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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 09:26 GMT
SPL reported to OFT
Falkirk's Brockville Stadium
Falkirk's sale of Brockville has come too late

The Scottish Premier League has been branded a "protection racket" for preventing First Division clubs with small stadia from winning promotion.

Labour MP David Stewart has reported the matter to the Office of Fair Trading and claimed he is willing to take his concerns to Europe.

But the SPL maintained that the rules stating that top flight clubs must have 10,000 seater stadia were introduced in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster and were "legally robust".

The Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber MP said: "I am a great fan of football's pyramid system.

I am also going to look at the role European law can play

David Stewart MP
"Success should be governed by the ability to win the league and failure by relegation.

"But to have no promotion this year is a form of protection racket and it brings disrepute to the credibility of Scottish football."

First Division leaders Falkirk have started work on a new stadium, while second-top Inverness Caledonian Thistle are behind with their similar plans.

But neither will be able to take their place in the SPL as they will not have a 10,000-seater stadium by the start of next season.

"I wrote to the OFT three weeks ago and I am awaiting its response," said Stewart.

"I have asked the OFT to examine the criteria to see whether it is consistent with UK competition law.

"I am also going to look at the role European law can play in knocking down barriers to competition."

Stewart, who is an Inverness Caledonian Thistle season ticket holder, claimed that the regulations did not reflect match attendances and were "providing seats for virtual fans".

Caledonian Stadium, Inverness
Inverness hope to move from Caledonian Stadium
Mr Stewart pointed out that crowds for matches that did not involve the Old Firm of Celtic and Rangers were closer to 5,000 than 10,000.

An SPL spokesman defended the policy.

"Our stadium criteria have been familiar to every senior Scottish club for the past five years and were designed to meet the recommendations of the Hillsborough Inquiry, following the tragic deaths of 96 football fans," he said.

"Having taken detailed legal advice, we have no doubt that the criteria are legally robust.

"That said, it is disappointing that Mr Stewart did not feel it was appropriate to contact the SPL about his concerns and suggestions before rushing off to the press and threatening to bring down upon us the full might of European law."

See also:

21 Jan 03 | Scotland
10 Jan 03 | Falkirk
26 Nov 02 | Scot Div 1
Links to more Scot Div 1 stories are at the foot of the page.


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