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Radical change needed for good of all clubs - SPL chief

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Doncaster on league reconstruction

By Liam McLeod

The Scottish Premier League's top man insists that proposed changes to its structure are not only radical but good for all football clubs in the country.

Its 12 clubs will meet next Monday to consider a proposal for a 10-team top-tier and 10-club second division.

"I don't think you could have a set of plans more radical than this," said SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster.

"Everyone participating in discussions has been happy to wear a big hat for the whole of Scottish football."

The SPL last had 10 teams 10 years ago, but the new proposal would add a play-off for the team finishing second bottom as well as automatic relegation for whoever finishes bottom.

It would also include arrangements designed to soften the financial blow to clubs dropping down to the second tier - and a proposal to turn the Second and Third Divisions into regional leagues.

There are suggestions that the SPL plans would see the demise of the Scottish Football League, which at present administers Divisions One, Two and Three.

Unusually for any discussion within the football industry, we have had people who have been brave enough to think about the whole of Scottish football and not just their own vested interest

Scottish Premier League chief executive Neil Doncaster

But Doncaster told BBC Scotland: "There will be nothing imposed on anyone. Indeed, we don't have the ability to do so.

"So anything that we have in mind will be on the basis of proper consultation wit everyone and, if there is an invitation to SFL clubs to come on board, they will have to make up their own mind if it is in their best interests or not."

The SPL plan comes as former First Minister Henry McLeish is poised to disclose the findings of his own report into the future of professional football in Scotland and Doncaster believes the time has come for wide-reaching changes.

"I think most people in Scottish football believe that merely tinkering is not what we need," said Doncaster.

"We need something fairly radical to totally overhaul the game in Scotland and improve things, particularly matters financial - not merely for their league but for all 42 clubs.

"There are some fundamental problems with Scottish football at the moment.

"One of them is that there's a staleness about the top division and, by moving to a system of a 10-team top division and 10-team second division but with more teams passing up and down between the two divisions, we hope that that staleness will be removed and that there will be a freshness about the new set-up.

"The other fundamental problem we've got is that, when clubs are relegated at present from the top tier, they face financial Armageddon.

"And we think it is important for the whole of Scottish football that clubs are protected from that and the money in the second tier of Scottish football is beefed up so that clubs are relegated, they are relegated to a far better environment than they are at the moment."

However, Doncaster needs an 11-1 majority within the SPL for the proposals to become a reality and Hearts manager Jim Jefferies is one early dissenting voice to emerge.

"We have had six clubs represented on a steering group to try and come up with these fairly radical plans," said the SPL chief executive.

"Obviously we have six clubs represented on the steering group and a further six with whom we have been consulting over the period, but next Monday will be the first chance we will have to go through in detail with all 12 clubs sitting round the table what it would mean for them.

"I think the whole process that we have been engaged in since April this year has been about all clubs sitting round the table, all compromising.

"I think there is a general recognition that tinkering isn't going to work and that we need something fairly radical to move things forward."

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Doncaster insisted that the fans had also been consulted and that the proposals would not just benefit the big clubs, like Celtic and Rangers.

"We had a very comprehensive survey last year online, which had 15,000 responses, and we've tried to incorporate the messages we got from that survey into the plans that we have put forward," he said.

"We'll be outlining our proposals to the 12 SPL clubs next Monday. If we get approval in principle then that enables us to then talk in detail with the SFL and all its clubs."

"There's no vested interest. Unusually for any discussion within the football industry, we have had people who have been brave enough to think about the whole of Scottish football and not just their own vested interest."

However, the proposal was given a guarded response from Doncaster's counterpart in the SFL although it is thought that the two men are in constant contact at their Hampden base.

"None of these proposals have been put to me, but the SFL's view is that any change has to be right for the Scottish game as a whole and not just the SPL," said David Longmuir.

"The SFL is open to change, but it's early days and a lot of info still has to be communicated."



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see also
SPL plans could face opposition
13 Dec 10 |  Scottish Premier
SPL to consider radical shake-up
12 Dec 10 |  Scottish Premier
Rangers boss suggests 10-team SPL
10 Dec 10 |  Rangers
Blair optimistic over SPL 2 talks
19 Mar 09 |  Scottish Premier
Clubs vote against SPL2 proposal
19 Apr 07 |  Scottish League


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