Hibs owner Ron Gordon suggests downsizing the SPFL due to 'huge' number of clubs

Hibs owner Ron Gordon has suggested that reducing the number of teams within the SPFL by almost half would strengthen the league.
Hibs Owner Ron Gordon. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)Hibs Owner Ron Gordon. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Hibs Owner Ron Gordon. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

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Currently, there are 42 clubs in the senior Scottish football ladder with non-league sides in the Lowland and Highland leagues beyond that.

Gordon, an American businessman, has admitted his thinking comes from a stateside slant but with the intention of strengthening the set-up – which he refers to as ‘the most exciting small league in Europe’ – on the whole.

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He raised the prospect of downsizing the SPFL to 24 clubs during a podcast interview with The Athletic’s Mark Chapman where he also discussed Hibs’ future ambitions of challenging Rangers and Celtic, as well as competing in Europe, his love of Hibs and Edinburgh, and the background to his take-over and business interests.

On the wider structure of Scottish football he said: “There are a group of owners and chairmen looking at different ideas. I am a big proponent of the league. It is also a business unit and needs to be successful to promote and grow the game.

“The Scottish game is an exciting league – I like to think of it as the most exciting small league in Europe.

“In my opinion, we have a lot of teams. We have 42 teams in the SPFL, that is huge for a country of five and a half million people. My sense is that somewhere in the middle of that, maybe 24 or something like that…you could still keep the pyramid going, but the focus would be on the full-time, professional clubs that can really grow the game.

“Ultimately what happens at the top trickles down to the smaller clubs. So you can still keep all the payments and residuals flowing down.

“That’s a debate we probably need to have, to see if it makes sense to look at a structure that gives focus to growing the product and the league.”

Hibs under Gordon’s leadership have developed strategic partnerships with clubs across the world, including Charleston Battery in the USA, Stenhousemuir in League Two and much closer to home with Edinburgh-based Civil Service Strollers.

Since he joined in July 2019, he has seen the average squad age drop from 28.5 years old to 25 and has praised the work of head coach Jack Ross.

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Gordon said Hibs are “an easy club to fall in love with” and one that has “a great soul”. He told The Athletic’s Business of Sport podcast: "There’s an opportunity to create value and develop a club – when you look at Hibs you see potential, from a sporting perspective, a business perspective and creation in the brand of Hibs.”

Reflecting on the start of his involvement at Easter Road he added: “The most significant stakeholder in the club is the supporter. It was important to give them comfort I was a person with good intentions, totally dedicated and committed to the club. I hope they have seen in the last two years I am 150pc invested in the club and its success and growth.”

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