LIVINGSTON chairman Gordon McDougall has described the 12-12-18 league reconstruction proposal as “nonsense” and predicted it will fail to be approved by clubs in time for next season.
The Scottish Premier League hatched the controversial plan, which would see the top two divisions split into three groups of eight clubs halfway through a campaign, with backing from senior management at both the Scottish Football Association and Scottish Football League.
In order to be put in place for next season, it needs to be backed by 11 of the 12 current SPL clubs and then by 75 per cent of the 29 SFL clubs with voting rights (Rangers are currently associate members and cannot vote following their financial collapse last year and subsequent repositioning in the Third Division).
A meeting of SFL clubs is scheduled for Hampden this Thursday to discuss the proposal, although no vote will be taken at that stage. The SPL clubs are due to convene on 15 April to cast their votes, with some of them – notably Ross County and St Mirren – still far from certain to support 12-12-18.
“I don’t think it will take place for next season,” said McDougall. “We have got a meeting of the SFL clubs on Thursday and we will see where it goes from there. But I couldn’t ever see that it was going to be a starter for next season. Two votes against (from the SPL) and it’s gone. There are (SFL) clubs who would vote for it. That’s for their own reasons.”
The concept of splitting into three divisions of eight clubs halfway through a season was previously implemented in Switzerland but proved unpopular and was scrapped in 2003.
McDougall, a member of the SFL board, believes the ongoing debate over how Scottish league football will be constituted is having a negative impact on every club as they try to plan for the 2013-14 campaign. “You are trying to run a business, which is difficult enough,” added McDougall.
“But you have no idea what form of league you will be in next season, so you can’t sell season tickets.
“Even if it was decided to go ahead with the 12-12-18, and we were in the second 12 which will go into one of the three eights, how do you sell season tickets for that?
“It’s just nonsense. The longer it goes on, the more people are realising that.” The SPL board remain determined to push the plan through for the start of next season. According to one of the board members, Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson, if agreement is not reached now on reconstruction it will be many years before an opportunity for change arises again.
There are financial incentives for the leading SFL clubs to back the 12-12-18 proposal, with a redistribution of prize money throughout the top 24 clubs. But the formation of a new Scottish Professional Football League incorporating all 42 senior clubs would also see the end of the annual £2 million settlement agreement which has been paid by the SPL to the SFL since the top flight breakaway in 1998.
“They are just playing poker, aren’t they?” added McDougall. “They are calling your bluff. Why have they offered the change in the money in the first place? There are various aspects of it. The money that is being offered is simply the money which is currently paid to the SFL. It is just a different way of doing it for them. I think that is dawning on the rest of the clubs.”