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Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Scottish Premier League clubs head for 10-team set-up


SPL chiefs discuss football reform

Scottish Premier League clubs are moving towards a 10-team top tier after appearing to rule out an extension to the current 12-team set-up.

All clubs met at Hampden for the first time in the ongoing discussions over league reconstruction.

And SPL chairman Ralph Topping said clubs believe that a 16 or 18-team league is not financially viable.

A working party has proposed two divisions of 10 and a vote is expected at the next gathering on 17 January.

Several managers have expressed doubts about a return to a 10-team top division and many fans are against the idea.

Asked if the SPL thought they had persuaded member clubs that a bigger league was not workable, Topping said: "Yes, broadly speaking yes.


"If you look at Scottish football, a 16-team league wouldn't work economically and it would have a knock-on effect in terms of the quality of players you can attract.

"It's two 10s or the status quo in my view."

Topping, who described the idea of play-offs at the top of the table as a 'non-starter', said it had been "a positive meeting, with every club making a contribution".

He added: "Some of the key issues were discussed and some were knocked into touch, while the steering group will go away and consider others."

When the 12 clubs meet again later this month they will also consider an earlier start to the season and the reintroduction of a winter break in time for the 2012-13 campaign.

And St Johnstone chairman Geoff Brown thinks the proposals are destined to succeed.

Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne arriving at Hampden
Aberdeen's Milne is backing the move to a 10-team top flight

Following the three-hour meeting at the national stadium, he said: "I would be fairly confident of the two 10-team leagues.

"It has not gone ahead, all we have had is discussions and every club can make their own minds up, but I would like to think we have a consensus."

Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne said that no alternative to a 10-team top flight had been put forward at the meeting.

"Each of the options has been fully evaluated and the one that delivers way above any of the others is a 10-team league," he said.

We know there is a big selling job to be done with the media and the fans

Stewart Milne
Aberdeen chairman

"And I'm fairly confident that's where we will end up.

"I don't think there is any other option. It delivers on a financial front, it delivers on a football front."

If the proposed measures are taken they could face opposition from fans, according to a poll of almost 5,000 Scottish supporters by Supporters Direct.

The majority of those responding were against to a 10-team league, with 88% opposed to the idea, while nearly half want a 16-team league and 27% favour 18 teams.

The introduction of a winter break and an earlier start to the season was met positively, although most felt supporters had not been adequately consulted.

"We know there is a big selling job to be done with the media and the fans," added Milne.

"But, if we don't bring money in, where is Scottish football going? We have no money to invest in youth, we can't afford to bring in highly paid players."

SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster also spoke of the economic argument against a 16 or 18-team top division, saying it would "involve the decimation of finances in Scottish football".

"The cake gets much smaller and is cut into more slices," he explained.

"There would be fewer games and there is no doubt, from a TV point of view, there would be less money coming into the game."

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see also
Top 10 will raise TV money - SPL
05 Jan 11 |  Scottish Premier
Fans discuss top 10 plan with SPL
06 Jan 11 |  Scottish Premier
Thompson hails positive SPL talks
24 Dec 10 |  Scottish Premier
SFA chiefs differ on league size
22 Dec 10 |  Scotland
Smith dismisses play-off proposal
20 Dec 10 |  Scottish Premier
McLeish review backs two-tier SPL
16 Dec 10 |  Scotland
SPL to consider radical shake-up
12 Dec 10 |  Scottish Premier

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