Feature by Stuart Gillespie
Updated Wednesday, 5th December 2012
League reconstruction. Along with summer football and bringing back standing at SPL games it must be one of the most discussed issues in Scottish football - and it doesn't seem to be going away any time soon.
If I put up a piece every time changing the league format is mentioned it would probably double the number of articles on here and I'd have no time for anything else in my life. Barely a week goes by without another report of potential changes to the structure of Scottish football. But this time it seems to be rather more serious, with the SPL and SFL both coming up with proposals for the way forward. It's taken them long enough, considering it looked to be a matter of when, rather than if, something happened during the summer as they tried to jam Rangers into as high a league as they could get away with.
The SPL have studied the situation closely, realised a 12 team top flight is a silly idea and decided the problem can be fixed by introducing a 12 team first division as well. Brilliant. Except they decided this wasn't barmy enough so instead a team will play everyone else in its division home and away. The top eight in the top division would then break off and play each other home and away twice again, with the bottom four and the top four from the other division going head to head in their own wee league and the top four getting to play in the top division for the start of the following season. The bottom eight in the second tier division then get to play each other again, presumably to decide relegation.
Apologies if you don't understand this, because I don't understand it myself. It seems absolutely bonkers - and goodness knows where the rest of the SFL clubs fit into things. It also raises the possibility of no relegation and promotion to and from the top division. If the bottom four teams at the split finish top of the middle group of eight that's what we'll have. The uncertainty of not knowing who you are playing will make it difficult for clubs to sell sponsorship, season tickets and the like - and I hardly think the first division clubs will be salivating at the prospect of facing ourselves, Dundee and Ross County, three of the current bottom four in the SPL. The gap in income between the bottom of the SPL and top of the first division needs tackled, but this is not the way to do it.
As per usual the SPL are ignoring the views of fans and telling them what is best. People like chief executive Neil Doncaster go round fans groups, listen to what they are being told and hen completely ignore it. Fans want to see a bigger top division and in fairness to the SFL they are proposing that, with a 16-10-16 proposal (or an 18 team bottom tier if their ludicrous Old Firm reserves idea gets the go ahead). The problem is it's not the SFL's ball to play with. To change to what seems a slightly more sensible set-up - which would see a revamped League Cup to make up for the loss in games - they need the agreement of the SPL. And the SPL clubs want the two lots of 12 followed by three lots of eight madness.
You have to hand it to the SPL though. A few years ago they suggested the top tier should actually be 10 teams. Fan opinion was hugely against this, to the extent that the other option of 14 teams, which would see an eight-six split for the end of season run in, looked a good bet. Are they now floating an insane idea so the fans think the current set-up, which is hugely flawed, is actually not that bad after all? Or is it a bid to make an effort to get us to like the SFL's idea, which is better but still far from ideal.
It's a cunning move, but here's a far better idea. Instead of trying to tell us what we want and forcing us to accept your insane ideas, why not listen to us - the fans? Without us you cannot have a league because you won't get people watching on TV or punters going through the gates and sponsors won't be interested. Without us there is no game - and what we want is a bigger top division that is run in a sensible way (preferably without splits) and a decent number of relegation and promotion spots. And maybe play-offs. And a pyramid system. And one governing league body.
Is that too much to ask? I really don't think it is.
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