Stephen Halliday: Belgium show the way to a 16-club top division

A 16-team top-flight could open the way for clubs such as Dunfermline and Dundee United. Picture: SNS.
A 16-team top-flight could open the way for clubs such as Dunfermline and Dundee United. Picture: SNS.
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Six years after the formation of the Scottish Professional Football League, is it time to talk about the “R” word again?

Reconstruction is a topic many find as tedious and draining as Brexit but there may be a case to revisit a potential shake-up of our league.

There are many reasons why the SPFL is wedded to the 12-team Premiership with its top six-bottom six split. The need to drive revenues from the highest profile fixtures, seeking to ensure they happen four times a season, is chief among them.

But when only 1,022 turn up for a top-flight fixture, as was the case for Livingston’s 2-0 win over Hamilton Accies on Wednesday, it’s worth asking if the Premiership can be revitalised. There is a way it could be extended to 16 teams, providing a way in for clubs with bigger supports such as Dundee United, Dunfermline and Falkirk, without sponsors and broadcasters losing out on four Old Firm games and Edinburgh derbies a season.

The Belgian Pro League consists of 16 teams who play each other twice in a 30-game regular season. The top six then split off and play each other twice more, the teams ranked seventh to 15th join the top three teams from the second tier in separate post-split groups, while the 16th-placed side is automatically relegated.

When we look at Belgium’s standing in world football, it would do no harm to consider following their lead.