Neil Doncaster reveals sympathy for Hearts and others relegated with new SPFL reconstruction plan

Permanent change now the only option on the table

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster.
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster.

The Scottish Professional Football League believe there is “sufficient support” for a permanent league reconstruction plan of 14-10-10-10 and are urging clubs to decide on the issue quickly.

The SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster has consulted chairmen on the idea after separate restructuring proposals by Hearts and Rangers failed to get enough backing.

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He said there is sympathy for Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer, who were all relegated as a result of a controversial vote to end the season prematurely after coronavirus struck.

League officials feel a 14-10-10-10 model has the best chance of going through and want clubs to indicate their support or otherwise by 10am on Monday. They plan to then request an EGM to hold a formal vote on the matter within seven days.

The system would see Hearts reinstated to the Premiership and send Inverness Caledonian Thistle up to the top flight following Dundee United’s promotion.

Thistle would be back in the Championship, joined by Falkirk as the second promoted team from League One after Raith Rovers were declated title winners.

Stranraer would also reclaim their spot in League One and Edinburgh City would also join that division after Cove Rangers gained promotion.

The Lowland League winners Kelty Hearts and the Highland League champions Brora Rangers would be invited into League Two, expanding the SPFL from 42 to 44 teams.

Doncaster said: “We’ve been consulting with our clubs regarding possible reconstruction in recent weeks and asked all 42 clubs to give their views.

“Now that 41 out of 42 clubs have responded, it is clear that there is enough support for a permanent 14-10-10-10 structure to merit a second consultation stage and we have written to clubs asking for an indicative ‘vote’ on whether that is something they would vote in favour of if it was included in a detailed formal resolution.

“It’s important to underline that this is not a binding vote and is intended only to steer the board on whether to put forward a formal resolution for voting on, or not.”

Any change would mean altering the financial distribution and therefore amending the SPFL articles of association. That would require support from 11 of the 12 Premiership clubs – and 32 out of 42 SPFL sides overall.

Doncaster added: “Understandably, the consultation exercise confirmed there is sympathy for those clubs relegated at the end of Season 2019/20, but also that there is no reasonable prospect of clubs approving a temporary reconstruction solution.

“However, the board has judged there is sufficient support for a permanent change to merit this second stage of consultation. As ever, it will be up to the clubs to decide whether or not to support this proposal and we will be guided by the democratic outcome of the process.

“We are understandably keen to get clarity one way or another at the start of next week, as the timescales are extremely tight and we are faced with the additional complexities of resuming the season, caused by Covid-19.”

Should the coming days show there is not enough support for the 14-10-10-10 structure, the existing format of 12-10-10-10 will remain in place – leaving Hearts, Thistle and Stranraer relegated.

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