Scottish football’s three governing bodies have announced a series of proposals for change – including a top flight of 16 clubs if desired – which is hoped will “rejuvenate Scottish football at senior level and safeguard its future”.
The package of radical reforms were revealed two days before Rangers newco, who were denied admission to the Scottish Premier League, will discover whether they will be playing in the Irn-Bru First Division or Third Division next season.
The majority of the SFL clubs who have made their views known want Ally McCoist’s side to go into the Third Division, despite SFA chief executive Stewart Regan warning of the “slow, lingering death” of the game if the Govan club were not voted into the second tier.
However, it is hoped that today’s proposals will persuade enough SFL clubs to allow the Ibrox club into the First Division and allay widespread fears for the game’s future.
In return – although changes will ultimately take place regardless of which way the vote goes – there will be the immediate implementation of play-offs and the re-defining of the rule book with the process of merging the three organisations set in motion.
The SPL would increase to 14 teams for the beginning of season 2013/14, with the mechanism put in place to add two more at a later date.
There will be changes to the size of the other leagues as well as the redistribution of monies, with parachute payments and a pyramid system also on the agenda.
The SFA is taking the lead, appointing an independent chairman to the working party to be set up and will take over the process if there is no agreement by November 30. It is understood the SFA is also willing to part-finance the restructuring.
SFL chief executive David Longmuir, who spent this week negotiating the reforms with the SFA and the SPL, confirmed his desire for league reconstruction after leaving an SFL board meeting at Hampden yesterday.
“Let’s be under no illusions, what we are trying to do is take Scottish football forward and to take it forward in a way that excites and interests fans, keeps clubs viable and doesn’t lose fans to the game. If that involves a number of scenarios regarding bigger leagues, play-offs, better governance and better distribution of finance throughout the game, that is something worth going for.”
Afterwards a joint statement on behalf of the SFA, SPL and SFL was released which outlined the proposals, although not in the same detail as the clubs were given.
It read: “The Scottish FA, the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League have, for the past two years, been involved in a series of discussions at board level with the objective of securing radical and co-ordinated reconstruction of the game in this country.
“Upon agreement by the respective boards, the proposals will be placed before the SPL and SFL clubs for approval, to be activated immediately and phased in over a two-year period.
“A working party will be formed, including three representatives from both the SPL and SFL, to devise a new structure for the senior professional game in Scotland.
“This group will have an independent chairman appointed by the Scottish FA. They will be tasked with delivering, by 30th November, 2012, a recommendation for structural change effective 2013/14. This will incorporate primarily:-
“a) The introduction of an enlarged top tier for Scottish Senior Professional Football.
“b) A new detailed model for senior professional football in Scotland including number of divisions; number of clubs per division; number of matches per season per division; number of promotion and relegation places per division and the introduction and operation of play-offs.
“c) An all-through distribution model providing certainty for all clubs as to the percentage of distributable income which will be received. As a minimum, clubs in the current third and fourth divisions will receive the settlement agreement proportion guaranteed as per the current arrangement. In addition, the value and number of parachute payments to relegated clubs will be considered.
“d) The introduction of a pyramid for Scottish football to provide a route for licensed clubs to enter the new structure effective 2014/2015.
“In the event that a final decision is not reached by 30th November, 2012, the Scottish FA will seek to implement a new structure in time for the 2013/2014 season. The members of the working party, including the chairman, will be announced in the near future and will ensure consultation with all stakeholders prior to final recommendations being made.”
Amid the uncertainty surrounding the Rangers vote, the decision on whether it is Dunfermline or Dundee who will replace them in the SPL will not be taken until Monday at the earliest.