SCOTTISH Football League chief executive David Longmuir insists a new league structure for the game could be in place for next season – but only if the clubs want it that soon.
Longmuir claims “anything is possible” but insists the 30 clubs in his set-up and 12 in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League must first agree over the controversial matter of timescale.
Third Division leaders Rangers have voiced their anger at suggestions a new league structure could be hurried through in time for next season, claiming their current campaign would be rendered meaningless if reconstruction means they will still be playing in the bottom tier of a new set-up.
Opinion on the matter was split yesterday as the SFL held its first round-table talks with all 30 of its members at Hampden.
Representatives from several clubs voiced differing views on the matter as they arrived for the meeting on the southside of Glasgow yesterday morning but they did agree to push forward with proposals for either a 12-12-18 set-up or an alternative involving two bottom leagues made up of ten teams each.
Longmuir, though, claims that, if consensus eventually points to a desire for an early start, it could yet happen. He said: “Any change is deliverable if there’s a will and a consensus to go for it.
“We want to see improvement in the game and that is ultimately our aim. The quicker we can bring that about the better. Whether it’s achievable or not for next year is another matter and that will be determined by what we can do over the next few weeks and months in terms of bringing the rules together.
“The board will get together over the next couple of weeks and see where we can take it.
“We will start the work now behind the scenes to take a look at the detail.”
Iain Dougan, the vice-chairman of Stranraer, is predicting a sudden change in pace.
“I would say they would be back in here within the fortnight to get a yay or nay on this,” he said, before voicing his confidence that the restructure could be done in time for next season.
“A lot of work is to be done but, if the clubs want it, I’m sure it can be done. If it’s not done for then, we’ll be back to the drawing board again.”
Despite there being no formal approval of the plans, Longmuir insists the Hampden meeting was not just another talking shop and pleaded with fans to show patience. He said: “This has been the first time that the SFL have had a chance to get together as a group since we started the dialogue on league reconstruction. You have got to give it some context in that respect.
“I’m pleased at the way the meeting ended up. We had very strong support to move forward to the next stage in the discussions with our colleagues in the SPL and the Scottish Football Association. We are now going to start looking at the detail of rulebooks and other areas you would expect when trying to combine two organisations.
“Nothing, though, has changed from an SFL perspective other than we have had an opportunity to have everybody from the SFL together – clubs talking to clubs, clubs listening to clubs. There was a distinct mood that we are still keen on a 42-club solution to take the game forward and that is what we got.
“We were talking principles yesterday – one league body, governance, distribution – and those were the things that were key. Now we have had a clear message that our members want to take forward the full detail and we will now look at a combined rulebook.
“That will not happen overnight. We will have to work on that and, at some point, we will have to bring it back in a more formal package to the 30 clubs and allow them to make a much-more informed decision. The talks have to happen because, when you are going to make a change as big as this, it’s important to get everybody with you. That takes time and small steps.
“Hopefully we will be able to take bigger steps later on.”