SPL chief: 12-12-18 plan is only way forward

SPL Chief executive Neil Doncaster. Picture: Ian Rutherford

SPL Chief executive Neil Doncaster. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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SCOTTISH Premier League chief executive Neil Doncaster has argued that controversial reconstruction proposals will give fans what they want – and that no other plan has a chance of success.

SPL and Scottish Football League clubs backed the radical plan at meetings last month and Doncaster expects both groups to vote on concrete proposals in March. Plans for a 12-12-18 structure, with the top two divisions splitting into three after 22 games, have failed to capture the imagination of many supporters and have been met with fierce criticism by some, but Doncaster stressed that a 16-team league was “financially unaffordable” and that there was not enough support for a 14-team top league.

The SPL chief warned that the more popular elements of the plan would be lost if it was rejected. Doncaster said on BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound programme last night: “Fans tell us they want a single merged league, an all-through and more equitable distribution model, play-offs, a pyramid structure, significantly more relegation and promotion, and more meaningful games. The only way we can achieve that is through consensus and we are only going to get consensus through this model.

“If people want these changes, that everyone says they want, we need consensus and the vast majority of the 42 clubs to vote in favour of the package. There were some clubs that would perhaps want a bigger league. But they know we need consensus. If you put a 14-team model on the table you’re not going to get consensus.”

Doncaster pointed out that Hibernian’s biggest Easter Road attendance last season was a televised game on a Monday night, when they secured their SPL status with victory over Dunfermline.

And he argued that the determination to avoid the middle eight among the top-flight clubs, and “scramble” to finish in the top four thereafter, would attract more fans and television companies, despite concerns over resetting points to zero after 22 matches.

The 12 SPL clubs gave Doncaster unanimous backing to take the plans forward and he rejected suggestions that the failure to hold a formal vote was a sign of weakness.

He said: “They want a rule book in front of them, they want to know exactly what’s in place and what it means for them. You can’t vote on a concept – you can vote on a rule book.”

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