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FROM DUSK TILL YAWN; SPFL IS BORN OUR MAN ON HOW SUITS TOOK 15 HOURS OFF HIS LIFE.

Byline: HUGH KEEVINS Record Sport reporter on his longest day spent holed up at Hampden as he waited for the SPL and SFL to do a deal

IT was one minute to midnight when what the forces of law and order describe as a hostage situation finally came to an end.

The front door of Hampden's main entrance was opened and 30 delegates of First, Second and Third Division clubs, along with representatives of the media, were released into captivity 15-and-a half hours after they had entered the building.

The wait had been created by what had been feared at one stage would be interminable meetings between lawyers representing the SPL and the SFL.

And the end came when legal agreement was reached on the merger of both and the new SPFL was born on the same day the old Scottish League passed away at the age of 123.

A momentous, history-making episode in the story of Scottish football.

Or at least it was until I sat in the passenger seat of a taxi, clocked the time on the dashboard, and heard the driver say, "What was going on in there, Hugh?" Fifteen-and-a-half hours lost from a life at a fairly advanced stage, and non-reclaimable at the check-out on the Day of Judgment, had been devoted to dutifully detailing the next chapter for our game.

And now the realisation dawned there were some people who were blissfully unaware there was even a meeting taking place.

But the next question crystallised the situation even further.

"How will that affect the Rangers?" he asked in reply to the information a new league set-up was now in place. "Will they be back in the Premier League sooner?" The moral to the story is it's not reconstruction, or a shift in the balance of power, that exercises the minds of the fans.

The game for them is about their favourite players and their clubs. The suits don't count.

But if order is to emerge from chaos, and the game's structure is to be redrawn, then the suits are important.

TURMOIL And how you inhabit time and space is crucial when you're there to chart every step of the way towards the dawn of a new era.

The first meeting of the SFL board had taken place at 8.30am.

The delegate from Arbroath had assumed merger was what they know at Gayfield Park as a fait accompli so he'd taken the train to Glasgow.

But his travel plans were immediately thrown into turmoil when the SFL board decided there were serious grounds for concern on financial matters relating to the proposed union with the SPL.

And so it became clear by lunchtime the last train for Arbroath would leave Glasgow without the man from Gayfield.

At four o'clock another meeting was called to order and it was explained due diligence was still an issue and matters remained firmly unresolved.

Another adjournment brought Ayr's managing director Lewis Grant back up into the foyer from the Hampden auditorium.

Lewis, a man of scholarly bearing, sat beside the Press for company, borrowed the Daily Record and proceeded to complete the crossword without so much as a request for help with any clue. His composed air was an essential requirement by then.

The hot food had been put away for the night in the Hampden Museum's cafe and the great and the good, including Rangers' chief executive Craig Mather, were turned away when his request for a cappuccino fell on unresponsive ears.

Seven o'clock was the next scheduled time for updating the delegates but the lawyers - on a reputed PS250 an hour - were unable to expedite matters and the caffine-starved group started to take on a restive air.

This unease manifested itself when the man from Raith Rovers, Eric Drysdale, came over with a moan about Gary Ralston's Outside The Box column from June 15, mistaking me for the Press Complaints Commission.

But you know the wait has been too long, and exacted too great a toll, when the man from the BBC and the one from Sky Television start exchanging spectacles to see how they would suit each others' Gregory Pecks.

SANITY A satisfactory conclusion to the day, or even a punch-up in the auditorium over Resolution Three and its effect on people's sanity, was vital by that stage.

And so, after the media had gathered in front of the TV in the foyer to watch the penalty shoot-out between Spain and Italy from Brazil, it was a joy to hear an end was in sight. This information wasn't relayed by any SPL media liaison person - they had left us floundering in the dark from morning until night - but via a text message secretly released from the auditorium to the foyer.

At 11.45 the delegates stumbled up the stairs and glimpsed the Hampden car park like men in the desert who'd spotted an oasis.

The deed had been done. The deal had been concluded. We now had an SPFL and, no, it doesn't move Rangers up the ladder any faster than before.

It's a good woman who waits up for her husband with a decent glass of red in one hand and a hot pizza in the other when he returns from work the day after he left.

"Where were you again?" she said.

History made. Night, night.

CAPTION(S):

OLD TIMER J Hugh Keevins sat around with hours on his hands as the great and the good, top, decided Scottish football's future and snacked on pizza
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 29, 2013
Words:921
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