Pressure builds on Ross County ahead of league vote

ABERDEEN chairman Stewart Milne insists his Ross County counterpart Roy MacGregor will either be the saviour of Scottish football or send it into terminal decline, depending on which way he votes on league reconstruction on Monday

Meanwhile Inverness chairman Kenny Cameron has accused some clubs of taking a “pick and mix” approach to reform.

Milne is furious that St Mirren have already gone public with their decision to reject the plans for a 12-12-18 set-up starting next season. St Mirren want a 14-team top flight and are also opposed to both the retention of the 11-1 voting structure for major changes and a three-year moratorium on further change.

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The 11-1 SPL voting structure means that MacGregor would appear to hold the casting vote at Hampden on Monday with the other ten top-flight teams seemingly behind the changes.

Milne admits he and others have been putting the screws on the Ross County chief to back the plan and he believes rejection will simply speed up the decline of Scottish football.

Aberdeen’s chairman is convinced that the game’s dire financial plight will intensify, TV and supporter interest will dwindle further and jobs will be lost unless reconstruction goes ahead.

It means the pressure is on MacGregor to give his support because without it Milne has made it clear the consequences for the whole of Scottish football will be dire. “There have been a number of people in discussions with Roy, including myself, in the run up to this meeting,” said Milne yesterday.

“At the end of the day, Ross County will make up their own mind after listening to the arguments which is the way it should be done. We either vote this proposal through as it is on Monday or things stay the same and we have to face up to the serious consequences.

“Scottish football has to face up to the fact that if this fails then there are jobs on the line for everyone involved in the game. I have no doubt that the decline will continue and accelerate which will spread way beyond individual clubs, it’s that important.

“Everyone knows the state things are in and if this is rejected there will be no opportunity to bring new investment into the game. The reality is at the moment there is not enough money coming into Scottish football to make it viable and if we are going to change that we need to show the courage to back this plan. There is no Plan B as we have explored all options and, while we will never deliver a plan that will suit everyone, this is our best chance to safeguard the future of our game.

“In that way we can filter more money down to clubs currently in the First Division to make sure we have 24 or 26 strong full-time professional teams in Scotland. But even under that there will be a stronger structure than currently exists and that has got to be the way forward for the game.” Milne is in no doubt that St Mirren in general and their chairman Gilmour in particular have a lot to answer for given the uncertainty surrounding Monday’s vote. The Aberdeen chairman is convinced the Paisley club were all set to vote in favour and is surprised the 11-1 voting structure should have surfaced as a concern.

He added:”If he’s going to hang his hat on that then it doesn’t say a great deal with Stewart’s interests or St Mirren’s interest for Scottish football. That wasn’t raised as a major stumbling block at previous meetings and it’s in the minutes.

“We had all 12 clubs on two occasions agreeing to support the proposals and the only real concern that was raised was the cash flow to certain teams. That was in December and was sorted out by the meeting in January but now to find one club at the last minute say they are not supporting it for reasons not previously expressed is disappointing.

“I’m not having a go at Stewart Gilmour but I think the way St Mirren have handled this has been very bad. They should have had the courtesy to go to the meeting on Monday, listen to the arguments and if they felt they had concerns then make up their minds then.”

Inverness chairman Cameron, meanwhile, has warned that another opportunity to change Scottish football could take years to come around if the reconstruction plans are rejected next week.

“I’ll be disappointed if the new proposals do not go through, as they deliver most of what the supporters and the majority of clubs want,” said Cameron. “The set-up is far from ideal from an ICTFC perspective but all 42 clubs should get behind the changes proposed with a willingness to work together for the betterment of all clubs in Scotland and the game in general.

”Let’s use the proposed model as a stepping stone on the journey for change, the key that unlocks the door that has remained firmly closed for so many years. Make no mistake - it would appear that there is nothing else on the table. Attempting to be selective at this stage of the process is not an option.”

Cameron reflected on the talks which produced draft agreement in January, commenting that there was “almost unanimous consensus” and “an appetite for change”.

Cameron added: “Change is something that has been continually thwarted in Scottish football, yet we find ourselves in a situation where new proposals, that would go a long way towards avoiding another Dunfermline Athletic situation, are sadly, in danger of being parked up once again, this begs the question, why?

The Inverness chairman argued that reservations over the league structure, which would see the two top leagues split into three after 22 games, were a price worth paying for fairer financial distribution. Cameron pointed out that his season’s Irn-Bru First Division champions will receive £68,000 prize money but the club finishing in the same position post-reconstruction would earn more than £300,000 more.Talking about the prospect of a ‘no’ vote, he added: “We would simply be sleepwalking into the status quo.

”Our club’s favoured option is a larger SPL but we are well enough informed to appreciate that this is a non-starter as far as getting enough votes from other SPL clubs is concerned, but who knows what the future may bring. This is not a ‘pick and mix’ offer that is on the table but one requiring a straight yes or no. If the SPL gets its fingers burned this time, having come such a long way, then my fear is that it may be years before we come so close again.”