Respected Hillsborough campaigner and criminologist Phil Scraton has urged the Scottish Football Association to back Livingston’s appointment of David Martindale as manager.
Martindale faces a hearing on Tuesday to determine whether he passes the SFA’s criteria for fit and proper club officials.
The 46-year-old continued a sensational start to life in management on Sunday when he led Livi into the Betfred Cup final thanks to a 1-0 victory over St Mirren.
That made it nine wins and two draws, both against Celtic, in the 11 games he has presided over since succeeding Gary Holt in November.
However, Martindale faces questions over his criminal past having been sentenced to six-and-a-half years in jail in 2006 for drugs and money-laundering charges.
Scraton, whose research and campaigning on the Hillsborough disaster was crucial in securing a verdict of unlawful killing of the 96 victims, said he wrote to the SFA “unsolicited” after watching an interview with Martindale on BBC’s Football Focus on Saturday.
In the letter to SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell, which has been published by Livingston, Scraton wrote: “Granted remission, it is clear in David Martindale’s case that the punitive element of his sentence had been realised.
“He admitted his guilt and in prison he took the opportunity to gain a university degree. His release laid the foundation for continuing rehabilitation which clearly has been successful.
“Almost a decade on, his progress at Livingston FC and his appointment as the club’s interim manager demonstrates the board’s confidence in his employment as a ‘fit and proper person’.
“I expect that Livingston’s confidence is based not only on the success of the club under his management, but also on how he has adjusted to working with players, all involved with the club and the media. His media statements have been contrite and show humility in the face of exceptional public scrutiny.
“I believe that within its grasp the Scottish FA has the opportunity to acknowledge David Martindale’s remarkable personal and professional transition.
“By accepting he passes the ‘fit and proper person’ test, the SFA not only, rightfully, would recognise his transition but also demonstrate to other authorities and employers that those who have committed serious offences, through their own efforts and with the support of others, can turn their lives around.”
Livingston welcomed the support, adding in a statement: “Phil Scraton is Professor Emeritus of law at Queen’s University Belfast.
“He sat on the Hillsborough Independent Panel, headed up its research and was primary author of the report.
“He has written extensively on the need to review the use of prison sentences, and is a long-time advocate of transformational justice.”
Martindale also received the backing of Livingston MP Hannah Bardell, who wrote to the SFA praising his openness and his commitment to rehabilitation.
The SNP politician wrote to SFA president Rod Petrie saying: “I hope you and those at the SFA considering David’s ability to undertake his new role will consider that he stands out as a figure who is proof that it is possible to turn your life around, be rehabilitated and move forward positively.
“Rehabilitation is a vital part of a civilised society and I know the SFA try to be a positive force in that regard.”
She also asked the SFA to “consider very carefully the public message it would send if, after the positive work David has done and the strides he has taken to become the manager and person he is today, he was not afforded the chance to continue on the path to success and positive change”.