Rangers liquidation: SFA league merger could drop Rangers just one division

The crisis at Rangers is set to bring about a radical change in the structure of Scottish football, which could pave the way for the Ibrox club to be demoted just one division.

The Scottish Football Association is ready to merge the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League into a single league body in time for the start of the new season. Under the new league set-up, the top and second tiers of that league would stay the same size as the current SPL and First Division – 12 and ten respectively – and be rebranded “premier”, effectively meaning that the present First Division would become an SPL 2.

A whole raft of changes as recommended in the 2010 report by former First Minister Henry McLeish will also be introduced, including promotion and relegation play-offs for all divisions, a pyramid system for entry into the league, lower divisions consisting of community-based part-time clubs, different cash distribution within the new league, and a compulsory winter break.

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“The time for action is now,” said an SFA source, who did not deny that the association was taking advantage of the Rangers debacle to promote its longed-for reforms. The source said: “When one of the biggest clubs in the country is liquidated, something has to change.”

The future of Rangers, now a “newco” owned by Charles Green and his Sevco consortium, is key to the SFA-led changes, with one source suggesting Dundee will step up to the new top league, while Rangers would be relegated only to the new SPL2 and not the lowest division – preserving the lucrative Sky television deal that is vital to clubs’ income.

That will be hugely controversial as the game in Scotland is split over whether a newco Rangers should be forced to start again in the bottom tier or be allowed into the SPL.

The compromise of allowing them to drop one division will not please everyone. “How would that serve sporting integrity, you have to ask?” one SPL chairman told Scotland on Sunday. “You can’t be half pregnant. You surely either accept that the new Rangers can be an SPL club or accept they must start again in the senior game.”

The SFA has confirmed that discussions about the future of professional football in Scotland have been ongoing for many months between members of the association’s professional game board and the SPL and SFL. Those talks accelerated in the past few days as Rangers went into liquidation.