McLean takeover provokes inquiry

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Jim McLean returned to football yesterday with his consortium's bitter takeover of Dundee United and walked straight into an investigation.

The Scottish Premier League insists that it will now join forces with the Scottish Football Association to look into the incident involving the United legend McLean and the BBC reporter John Barnes.

McLean resigned as chairman at Tannadice Park in October 2000 after the fracas with Barnes following a home defeat to Heart of Midlothian. However, his resignation meant that the football authorities could not look into the incident.

The Dundee United chairman, Doug Smith, lost control to McLean's consortium after shareholders voted in favour of the move during yesterday's emergency meeting.

McLean called for the meeting to oust the current directors and, with McLean holding 42 per cent of the shares and the consortium 54 per cent, the result was never in doubt. Shareholders voted 55.3 per cent in favour of the takeover.

The result means a return of the 65-year-old McLean as a director, while Scott Carnegie will become the new chairman.

McLean became manager of United in 1971. They beat Aberdeen to win the Scottish League Cup in 1979 – the first honour in the club's history. Four years later they won the Premier League with a last-day victory over Dundee.

McLean led United to European fame before becoming managing director and chairman in 1988 while still retaining overall control of the team. He finally gave up management to concentrate on other roles in 1993. A 4-0 home defeat to Hearts in October last year led to his resignation as chairman, which was followed by the altercation with Barnes.

An SPL spokesman said: "Following the incident between Mr McLean and a BBC reporter, Mr McLean notified us that he would be stepping away from the game, having resigned his position as chairman of Dundee United.

"Given this clear undertaking, we agreed to suspend any potential sanctions. However, we made it clear we reserved the right to revisit the matter should Mr McLean reverse his decision.

"We will now examine the situation again, working in conjunction with the SFA, and it is likely that a disciplinary committee will be formed to investigate the matter further."

The SFA will wait until the return of McLean is confirmed with it before any investigation can take place.

The 65-year-old McLean has had a heart bypass operation and has been told by doctors not to jeopardise his health by returning full-time.

A club spokesman, Malcolm Brown, said: "Jim McLean is here for the short term and his health does not dictate anything other than that. If you speak to his doctor he would say that his return is for as short term as possible and that's the only guarantee.

"We hope to work closely with the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Premier League and we will stress that this short-term move is for the good of Dundee United.

"Now we will continue to look for any individuals who are looking to buy Jim McLean's shares and come in as new directors and we see that as the future of the club."

Brown believes the public squabbling could have been avoided and expressed his regret that the consortium had to call for the EGM. "Personally this is not the greatest experience that I have had to go through," he said. "This should have never taken place because I believe the board should have stood down."

But after disclosing the results, the former chairman fired a parting shot at McLean and his fellow consortium members. "For this to happen is despicable and not in the best interest of Dundee United, or its shareholders and anybody that supports that should be ashamed of themselves," Smith said.

The managing director, Bill Littlejohn, also expressed his sadness at events, but he vowed to keep supporting the club in their bid to recapture former glories.

Littlejohn said: "I wish the club all the best and the manager and I have some very happy memories of supporting Jim McLean as manager and I am sad it has come to this. But we are still supporters and we will continue to support the club for the rest of our lives."

The manager Alex Smith has the backing of the new board. McLean and Carnegie were not present at the EGM, but Brown said: "The fact is that there has been a month of speculation about Alex's position. That speculation has never once come from the consortium, but others to make mischief. Alex will continue to be the manager." United are eighth in the Premier League and travel to Motherwell on Saturday.