Big three in Championship ‘terrific’ - Doncaster

Neil Doncaster has admitted the relegation of both Hibs and Hearts from the Premiership would have been a huge concern had the SPL still been in charge of the Scottish top-flight.

Doncaster is excited about the prospect of some second-tier drama. Picture: Ian Georgeson

But the SPFL chief executive, who held the same position at the SPL, insists a Championship featuring both Edinburgh clubs and Rangers will be “terrific” for the game north of the border because all four divisions were reunited under one body last summer.

Whilst most expect an exciting and competitive second tier next term, fears have been raised it could snatch the limelight away from the Premiership and belittle the top division. However, Doncaster is adamant that the merger of the SPL and the SFL last year means the SPFL will not lose out because Hibs and Hearts have been replaced by Dundee and Hamilton Accies.

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He said: “It’s certainly an unprecedented situation and, if we had still been an SPL of just the top 12 clubs then, yes, you could have seen it as a devaluation of the league.

“But the league is now 42 clubs and to have such exciting stories, such drama, such tension, undoubtedly going to be unfolding at the bottom of the Premiership and at the top of the Championship, I think it is terrific for the whole league that you’ve got two such strong leagues.”

Doncaster acknowledged the Premiership is likely to lack a title race next term but is confident there will be enough of a contest in other areas of the top-flight and beyond to excite supporters.

Speaking to Sky Sports, he added: “Certainly you would expect Celtic to be very strong within the Premiership next season but we would expect there to be huge competition for the European places at the top end. Again we’ve got 12th place being relegated and 11th place going into a Premiership play-off final and there will be huge competition to get into the top six to avoid being drawn into that relegation dogfight that we saw this season.

“So I think we’ll see huge competition throughout the league, particularly at the bottom end of the Premiership and at the top end of the Championship.”

Meanwhile, Alloa chairman Mike Mulraney believes the Championship has gone “from the sublime to the ridiculous” following Hibs’ relegation – and admits the Wasps now face their “biggest ever” challenge to avoid the drop.

It had been apparent for some time that Rangers and Hearts would be in the second tier next term, making for an unprecedentedly lucrative division and a fascinating fight for the title. That has only been increased 
following Hibs’ defeat to Hamilton, which saw them drop out of the top flight for the first time since 1998.

The visits of three of Scottish football’s traditional powers – as well as local rivals, Falkirk – will see a huge boost to the coffers of the modest Clackmannanshire club.

However, after only retaining their Championship status on goal difference this season, Mulraney knows they are in for an almighty fight for survival on the pitch.

The Recreation park chief said: “Hibs coming into the league takes it from the sublime to the ridiculous almost. It is 
absolutely fantastic for everyone because it brings another two big paydays into the town and not just the club.

“The presence of these teams makes the Championship every bit as exciting as the top division if more. Rangers, Hearts and Hibs were in the top five for attendances in Scotland last year and now they are all in the Championship. Things are frantic for us behind the scenes now getting everything ready and obviously the presence of Hibs makes the challenge bigger.”