Hearts have warned that Scottish football is in “real danger of speeding up the demise of the game” if reconstruction plans are not voted through next week.
The Edinburgh club, who only avoided liquidation before Christmas because of £1million-plus from fans, have outlined their reasons for backing a merged league structure with a more even distribution of wealth.
Hearts believe the mid-season split, by which two top leagues of 12 will divide into three, will provide “increased competition amongst the top 24 professional clubs in Scotland with almost every game at every stage in the season having value to spectators, broadcasters and sponsors”. In a statement on their website, the club added: “The new proposed league will allow the game to benefit from potential new revenues that do not currently exist. This in turn provides valuable additional income that is distributed amongst the clubs.
“This is guaranteed income which is crucial for clubs when predicting cash- flow projections for the new season.”
St Mirren say they will vote against and Ross County were against but have not affirmed their final position.
Only two of the 12 Scottish Premier League clubs need to block the proposals on Monday before they can go to the Scottish Football League, but Hearts warned of the consequences of a veto.
“Crowds are dropping at games, audience figures are dropping with broadcasters and commercial income is dropping as a result of both these factors,” they said. “Quality on the pitch is being affected by the pressure on clubs’ revenues and we are in real danger of speeding up the demise of the game if we don’t change to the new model.”
The model has been years in the making with previous ideas failing to achieve the consensus the SPL appeared to have in January. Hearts said: “It’s true, though, there is a greater risk of relegation for every club in the current SPL with, being realistic, the exception of Celtic. This, together with the acceptance to redistribute base income across 24 clubs as opposed to 12, shows just how seriously SPL clubs view the need to change the game as a whole for the betterment of Scottish football.”
Surveys say fans want bigger leagues but Hearts estimate they would lose £1m in gate money alone with a 16-team top flight. They added: “Structures with a smaller number of clubs have proved to be undeliverable. Additionally, this would not be of interest to supporters who would rather see more games against different clubs if possible.
“Structures with a larger number of clubs do not provide the required number of league matches, do not deliver improved commercial opportunities, can lead to more meaningless matches and would have a negative impact on the revenues of clubs from both match day and central sources.”
Austria and Switzerland dropped a similar system, but Hearts said: “…whilst the format proved to be very exciting and competitive, they changed to smaller ten-team top divisions for other reasons. The 12/12 structure has been designed to address the specific challenges faced by Scottish football.”