have bought a season-ticket for your club, in theory, you are entitled to a refund on that because the club hasn’t fulfilled the contract that was agreed with the consumer.

“Now most football fans are resolute behind their clubs and won’t ask for it back. I haven’t heard about anyone asking at this stage, but it is the principle.

“It’s all in the same thing. Sponsors can come back for money, fans can come back for money, anyone who has paid for something that is deemed null and void has a valid point.

“Clubs quite rightly are saying are we going to get our money back because we have paid quite a lot this season in fines for a season which has technically now not taken place and our records from it have been expunged.

“The FA have said all Disciplinary matters stand for the season. It does seem a bit like double standards a bit.

“It feels like our decision was rushed. Up in Scotland, I know decisions haven’t been made yet and it’s been six weeks since football stopped, but we had to think more cleverly about how to solve this problem as it goes right through the system.”



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