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Page last updated at 09:27 GMT, Thursday, 16 December 2010

Henry McLeish review backs SPL plan for 10-team leagues

Former First Minister Henry McLeish talks football at Hampden
McLeish was heartened by the response to the first part of his review

Henry McLeish backs Scottish Premier League proposals for a two-tier top flight with 10 teams in each division and the return of a winter break.

The former First Minister has published the findings of the second part of his review of Scottish football.

And he recommends the merging of the SPL and Scottish Football League as a governing body.

Among his other suggestions are an earlier start to the season and the regionalisation of the lower leagues.

The second phase of McLeish's study focuses on the game's structures, leadership and governance and its publication comes four days before the 12 top-flight clubs meet to discuss their own wide-ranging plans.

The report is scathing of the current set-up within the Scottish Football Association and calls for the nine standing committees to be removed and replaced by two new boards.

McLeish, who was commissioned in May 2009 by SFA president George Peat to make a series of recommendations aimed at improving Scottish football, would also like to see a new judicial panel to effectively replace the disciplinary and general purposes committee.

"My report goes beyond obvious manifestations of underachievement and underperformance," said McLeish.

MY SPORT: DEBATE

"It asks searching questions about the mindset of the game in Scotland and the structures, mission, ethos and organisation of Scottish football.

"Our institutions are amongst the oldest in the world. The burden of history influences what we do and there has been, for far too long, a reluctance to embrace modernisation and make the game fit for purpose in the 21st Century."

A two-tier top flight with divisions of 10 would introduce a play-off system and spell the end for the current split, which sees the 12-team SPL divide in two for the final five fixtures.

"A Premier League of 14 teams which would be more in tune with what the fans and spectators have been asking for but which would run the risk of some serious financial difficulties and a reduction in the current financial distribution going to the clubs," wrote McLeish.

"The quality of the SPL would also be a major consideration."

And the review points out that Scotland, England and Portugal are the only European leagues operating without some kind of winter shutdown.

The SPL broke away from the SFL in 1998-99 but McLeish believes the organisations should unite.

"There is no doubt that a sound case can be made for integration," he said.

This report includes many sobering realities for us and the game in general but we will not shy away from our responsibilities

George Peat
SFA president

"The obstacles seem to be administrative, organisational and constitutional. Three governing bodies being reduced to two and one voice for Scotland's leagues seems like a sensible part of the modernisation and reform of Scottish football."

The report, which is over 100 pages long, claims the SFA "lacks coherence, focus and a sense of overall purpose, is ill-equipped to deal with current problems and has failed to plan effectively for the future".

It also claims that within Scotland's ruling football body "there is little appreciation of the benefits of being more open and transparent" which shows a "distinct lack of mission, vision, outcomes and objectives" and that the structure of the organisation lacks "consistency, logic and at times discipline".

In response Peat added: "This report includes many sobering realities for us and the game in general but we will not shy away from our responsibilities.

"We are committed to change and we believe now is the time to act for the sake of the game at all levels, from grassroots to elite performance.

"I have been encouraged by the help and support of the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League in this regard and together we can implement measures that will ensure a more prosperous future for the game."

McLeish mentions the possibility of 'colt' teams from the SPL playing in the lower leagues, while he would like to see a pyramid system in place, covering the Highland League, South of Scotland League, East of Scotland League and the Juniors, for entry into the senior ranks.

On the regionalisation of leagues, he said: "This idea has, currently, little support within the SFL but would be given some impetus if the Pyramid structure was developed and more formal discussions were to take place involving both the SFL and the SPL."

The first part of the McLeish review came out in April and primarily addressed the grassroots game in Scotland.



see also
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
McLeish buoyed by review response
17 Aug 10 |  Scottish Premier
Change demanded in Scots football
23 Apr 10 |  Scotland
McLeish has role in changing game
28 Apr 10 |  Scottish Premier


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