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Page last updated at 22:22 GMT, Thursday, 24 February 2011

SPL eyes summer merger with SFL

Neil Doncaster and Alex Smith at Hampden
Doncaster was pleased with the reaction from Smith and his colleagues

The Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League could merge from next season, according to SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster.

Doncaster spoke after meeting managers to explain SPL plans to move to a top tier of 10 and second tier of 12.

"I think moving to a different league structure will take more time and that certainly won't be for this summer.

"But my hope is that we can move forward as one league structure sooner rather than later," said Doncaster.

The SPL's present 12 clubs met on Monday, after which Doncaster's working party has been assigned the task of revise the plan so that it can be put to a vote.

It is unclear whether those clubs who previously opposed the 10-team top flight have now been persuaded to fall into line.

And Doncaster admitted that some among Scotland's managers and coaches were also sceptical.

This is a road to go down to make sure more clubs get a better share of finance so that they could get to that 16-club league

Scottish League Managers' Association chairman Alex Smith

But he said: "I was impressed with the quality of the discussion that we had.

"Ultimately, this whole plan is about people putting aside vested interests and trying to achieve something for the common good.

"And I re-emphasise the point that the model being put on the table is the only model that looks after all 42 clubs.

"While there was good debate and people had different points of view on the detail, I think the thrust of it was that people appreciated that we are trying to something on a bigger scale for the whole of Scottish football.

"On some issues some people have strong issues and on other small issues some people have views against and ultimately it is about taking a package and not dealing with things piecemeal."

SFL chairman last week voiced their opposition to proposals for a regionalisation of Divisions Two and Three - and Doncaster did not wish to speculate on how the SPL's vote would go.

"We got some good feedback from clubs at Monday's meeting," he said.

"So potentially we are looking at a vote maybe in a month or two.

"Ultimately, it comes down to how they vote when they sit round the table in due course."

The SPL chief executive conceded that most football fans, and many players and managers, would prefer a larger top flight.

"I think there is no doubt that, if you ask most supporters what they prefer, a bigger league playing once home and away is what they would want," he said.

"But we have to deal with the reality."

Scottish League Managers' Association chairman Alex Smith is one who would prefer a larger league but views the new proposed structure as a stepping-stone.

"We know there is a lot of work to be done to put all the dots in the right places and it will be very difficult to get everybody to agree.

"But, at the end of the day, everybody is agreed that change is needed and, whilst we have a lot of good young players coming through at the moment, we can still do better.

"Personally, like most football managers and coaching, I think I would prefer 16 or 18 clubs, but it isn't financially viable in this country at the moment.

"This is a road to go down to make sure more clubs get a better share of finance so clubs sitting under the SPL at the moment will become financially stronger and able to sustain their club so that they could get to that 16-club league.

"But, at the moment, several clubs in the First Division are struggling financially.

"For them to come up and compete and go back down again, it is absolutely financially horrendous and just about puts them out of business."

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see also
SPL reconstruction vote in March
22 Feb 11 |  Scottish Premier
Scots regional set-up idea 'dead'
18 Feb 11 |  Scottish League
Butcher pans SPL 'deconstruction'
18 Jan 11 |  Inverness CT
SPL numbers game hard to add up
18 Jan 11 |  Scottish Premier
SPL clubs agree on top-10 format
17 Jan 11 |  Scottish Premier
Hearts want fairer TV cash split
15 Jan 11 |  Scottish Premier
Fans discuss top 10 plan with SPL
06 Jan 11 |  Scottish Premier
McLeish review backs two-tier SPL
16 Dec 10 |  Scotland
SPL to consider radical shake-up
12 Dec 10 |  Scottish Premier

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