RANGERS chief executive Charles Green has come out in favour of three leagues of 14, arguing that such a set-up has far greater backing from football supporters than the 12-12-18 proposal which will be voted on at the end of the month.
The Ibrox club also want any reconstruction to be delayed until the start of the 2014-15 season rather than being implemented this summer.
On a statement posted on the Rangers website, Green also moved back from his assertion last week that the club should quit the Scottish game. Instead, he suggested that was one option among many to be considered in the longer term.
”The recent widespread debate on the reconstruction of Scottish football has been welcome and I am glad that Ally McCoist and myself have contributed and helped stimulate discussion rather than watch everyone sleepwalk into a solution that very few, if any, football fans across Scotland want,” Green began. “I am fully aware that the interests of fans and the duties of directors of football clubs, who have to balance books, do not always align. However, it seems absurd that, when most fans are so implacably opposed to the 12-12-18 model, their views are being cast aside.”
Insisting that self-interest was not the only motive behind Rangers’ support for three divisions of 14 clubs, Green pointed out that such an arrangement would not take his club closer to the top flight than they would otherwise be. Under that system or 12-12-18, the Third Division leaders would still be two promotions away from the top flight – as would also be the case if they won their championship and the status quo remained.
“To be absolutely clear, it would have been easy for me, on behalf of Rangers, to support this [12-12-18] model,” he continued.
“There is no model on the table that offers our club a potentially quicker route back to the highest echelons of Scottish football. However, I believe that while all clubs have to look out for their own interests, the greater good of Scottish football cannot be ignored. I would like to set out what Rangers believes to be a workable way forward that may appeal to fans of all clubs.
“First, we think any reconstruction should be implemented not next season but the following season so that every club knows what it is playing for at the start of the season. Secondly, we believe that further consideration should be given to a 14-14-14 model, which can be constructed in a way that ensures there is no loss of games but will deliver greater competition through the leagues, particularly with the implementation of play-offs.
“I cannot understand why this model has been so readily discounted when fans are clearly looking for larger leagues. I know there are various opinions regarding splits in such leagues, but they cannot be any more complicated than what is now being proposed.
“Finally, I am fully aware of the unique challenges a club the size of Rangers face in Scotland. That is why we must explore all options for the long term, including playing outwith Scotland. Of course, that is not something anyone is expecting could happen tomorrow, but, over time, things are likely to change in football and we must be ready for such potential outcomes. In the meantime, we hope that the powers that be in Scottish football pay heed to the views of supporters who are telling them loud and clear to think again.”
Although the proposers of the 12-12-18 solution are taking nothing for granted, there has been a steady, if less than wholehearted, movement towards agreeing that it should be implemented. The Scottish Football League clubs, and chief executive David Longmuir, had originally proposed three 14s, but at a meeting with SPL counterparts last week agreed they should consider 12-12-18 instead.
Opponents of the model advocated by Green have suggested that any split in a division of 14 teams would be unwieldy. A post-split division into two sevens would leave a club in either half inactive during every round of fixtures, A 6-8 split could leave the clubs in places seven to ten with little to play for, and an 8-6 split has not found favour with some of the SPL’s bigger clubs.
Green did not spell out which kind of split Rangers supported, apparently preferring that the issue should be thrashed out in detail by clubs working together, His argument that supporters favour three divisions of 14 to two of 12 and another of 18 has been borne out in a number of straw polls, but the strength of opposition to the latter set-up is harder to quantify, and it is debatable whether fans of SPL clubs feel as strongly about this issue as they did about Rangers’ staying in the SPL – a possibility which provoked a fierce backlash last season.
Leading SPL officials have accepted that, if anything, most fans want a larger top flight than the 14 suggested by Green, not a smaller one. Their understanding is that supporters would prefer their clubs to play every opponent once at home and once away in a league of at least 16 teams, with more probably favouring 18, but those officials still insist that such a large league would be unworkable economically.