14-team Premiership ‘could be brought in for 2016/17’

Fans take in a Danish Superliga match at the Brondby Stadion. Picture: Wiki Commons
Fans take in a Danish Superliga match at the Brondby Stadion. Picture: Wiki Commons
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LEAGUE chief executive Neil Doncaster has floated the idea of enlarging the top flight to 14 teams – with the possibility that such changes could be introduced in time for next season.

An increase from a 12 team to a 14-team Premiership is believed to have widespread support throughout the Scottish Professional Football League because the vast majority of the 42 senior clubs would stand to gain. These teams are currently configured 12-10-10-10 in a four-tier hierarchy. In the set-up under discussions, sides would be split into three league of 14. Effectively, that would earn 18 of them promotion from their present placing at a stroke.

Doncaster, speaking at the Scottish FA convention at Hampden yesterday, mentioned the idea of a bigger league in the context of the revamping of the League Cup.

The SPFL chief executive maintained that innovation had underpinned the £8 million deal with BT Sport announced on Monday for the redrawn tournament, which will begin in mid-July with a group stage including penalty shoot-outs in drawn matches. Such innovation could now be focussed on the league structure, he suggested.

“We always want something bigger and better than we have at the moment,” Doncaster said. “Hopefully, with the changes we’ve announced with the League Cup we’ve delivered that, but the discussion will continue.

“If you look at Denmark they are currently bringing in a 14-team league from what was a 12-team league previously. Innovation in league football always continues all around the world and we’re no exception.”

Doncaster stated last summer there was a widespread desire to reduce the number of matches. The perceived problem previously with a 14-team league was that, in order to avoid free weekends created by a 7-7 split after two rounds of matches, there would need to be a 6-8 split, which would mean the bottom section playing 40 league games.

However, the Danes have tackled this by splitting off the eight into two groups of four – one group comprising the teams in seventh, ninth, 11th and 13th; the other comprising the teams in eighth, 10th, 12th and 14th. As a result, after each of the 14 teams played each other home and away, the top six would play each other home and away again for a 36-game total.

The teams in each bottom section would play against their section rivals home and away. giving each club a further eight games for a 32-game total.

Points would carry forward. With fewer games in the bottom section in the regular season, play-offs could be fitted in without the current squeeze.

This format would be replicated througout the three divisions.