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Page last updated at 19:41 GMT, Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Hearts seek further talks on SPL play-offs

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Don't dismiss play-off idea - Jefferies

By Jim Spence

Hearts director David Southern has hit out at both Old Firm managers for their criticism of proposed play-offs at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

Walter Smith and Neil Lennon were quick to dismiss the idea of the title being decided via play-offs.

"The proposal was maybe treated with a little bit of disdain by both managers," Southern told BBC Scotland.

"Only two teams have won the SPL in the last 25 years and that's why we are asking for a discussion."

The Scottish Premier League are pushing for two-tier structure, with both leagues made up of 10 teams and play-offs to decide promotion and relegation.

The 12 clubs in the present top flight had planned to discuss the matter on Monday, only for the freezing weather to scupper the gathering.

The meeting has been rescheduled for 4 January, while the six clubs not involved in the steering group: Hearts, Dundee United, St Johnstone, Kilmarnock, Inverness and Hamilton, will now meet with the SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster and chairman Ralph Topping at Hampden on Friday to air their thoughts.

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Like Hearts, Kilmarnock and Dundee United are believed to want further talks and want the possibility of a bigger league with play-offs at both ends of the table explored.

"We're calling on the focus not to be just on the bottom of the league and the play-offs at the bottom," added Tynecastle managing director Southern.

"We're asking should we really be looking across the whole league and at the top of the league as well? What could we do there to make it more exciting for the supporters, and let's get this right, that's the priority of the strategy group and everyone of the 12 clubs.

"Hearts believe that there is a lot of talking that needs to be done on the issue of reconstruction. We cannot afford to ignore new ideas.

"We are not against a top 10 per se but we remain to be convinced."

Inverness Caledonian Thistle chairman George Fraser also remains to be convinced by proposals for a new top-10 league.

"The jury is out," he told BBC Scotland. "We need more meat on the bones."

And another senior figure from the six clubs meeting on Friday told BBC Scotland: "It is just as well yesterday's meeting was cancelled, it was going to be very stormy. The clubs are very unhappy at the lack of consultation."

Kilmarnock chairman Michael Johnston
Johnston believes a 10-team league may put more pressure on SPL clubs

At the weekend, Kilmarnock chairman Michael Johnston said he was cautious about the prospect of a 10-team top league, a format also proposed in the second part of Henry McLeish's review of Scottish football.

"I think a 10-team league could work, but there are all sorts of permutations that could work better," he said.

"Most of the managers in the SPL have come out and said that they would prefer a bigger league rather than a smaller league."

Johnston added: "There are also the issue of play-offs; you can have play-offs up and down the leagues as the Dutch have shown.

"There are all manners of ways of getting the right number of fixtures and having arrangements with play-offs that make it attractive to TV companies and for commercial reasons.

"So a 10-team league might be the right answer or it might not, so I'm keeping an open mind on it.

"I'm certainly not over-enthusiastic about the idea of three teams being in a relegation battle in a 10-team league, which, if you take the Old Firm out of that, you're talking about three teams in an eight-team league who are going to be under pressure right from the start.

"That could lead to a lot of tension, which can have a negative effect on the way matches are played."



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see also
Lennon against season extension
20 Dec 10 |  Celtic
Smith dismisses play-off proposal
20 Dec 10 |  Scottish Premier
McLeish review backs two-tier SPL
16 Dec 10 |  Scotland
Accies boss wants expanded league
15 Dec 10 |  Hamilton
SPL plans could face opposition
13 Dec 10 |  Scottish Premier
SPL changes 'will help all clubs'
13 Dec 10 |  Scottish Premier
SPL to consider radical shake-up
12 Dec 10 |  Scottish Premier


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