SPL league restructure dealt blow by St Mirren

St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour. Picture: SNS
St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour. Picture: SNS
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SCOTTISH football’s hopes of finding a solution to the thorny issue of league reconstruction were in disarray last night after St Mirren confirmed that they will vote against proposals for a 12-12-18 set-up, claiming the plans are unfair on supporters.

• St Mirren announce opposition to league reconstruction plans

• Club voice disagreement with proposal to split top two divisions into three groups of eight during season

• St Mirren also call for strong controls over clubs’ financial affairs

• SPL clubs set to vote on plans for new 12-12-18 structure next Monday

The Paisley club’s decision has come a week before the 12 Scottish Premier League clubs are asked to vote on the changes, with an 11-1 majority required to push through the proposals. With Ross County having already indicated they might not back the plans, St Mirren’s announcement dealt a hammer blow to SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster, and those clubs who were desperate for change to occur before next season.

Coincidentally, the SPL were meant to make an announcement of their own yesterday, but were forced to abandon plans to issue details of the post-split fixtures due to what was described as “on-going discussions with police and broadcasters”. With Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor expected to confirm that his club cannot vote in favour of the changes, the split looks like being a feature of Scottish football for some time yet.

St Mirren highlighted their concerns about the new 12-12-18 proposal, specifically the plan to split the top two divisions into three groups of eight after 22 games and the retention of the 11-1 voting structure in the top tier.

“After a very studied consideration of the structure, article of association, rules and shareholders agreement, the board of St Mirren Football Club have decided that they will be unable to support the motion at next Monday’s meeting of SPL clubs regarding this proposal for reconstruction,” said the statement.

Rangers chief executive Charles Green attended last weekend’s SPL match between St Mirren and Celtic as a guest of Gilmour. However, the St Mirren chairman stressed last night that his views on reconstruction were in no way influenced by Green, who remains a vocal opponent of the proposals. “Rangers are of no consequence to the board of St Mirren Football Club,” he said, on BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound programme. “Rangers are where they are – and they will be back in the top league in two years’ time.”

Gilmour pointed out that the manager, coaches and supporters had all been canvassed for their thoughts on league reconstruction. “This view has been taken after careful thought regarding this proposal, including engagement with fans and the views of our coaching staff,” continued the statement.

“The principles of a new league structure, single league body and all-through distribution model are part of many aspects of this we fully support. However, the proposal as presented does not, in our view, move the game forward.

“The concept of playing 22 games prior to breaking into three leagues of eight, including the middle eight losing their points gained in the first series of games, is not a system we see as taking the game forward in the long term.

“You will be aware that other countries have tried this system and have since rejected such a set-up.

“We also feel that this system is not fair to fans who buy into their club by way of a season ticket, who are then unsure of what they are purchasing.

“It is also against the basic wishes of the fans for larger leagues, as highlighted in all recent fan surveys.”

St Mirren are also unhappy with plans to retain the current voting structure of 11-1, while the club were also uncomfortable with the proposed lock-down period of three years. “In the proposed rules, the voting structure is remaining, in all items that are of importance, an 11-1 vote,” continued the statement.

“In our opinion, this is fundamentally wrong in any structure and is the principal reason why Scottish football has not been able to restructure prior to this time, a view St Mirren have held for some time.

“The restriction on any change for three years is also very much against our view. When engaging with any new rule book there will always be oversight and anomalies that need to be revised on an annual basis.

“An area St Mirren are very uncomfortable with is the lock down on various financial rules. The credibility of Scottish football has not been tarnished badly in recent times by financial mismanagement and the time has come for strong financial rules to be in place.

“Another concern to us is the hard line taken by some in certain areas, like the season start date, home-grown talent, under-21 rules.

“This is not an exhaustive list, however we do think these items require negotiation for the betterment of Scottish football in general.”