SPFL set to become a reality as clubs gather

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THE new Scottish Professional Football League will be formally constituted at Hampden today when all 42 of the country’s senior clubs gather as one body for the first time.

The meeting will see the Scottish Football League’s 123-year history come to an end when it is officially dissolved and its 30 current members become part of the new SPFL, which will be operated under the corporate arm of the Scottish Premier League. The main item on the agenda of the inaugural SPFL meeting will be the election of a board of directors. Three representatives from what is currently the SPL, two from the First Division and just one to represent the 20 clubs in the Second and Third Divisions will be elected.

Those six club representatives will be joined on the new nine-person SPFL board by a chief executive, a chairman and one independent non-executive director. The chief executive is not expected to be named today. SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster is regarded as a likely candidate for the role, although he has refused to confirm or deny his interest.

Scottish football’s return to a single league organisation, 15 years after top-flight clubs broke away to form the SPL, was finally agreed two weeks ago after several months of often acrimonious negotiations and in-fighting among clubs of both the SPL and SFL.

After Ross County and St Mirren vetoed the SPL’s proposal for a new 12-12-18 league set-up, with the top 24 clubs splitting into three divisions of eight midway through a season, the alternative of a single body retaining the existing 12-10-10-10 structure was initially rejected by an indicative vote of SFL clubs. But, following threats by First Division clubs to resign from the SFL and apply for membership of the SPL if the move was not approved, it was given the go-ahead by a 23-6 margin at the special general meeting of SFL clubs on 12 June.

Amid concerns over elements of the proposal, including the retention of an 11-1 voting structure on some issues and the minimal board representation for bottom-tier clubs, SFL chief executive David Longmuir said those who had voted it through were “reluctant heroes”, while SFL president Jim Ballantyne insisted that what had been intended to be a merger of the organisations was in fact a takeover by the SPL.

First Division clubs will receive a bigger share of commercial income in the forthcoming season, with a play-off introduced to offer an additional promotion place to the top flight.

The new SPFL board face a race against time to have a title sponsor in place for the start of the new season and must also decide on branding for the four divisions. Working titles of Premiership, Championship, League One and League Two are in place and will be discussed.