Iain McMenemy: Where is sporting integrity in the SPFL’s reconstruction plan?

The two teams in the drop zone will lead the discussions, so they can keep themselves safe

With Hearts currently bottom of the Premier League, is it fair that they, along with second-bottom Hamilton, will lead the reconstruction group? Picture: SNS.

I imagine that most people have a view on what it must be like to be involved in football. I would bet that the reality is a million miles away from the 
perception.

As Stenhousemuir chairman, I spend most of my time frustrated, then angry, and very occasionally, some good times come along. This is why I always say that you have to really make the most of the good times, because they don’t come along very often.

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The good times come from the moments that mean something to us as a club. A big win, a great bus journey home with the team, sharing good times with fellow supporters in our club’s Bob Hill Wee Bar. Most of my frustration, however, is triggered by events away from my own club.

I find working with the football authorities very challenging at times. I do my best to speak out and to raise issues I feel are important, but more often than not, I feel the voice from the lower leagues is ignored.

There are times when the league doesn’t even try to hide its disregard for the lower echelons of our members’ organisation. Such as the response to this complete farce of a vote on ending the lower league 
season.

Let me remind everyone just what the resolution was. It was to end the current season for the Championship, Leagues 1 and 2 in the SPFL. It set out that the ambition was to try to complete the Premiership season, but if not, then that season may need to be called to an end at a future point too.

However, for now, this was a vote aimed at the three lower leagues.

Putting aside the pantomime that followed the publication of the resolution, complete with the villain and shouts of “Who’s behind you?” with regards to alleged calls from the “big hitters” to some clubs, the final outcome was 
staggering.

There was a change of mind by the club that had been one of the most public regarding their “No” vote. They were now voting “Yes”, despite not appearing to have won any concessions.

The next phase would be league reconstruction talks. This was always the next step, so no change there. But I found the statement from the SPFL staggering. Another reminder if I may, the vote was to end the season for the three leagues below the Premiership. This means relegation for two clubs. Relegation by committee, not through football, which by any standards is harsh.

And the statement from the SPFL? There will now be talks on “league restructuring, in time for season 2020-21, around an expanded Premiership model”. So no mention of the impacts on lower leagues, but assurances to the top flight that clubs in the Premiership will be looked after as the starting point for reconstruction talks. The demise of the lower league season is to trigger 
protection built around 
the needs of the Premiership.

As it stands today, the Premiership season is still live. They continue to hope to play this out “when the time is right” as they have said. But the statement says that the reconstruction “process has already been commenced today”. So reconstruction has begun, when a season in still live? The reconstruction group will be led by the two teams currently occupying the bottom two spots in the Premiership so are the 
two that are most likely to face relegation.

So if the Premiership season does start back up, the two teams in the drop zone have nothing to fear. They will be driving the reconstruction discussions and can keep themselves safe. Is this the sporting integrity that has been mentioned so often of late? Is this the much talked-about ambition to “end the season on the pitch?” Both of these clubs could start fielding their under-16s if the season starts back up as they can redraw the leagues no matter the results.

But what about Partick Thistle, or Stranraer? What about Brora and Kelty? What about the supporters and what they want? What about solutions for the whole game?

Yet again, I fear the lower leagues are about to be completely run over and will be forced to accept scraps off the table once the top flight has gorged itself on the finances that flow out of the pockets of fans right across the nation.

A number of weeks ago I posed the question to football, “Are we really in it together?” I think we can all see the answer.