Scottish league reconstruction: ‘Play-offs the way to get rid of meaningless games’

THE joint working party on league reconstruction for Scottish football will reconvene at Hampden today as proposals for a 12-12-18 set-up are pushed forward.

THE joint working party on league reconstruction for Scottish football will reconvene at Hampden today as proposals for a 12-12-18 set-up are pushed forward.

No firm decision is expected from the latest round of talks which will look to set the agenda for a formal meeting of all 42 current senior league clubs later in the month.

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The working party includes Scottish FA president Campbell Ogilvie, Scottish Premier League chief executive Neil Doncaster, Scottish Football League chief executive David Longmuir and board members of all three governing bodies.

Despite a move for an extended top flight in a 16-10-16 structure being unanimously backed by all 30 SFL clubs last November, it has failed to receive the required support from the 12 SPL clubs.

Longmuir confirmed at the weekend that the SPL proposal for three divisions of 12-12-18, which would see the top two leagues of 12 split in three divisions of eight clubs at the halfway point, is now the most likely to be accepted.

Under the new system, the top four teams in the middle group of eight clubs would play in the top flight the following season, while the bottom four would go into the second tier.

Longmuir believes that reconstruction could happen as soon as next season but accepts the governing bodies have work to do in convincing sceptical supporters, who have backed an increased size of top flight in surveys, of the merits of the plan on the table. A more equitable distribution of television and sponsorship revenue will be dangled as the carrot for SFL clubs to support 12-12-18.

Malky Mackay, the Cardiff City manager, believes Scottish football has to try and emulate the excitement and interest generated by the play-offs in the English league and minimise the number of meaningless end-of-season fixtures. “What you want is a situation where you get the biggest cut of money as a club,” said Mackay. “But more importantly for Scottish football, every club needs to be playing for something for as long as possible in the season. A couple of seasons ago in England, QPR were the only team in the Championship with nothing to play for with two games to go.

“They were in middle of the table and they couldn’t get to the play-offs or be relegated but they were the only team with nothing to play for. Scotland has to make sure there are no dead games with a long period of the season to go.

“The play-offs in English football are brilliant. I’ve been involved in them for 15 years and the excitement surrounding the semi-finals and final is unbelievable. It’s something that has to be looked at in Scotland and perhaps even broadened and widened with the amount of teams that are involved in it. But as far as cutting up the league and putting them into different divisions in the second half of the season, the games have to mean something or people just won’t come.”

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Raith Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton admits he is optimistic that the SPL’s plans for reconstruction of the game will get the green-light.

Hutton has been outspoken in fighting the lower leagues’ corner and has described the top-flight as a “dead parrot” and “flawed brand” in the past. However, following face-to-face talks with Doncaster when the SPL chief executive watched Raith draw with Morton at Stark’s Park last month, Hutton has been left encouraged by recent dialogue.

He said: “I am lot more optimistic now than I have been in the past. I have admitted to being a cynic but I’m heartened to where we’re going now.

“I don’t have a great problem with the 12-12 proposal. We’re going to have to do something because life is too short to go on like this.”

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