PETERHEAD manager Jim McInally has called on supporters of Third Division clubs to take legal action against the Scottish football authorities if the contentious 12-12-18 league reconstruction proposal is put in place for the start of next season.
The former Scotland midfielder is incensed that his team’s bid for promotion to the Second Division via the current play-off system may be rendered irrelevant by the immediate implementation of an 18-club National League for 2013-14.
McInally’s comments came as significant doubts began to emerge over whether the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League will receive the support they require from member clubs to push through the 12-12-18 plan which was announced last week in conjunction with the Scottish FA.
The SPL are scheduled to meet on 28 January with an 11-1 vote in favour needed to back the change, but Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson and St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour have both expressed reservations about the set-up, which is unpopular with supporters.
SFL clubs are due to gather on 31 January to consider the proposal. With Rangers ineligible to vote as associate members, 22 of the remaining 29 SFL clubs are needed to support it.
McInally, whose Peterhead side are currently third in the Third Division and on course for a play-off place, believes supporters of clubs in the bottom tier will have been paying for admission to matches under false pretences if 12-12-18 becomes a reality as soon as next season.
“If this league is made to be meaningless I would be one of many who would be upset,” said McInally. “If it does happen, I would hope that the fans would take the SFA, the SPL and the SFL to court as they have paid good money for something that would become a non-event.
“Supporters are the most important people in the game but they are not treated like that as TV companies run the game. Supporters should have a bigger say.
“The Third Division is a brilliant league apart from Rangers, who are running away with things as expected. It is really competitive and the football has been good and the clubs in the division should be proud of the football they have played this season. It should not become a non-event to suit someone else’s agenda.
“The Third Division clubs have enjoyed Rangers being there and the Second Division clubs will do so next year, with the First Division clubs doing so the following year. If clubs do things right, they will make more money from two home games against Rangers than they will through any new package.
“This is an SPL-driven change and the clubs in the SFL should be against it. I’m mad about it. But we’ve got to take it on the chin, because we’re a wee diddy team from the Third Division and no-one cares what we think.
“Thankfully, Rangers are there. I would like their chief executive Charles Green to get together with the other SFL clubs and put on a show of strength.”
There is also anger among SFL clubs over the lack of detailed information provided to them so far about the proposal. Cowdenbeath secretary Alex Anderson, whose club will assess the views of their support at a meeting on Thursday night, has written to SFL chief executive David Longmuir to complain about being left out of discussions so far.
“We, as a football club, will be asked to vote on an historic change to Scottish football but we have no detail from the SFA or the SFL,” said Anderson. “We can only read in the newspapers and make an opinion on what they are reporting.
“The clubs need to know the fine details in this proposal sooner rather than later – a breakdown of finance, ground criteria, etc.”
The notion of unity among SPL clubs over the proposal, expressed by their chief executive Neil Doncaster last week when he said all 12 had backed it, has also been called into question.
St Mirren chairman Gilmour insists that level of support was only given to look into the 12-12-18 plan, not to give its introduction the green light immediately.
“Contrary to popular belief, the clubs are not 100 per cent behind this,” said Gilmour. “What we voted on unanimously before was to take it to another level, to fully explore it – no more than that.
“We have all still to vote on whether we agree to it and I know a few of us feel that the exploration is a long way from being done.”