HIBERNIAN chairman Rod Petrie is adamant there is no way the future of Scottish football will be carved up to help speed Rangers’ return to the top flight.
Petrie combines his roles at Easter Road, where he is currently filling in as interim chief executive, with that of chairman of the professional game board (PGB) of the SFA, where he is also second vice-president.
The PGB has been charged with finding a solution to the long-running wrangle over league reconstruction and has set up a working party following a meeting involving members of both the SPL and SFL last week. The SFL was first to release its latest plans for the way ahead, which involved a 16-10-16 structure of the leagues, greater use of end-of-season play-offs and a revised League Cup.
However, the SPL then announced counter-proposals that would see two leagues of 12 split into three divisions of eight midway through the campaign.
Speaking to supporters at Hibs’ annual general meeting on Monday night, Petrie admitted the SFL’s blueprint had “merit” but failed to address the financial issues raised by a significant reduction in matches from the current set-up. He went on to defend the SPL’s recipe for change to some sceptical shareholders and assured fans that the accusation that proposals were being made with Rangers’ elevation through the leagues in mind was well wide of the mark.
He said: “The landscape of Scottish football is changing. The SPL spent two years developing a strategy for all of Scottish football. At the end of the day, the SPL could not win over 11 of its 12 clubs, let alone the clubs which are members of other leagues. However, discussions are now being pursued in earnest between the SPL and the SFL under the auspices of the Scottish FA. There are two options which have been put forward in recent weeks. The SFL plan has merit, but on its own does not deal with the top clubs suffering a 20 per cent drop in the number of games, going from the 38 league games per season in the current set-up to 30 games per season under a 16-team league. Both (the SFL and the SPL) plans call for a change in the financial distribution model to reduce the huge financial difference which exists at present between the bottom of the SPL and the top of the SFL.
“A softer financial landing takes away the threat to the very survival of a club through relegation. Neither plan is being advanced as a mechanism to provide for the accelerated promotion of Rangers. There have been constructive discussions of late and more discussions are planned for the weeks ahead. Your club will continue to play its part in these discussions at the top table of Scottish football.”
Meanwhile, Hibs manager Pat Fenlon has reassured supporters he already has a plan B in mind should the club fail in their bid to hang on to their influential loan playuers Leigh Griffiths, Jorge Claros and Ryan McGivern.
Fenlon said: “We would like to strengthen the squad and there are specific areas we want to strengthen when we get to January. But, if the three loan players leave, there will obviously be more areas we will have to look at.
“In the next two or three weeks we will get close to knowing where we are with the loan players. We are very keen to keep them and from speaking to the players they are keen to stay, but we do have a back-up if we can’t keep the three boys.”