THE combined rule book for a proposed 12-12-18 league set-up in Scottish football next season has confirmed there will be no fast-track route for Rangers back to the top flight.
The first draft of rules for the new body, which would incorporate all 42 current senior clubs and be called The Scottish Professional Football League, also reveals there will be no championship trophy up for grabs for clubs in the middle tier of the new structure.
The initial copy of the combined rules document, which was distributed to clubs this week and is subject to revision, has been obtained by The Scotsman.
It formalises the composition of the controversial set-up, devised by the board of the Scottish Premier League and backed by the senior management of the Scottish Football League and Scottish Football Association.
The unified SPFL, which would see the clubs in one league body again for the first time since the SPL breakaway in 1998, is intended to be put in place for the start of next season. It will require an 11-1 vote in favour from the current SPL clubs and then 75 per cent backing from the 29 SFL clubs eligible to vote – Rangers are ineligible due to their status as associate members of the SFA following their liquidation – if it is to go ahead.
The rule book states that the 12 clubs in the top division for the 2013-14 campaign will be the first 11 clubs in the current SPL and the champions of this season’s SFL First Division.
The second division of 12 clubs next season will be made up of the club relegated from the current SPL, the eight clubs finishing from second to ninth place in the current First Division, the champions of the current Second Division and the winners of two play-off ties.
The draft document states the club who finish second bottom of the current First Division would go into the play-offs, but that is a clerical error. Those play-off ties would therefore be between the club who finish bottom of the current First Division and the fourth-placed club in the Second Division; and the second and third-placed clubs in the Second Division.
This season’s Third Division play-offs will not take place if the proposal is approved. The new 18-team third tier will be comprised of the losers of the two Second Division play-off ties, the bottom six clubs in the Second Division and all ten clubs in the Third Division. That means Rangers, as Third Division champions, will remain in the bottom tier of league football next season. Details of promotion and relegation in future seasons under 12-12-18 are also detailed. The top two divisions will split into three groups of eight clubs after 22 matches of the campaign. The top eight clubs will play each other twice more, home and away, to determine who are Scottish champions and who earn European places.
The middle eight, or play-off eight as described in the document, will have their points reset to zero and play each other home and away. The top four clubs will be in the top division the following season, the bottom four in the second division.
No trophy will be awarded to the club finishing top of the play-off eight, with the document declaring: “Given the split at Game 22 it is difficult to have a Div 2 champion”.
The bottom two clubs in the third group of eight will be automatically relegated to the bottom tier of 18 clubs for the following season. The top two clubs in the bottom tier will be automatically promoted to the second tier of 12 clubs for the following season.
There will be a play-off competition involving the third and fourth bottom clubs in the third group of eight and the third, fourth, fifth and sixth-placed clubs in the bottom tier to determine two more relegation-promotion places.
There will also be a pyramid play-off competition between the two clubs who finish at the bottom of the 18-club third tier and two candidate non-league clubs identified by the SFA from a national competition
approved by the SPFL board.
Under the combined rules, there would also be a standard 15-point penalty for any club which experiences an insolvency event. Ten points would be deducted immediately, with the further five-point deduction applied at a stage of the season when the SPFL board determined it would have the most meaningful impact.