VETERAN Dunfermline manager Jim Jefferies has strongly criticised plans for reconstruction of the Scottish game, insisting the governing bodies have focused on financial gain ahead of the good of the game.
The Scottish Football Association, Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League this week agreed in principle to a revamp of the sport which, among other changes, will see a three-tier league hierarchy of 12-12-18.
SFL chief executive David Longmuir described the scheme as something which would look after clubs “from Pollok to Parkhead”, revitalising Scottish football down to Junior level.
Jefferies, however, disagrees and believes financial gain has been the driving force behind the decision-making process.
The most experienced manager in the Scottish game said: “If you are going to reconstruct then fine, do something to aid finances, but not to the detriment of football. The product needs to be right. We need to make the bigger picture work.
“There are a lot of major problems with the proposals. We are not getting to the crux of the matter – people are fed up with teams playing each other four times. There is no guarantee that will change.
“I don’t see how this is a fantastic structural change, and I feel the same as a lot of managers, we need to have at least a 14-team league, with 16 as a target.
“We have never tried 16 teams, yet all you hear is people telling us it cannot work.”
Jefferies also believes the potential set-up, which has received a lukewarm reception from fans, will do little to enthuse supporters and halt the trend of dwindling crowds which affects many clubs.
He would like to see an agreement to slash prices, insisting it could ultimately help develop the game. The 62-year-old continued: “In a football sense I don’t think this is a good idea, people are already fed up with it. Another thing which we are not addressing is prices.
“We are cutting our cloth, we are reducing wages – but prices are not coming down and we are not making things more affordable for the average fan who goes along with their kids to watch the game, and are now struggling to do that.
“Maybe if we looked at pricing we would get more people in, better atmospheres, players thriving in those surroundings and ultimately a better product.”
The East End Park manager believes the only explanation for these plans being given the green light in principle are the financial benefits, with a big change in cash redistribution from the top flight mooted.
Even perennial critic of the powers-that-be, Turnbull Hutton, the chairman of Dunfermline’s great rivals Raith Rovers, appears to be convinced.
Jefferies – who was last night still mulling over whether to accept the SFA’s offer of a one-match ban after being served with a misconduct charge earlier this week following alleged indiscipline at a match against Falkirk on Boxing Day – added: “It looks like quite a bit more money is being distributing to clubs like Dunfermline, Raith Rovers and the like, and of course that is a plus.
“I hear they have improved the financial situation, that can be the only reason the likes of the Raith Rovers chairman [Turnbull Hutton] has changed his stance. He has obviously changed his stance with an offer of more revenue, which is obviously what his priority is. But it is far from a perfect situation.”
League reconstructions plans will continue apace today when the SPL and SFL hold talks with non-league clubs over a pyramid system. Representatives from clubs in both the East and South of Scotland Leagues will hold discussions with Neil Doncaster and David Longmuir, the respective chief executives of the SPL and SFL.
Informally, the non-league clubs have been told there are likely to be two leagues under the bottom tier of Scottish football and a mechanism introduced that allows promotion. As things stand, the Highland is set to continue in its current form while there would be a merger between the East and the South of Scotland Leagues. The two divisions could be further bolster by the addition of Junior clubs if teams wish to be considered under the new pyramid system.