RANGERS manager Ally McCoist has branded the new league reconstruction proposal as “farcical” and urged Scottish Football League clubs to ignore financial inducements and vote against it.
Speaking for the first time about the plan for a 12-12-18 set-up announced earlier this week, McCoist insisted it would be against the principles of sporting integrity to put it in place for the start of next season as intended by the Scottish football authorities.
Under the structure, which has unified support from the boards of the Scottish FA, Scottish Premier League and SFL, Rangers would remain in the bottom tier of senior league football regardless of whether they win the Third Division title this season.
The proposal will require the backing of at least 22 of the 29 SFL clubs who currently have full voting rights. As an associate member following their admission to the SFL following their financial demise last year, Rangers are ineligible to vote.
It is believed most of the SFL clubs are prepared to accept the 12-12-18 set-up as it will see a return to one league governing body and a more equitable financial distribution model. For the clubs at the lower end of the SFL, there is also the incentive of being in the same division as Rangers again next season with the commercial benefits that brings.
McCoist, who regards the timing of the proposed change as an insult to the Rangers support who have filled grounds in the Third Division this season, still hopes SFL club chairmen will look beyond their projected bank balances when casting their votes.
“Sadly money talks,” said McCoist. “I would really have hoped that the SFL clubs would have shown complete unity. I’m not saying they haven’t, as nothing has been agreed yet. But what I would cry out for is the SFL clubs to show complete unity.
“Everybody talks about sporting integrity, so you can’t suddenly make this season meaningless. By all means move the goalposts but do it at the start of the season or the end of the season, not during the season.
“They are telling us there is still a lot of work to be done but they are also protecting themselves by prolonging the decision.
“As soon as they make a decision, our league is fish and chip paper. So if it is, please tell us now. But what they will do to save face is to wait and wait and wait until we have won the Third Division, or somebody has won it, and then say okay, it’s pointless.
“It’s a farce, it’s just farcical. You can’t do it. It’s just not right. The people who came up with the sporting integrity term must accept it’s not right.
“The ones who are getting the mickey taken out of them are the Rangers supporters. They have embraced the whole situation in the Third Division this season. Has it been ideal? No, of course not, but they have supported the club, they have completely supported the SFL, they have completely supported the SFL 3 teams and opposition, like they have us.
“Now they might get asked to do the same thing again next season. It’s a complete slap in the face to our fans. It would have to be a possibility that the crowds would dwindle away next season although, judging by the reaction of our fans this season, they would support us through thick and thin.
“They have been unbelievable, so you would expect them to be the same again. But would they be unbelievable going away from home, to places they’ve already been? I don’t know.
“Without naming any teams, if we are fortunate enough to get promoted, it would be very unfair to ask our fans to travel to the same places supporting us again. That is nothing against those teams, who have been wonderfully hospitable.
“Our fans are resigned, the club is totally resigned, to the idea of us coming back on this fantastic journey to the top flight of Scottish football.
“That’s what we’ve prepared ourselves for – three, two, one, back into the top league, whatever that may be. So straight away that has been taken away from us.
“The goalposts on that fantastic journey have been moved. It’s a magical mystery tour and it’s becoming more of a mystery.”
Irrespective of when the 12-12-18 set-up comes into place, McCoist believes it is flawed. His preference is for a 14-14-14 structure and he accepts change is required.
“Without even going into the top end of the 12-12-18, where there are a million problems with it, from where we are the club who are promoted with us, if we are lucky enough to win the Third Division, will also be punished.
“I’m not happy with 12-12-18. We could be here all day picking holes in it. What about a team finishing ninth in the top division, 15 points ahead of the team at the bottom, and then going into the second half of the season with zero points?
“Without going into great detail right now, I think three divisions of 14 is a better idea than what’s been suggested. I’d like more teams in the top division, although I understand it comes down to finances again. There is obviously a lot not right with the current set-up. Scotland haven’t qualified for a major championship since the SPL was formed in 1998. The SPL would argue that that’s got nothing to do with it, but it’s a fact.
“The vast majority of the Scottish footballing public feel that change is required. There will be different opinions on what that should be, and how radical the changes should be, but I’m of the opinion that change is required.
“You must listen to fans. You don’t have to agree with them. But everybody listened to their fans when it came time to decide on what to do with Rangers last year.
“So I would have thought it was an obvious thing to listen to your own fans when it comes to matters of your own football club, your own league.”