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Page last updated at 20:05 GMT, Monday, 13 December 2010

SPL reconstruction plans could face opposition

SPL flag
Proposals are being put forward to shake-up Scottish football

By Jim Spence, Brian McLauchlin and Alasdair Lamont

The Scottish Premier League could face a difficult task winning approval for a new 10-team top flight, with at least two clubs known to be sceptical.

The changes may require a 10-2 majority and Rangers chief executive Martin Bain hopes that can be achieved.

"I'm conscious of a review underway at SFL and SPL level," said Bain.

"If the strategy recommends what they believe to be the right way forward then it can be progressive and Scottish football can take a step forward."

BBC Scotland has polled all 12 SPL clubs on the potential for reconstruction and, out of those who have responded, two have clearly indicated that they are not in favour of a 10-team league.

It was too tight with 10. There was a lot of pressure on clubs to try and stay in that league

Hearts manager Jim Jefferies

Bain refused to be drawn further on the details of the proposals but said the review of Scottish football currently being guided by the former First Minister, Henry McLeish, should have an influence on any decisions taken.

"The very fact that there's two reviews running in tandem can only be positive," said Bain.

"It wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment now prior to the other clubs receiving the opportunity to chat and discuss further some of the other aspects attached to it."

But Hearts manager Jim Jefferies believes a 10-team Scottish Premier League is not enough to provide adequate competition.

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

But Jefferies believes the league needs to expand beyond 12 clubs to provide adequate competition for smaller teams.

"Personally, I would like to see the league a bigger league. There's some great clubs out there like Dundee and Raith Rovers," said Jefferies.

Scottish football last underwent reconstruction in 1997, when the top clubs from the Premier Division split from the Scottish Football League to form the SPL, with an increase from 10 clubs to 12 at the behest of SFL clubs.

Doncaster on league reconstruction

The format was introduced for the 2000-2001 season, but only Celtic and Rangers have ever won the championship under the current setup.

However, Aberdeen and Dundee United broke the Old Firm dominance under the 10-club format that ran from 1975-1998, winning four titles between them.

The new proposals would add a play-off system for the team finishing second bottom, in addition to automatic relegation for the club finishing bottom, which Jefferies feels could inject some excitement into Scottish football.

"It was too tight with 10. There was a lot of pressure on clubs to try and stay in that league," said Jefferies.

"With the play-offs, I think, that's been very successful down in England, but there's a lot of tension for the teams that are involved. But it's exciting and it's good TV viewing, and for the crowds.

"It all depends what the format is. I've always been an advocate of change.

"At the end of the day, a change is needed, so whatever the format is, as long as it's given a chance, we'll see.

"When clubs went down, they found it a struggle because of the lack of income.

"I suppose it's one of the penalties for being relegated, but these are big clubs and it would help the game if the league was bigger, playing home and away and giving these clubs a chance to survive."

St Johnstone chairman Geoff Brown believes a top league of 10 clubs would provide a challenge to the Old Firm dominance, and would like to see a review of the compensation offered to relegated clubs.

"The last time we had a 10-club league, Dundee United and Aberdeen won things, so the top 10 can work," Saints' Brown told BBC Scotland.

"At the moment, the one club which goes down will meet financial Armageddon.

Scottish football shake-up explained

Scottish football shake-up explained

"I've always been in favour of a top-12 with a 10 below until the two clubs who have been relegated brought their earnings back up and then eventually returning to a top 10, bottom 12.

"There could be as much as one and a half million pounds of difference between being in different divisions.

"And the parachute payment - which I helped to bring in but which has not changed since 1998 - doesn't help anybody.

"If you're the number 12 club and go down a division, you should be able to have a reasonable income."

Brown also implied that much of the financial problems experienced by smaller clubs is caused by excessive player wages when they reach the top-flight and a more balanced payment structure that accounts for relegation would help with survival.

"All clubs need to get their contracts sorted out," said Brown.

"If a club falls out of the top division then the fall needs to be passed on to those who caused the suffering, the players.

"We lost one and three quarter million pounds in the year we went down from the SPL.

"You go against your principles with the contracts you give out, because you end up paying the same money despite being in a different division, and it costs you."

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see also
SPL changes 'will help all clubs'
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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