Football: Dundee dilemma deepens, says SPL

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ROGER MITCHELL, the Scottish Premier League's chief executive, admits he has no idea what is happening at Dundee but said there were major concerns surrounding Giovanni di Stefano's proposed takeover of the club.

Faced with the possibility of being thrown out of the SPL on 31 July, Dundee have been forced into committing pounds 2m to badly needed improvements to their Dens Park ground.

It has not been made clear where the money is coming from and the continuing involvement of Di Stefano has further complicated matters.

The Italian businessman, who has close contacts with the Serbian paramilitary leader Arkan, who has been indicted for war crimes, has stated his intention to buy the club as soon as Dundee's owners, Jimmy and Peter Marr, allow him to do so.

Dundee's supporters would normally be aghast at such a proposal but the alternative appears to be some kind of takeover by city rivals United, something the Dark Blues' fans find even more abhorrent.

A deadline for Di Stefano to take control of the club passed yesterday without further development and, on the day the SPL chose to unveil their league championship trophy, Mitchell admitted he did not know what was going on.

"We have asked Dundee for clarification of Di Stefano's possible role in the club and we expect that either today or tomorrow," he said.

"Legally we do not have any power to do anything against any investor in Dundee. However, considering this man's background you would have to be very wary for his motives for buying into the club. Our country is at war with his associates and we want to keep the SPL free from anything that may be in effect a political tool."

Mitchell was also insistent that Dundee would be drummed out of the SPL if they failed to meet the deadline.

The club were six weeks late starting the construction work and there have been suggestions that a ground-sharing deal with Airdrie, some 80 miles away, could be in the offing.

"The legal ball started rolling 18 months ago and Dundee knew that," said Mitchell. "If they don't meet the 31 July deadline they are effectively expelling themselves.

"If there are any doubts at all about the work being completed they must come to the SPL and the matter will be voted on fully by the clubs."

There are no fears that the new pounds 35,000 SPL trophy will be adorning the Dens Park boardroom in the foreseeable future, with Rangers and Celtic the only possible first recipients. The trophy, designed by Magnus Finlayson, weighs 20 kilos.

"It is a great symbol of the role the Bank of Scotland is playing in the development of Scottish football," said Mitchell.

"The SPL has established its rightful position and the senior clubs are now being heard."

The Hibernian manager, Alex McLeish, has written to the club's fans asking them to dig into their pockets for season tickets to help him buy new players for the Premier League.

The manager of the First Division champions has been promised all the turnstile and ticket money by the Easter Road board for new players for the return to the top flight.

McLeish has urged fans to back his newly promoted side, and help to build a team to challenge for honours in the . In a letter to supporters he said: "Season ticket money goes a long way to plan for the squad I need. The fans can help by purchasing a season ticket."

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