Neil Doncaster must put fans first - Stewart Regan

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SCOTTISH Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan believes that Neil Doncaster, his counterpart at the SPFL, must put the fans first in future after a week of damaging decisions for the national game.

The SPFL was accused of compromising sporting integrity on Wednesday when they announced that Rangers’ final game of the season against Hearts at Tynecastle would take place on 3 May, 24 hours after the other Championship clubs had played their final fixture.

Stewart Regan: 'Challenge'. Picture: PA

Stewart Regan: 'Challenge'. Picture: PA

The switch, to accommodate a live broadcast by Sky, would have meant Rangers would have gone into that match knowing that they had to win by a certain margin in order to claim second place (and subsequently play two fewer play-off games) and it provoked fury from fans and officials of other clubs.

Regan has some sympathy for his fellow Englishman but argues that Doncaster must listen to supporters.

“It’s fair to say that the landscape we are in right now is challenging,” he said. “When you look at the numbers that the Premier League delivered in England it blows everything else out of the water. The Scottish football authorities – the league in particular – are fighting for what you would call the scraps from the table.

“I know that there is pressure being put on the BBC through a number of parties right now – including the Scottish Government – to try to see if there is any way to make an improvement in income that can be generated. But, at the end of the day, the broadcaster will only pay market rate for the product they are buying. We are trying to get that market rate back up by all of us collectively working on initiatives to improve Scottish football but it’s not going to happen overnight.

“I don’t think the SPFL are deliberately trying to cause issues. They are, at the moment, dealing with a challenging situation but they have to listen to the clubs, to the fans, to the needs of the broadcasters and sponsors as well. Fans have to come first, though. They have to be considered and, whatever solution is delivered, it has to be pragmatic. It has to try to please as many of these groups as possible.”

With potential play-off finalists Hibernian and Falkirk also facing each other in tomorrow’s Scottish Cup semi-final, there is also the prospect that the promotion issue may not be settled until June.

“Fixture congestion is becoming more and more of a challenge to the game,” said Regan. “We have recently set up a strategy working group with the Highland League and the Lowland League and the SPFL – and we are seeking input from Uefa – to try and see what can be done. For example, we can’t show any domestic matches on TV on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays in competition to Uefa matches.

“So, in the months leading up to Christmas and spring, we have some real challenges in terms of getting matches played.

“If you don’t get them played they back up and back up and then you reach the end of the season and you’ve got problems.”

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