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Saturday, 31 March, 2001, 00:08 GMT 01:08 UK
Guide to the SPL split

Scottish Premier League director of football administration and finance Iain Blair provides BBC Scotland with the consummate guide to a mid-season split format that has left some fans confused.

The Scottish Premier League splits into two once the 12 teams in the Premier League have played each other three times, once at home and two away or vice versa, and have played 33 matches.

Those clubs finishing in the top six will play each other once more, a total of five games, to compete for the championship, Champions League and Uefa Cup qualification.

The bottom six will also play each other once more to retain status for season 2001/ 2002.

Points achieved during the first phase will be carried forward to the second phase, but the teams will compete only within their sections during the second phase.

Teams in the bottom section can finish no higher than seventh in the league.

The SPL has predicted the section in which the various clubs will finish and promise that each club will have played 19 home games and 19 away games by the end of the season.

Iain Blair answers some questions troubling many fans:

Won't some teams have had tougher fixtures than others?

"We made all of the potential inconsistencies known to the clubs. We have a system which, over a two-year cycle, does provide a balance.

"In a single season, there can be some problems, but these were known to the clubs."

...and after the split?

"The teams will play five further matches. If we get everything absolutely right, the teams will have 19 home games and 19 away games by the end of the season.

"And they will have the perfect balance between their contemporaries in the top half or bottom half as appropriate.

Will Celtic have a run-in of four away games and one home game?

"That's simply not the case. That's an example where people are trying to balance the fixtures against other clubs in the top six.

"If a club comes into the top six that we did not predict would be there, at present that could be Dundee, it adopts the fixtures of the team they have replaced.

"Celtic would play Dundee three times at Celtic Park over the season and once at Dens Park but over the season will still have played 19 homes games and 19 away games.

"For Celtic, the last matches, no matter what, will include two games at Celtic Park and three games away from Celtic Park."

Isn't it all too complicated?

"It has been designed to ensure as equitable a solution as possible. The clubs would not have permitted anything else.

"Let's look at how it develops in the last five games and I am sure that everybody will enjoy the latter part of this season."

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31 Mar 01 |  Scot Prem
Five face top-six fight
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