Robbie Neilson believes Hearts fans would welcome league reconstruction after enjoying a variety of different away grounds in this season’s Championship.
Talk of an expanded 16-team Premiership in years to come has been mooted and Neilson feels that would appeal to the Tynecastle support. Neil Doncaster, chief executive of the Scottish Professional Football League, has hinted at possible changes to the 12-team top flight and a revamp of the League Cup. Any proposals would need discussed and approved by the clubs, but the majority of Scottish football fans want a larger Premiership.
Neilson knows changes would not be straightforward, but admitted that Hearts fans would likely welcome more teams in the league. Supporters travelled in huge numbers to watch the Edinburgh side this season at venues they had not visited for many years, such as Queen of the South’s Palmerston Park and Alloa’s Indodrill Stadium.
“It’s a big, big step for the country to take,” Neilson told the Evening News. “After cutting the league down years ago, to expand it again would take a lot of investment for the smaller clubs. I think it would appeal to fans. Look at our support this season. They’ve enjoyed going to Palmerston, Stark’s Park, Falkirk and places like that. It’s different venues and ground and towns and cities. If it’s financially viable and if we can support the smaller clubs to make it competitive, then I don’t see why not.
“If the clubs are there to sustain it, then yes. What you can’t have is a 16-team league with eight clubs cut adrift at the bottom because they can’t beat anyone in the top eight. If finances are distributed properly and teams are going to bring support, then it’s something to look at.”
The possibility of starting the League Cup in July is something which has still to be properly examined. Neilson explained there would be positives and negatives. “If it starts in July it could then become a pre-season tournament. It might then lose its appeal to the bigger clubs,” he cautioned.
“Teams could put lesser teams out because they’re getting ready for the league starting. You would want the League Cup to have prestige. Teams who won it used to get into Europe and they took that out of it.”