Vital day for Hearts owner Ann Budge's league reconstruction plan

Neil Doncaster to gather thoughts from all four divisions
SPFL clubs are due to let league officials at Hampden know their views on Ann Budge's league reconstruction plan.SPFL clubs are due to let league officials at Hampden know their views on Ann Budge's league reconstruction plan.
SPFL clubs are due to let league officials at Hampden know their views on Ann Budge's league reconstruction plan.

Hearts owner Ann Budge should learn later today whether clubs want to progress her league construction plan, but the proposal is struggling to gain enough support.

Neil Doncaster, chief executive of the Scottish Professional Football League, has asked chairmen across the country to indicate this afternoon whether they will back Budge’s idea for three divisions of 14 teams.

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She has said her ‘discussion paper’ is flexible and can be amended, with a 14-14-16 system also possible. So far, a number of clubs in the Scottish Championship, League One and League Two have been reluctant to get behind the plan.

Doncaster wants to assess whether there is enough support before putting the idea to a vote. Hearts are awaiting the outcome knowing Budge’s revamp would save them from relegation.

If it is to move forward, the proposal would need 11 of 12 Premiership teams to formally vote for it, plus eight in the Championship and 15 out of 20 across League One and League Two.

Budge’s restructure would see Hearts reinstated to the Premiership following their enforced relegation to the Championship. Inverness Caledonian Thistle would also make the step up from the second tier.

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Partick Thistle would also avoid relegation by remaining in the second tier, which would be expanded to 14 teams.

Stranraer would be in the third, a division which have the option to expand to 16 teams to include the Highland League winners Brora Rangers and Lowland League champions Kelty Hearts.

The proposal, if voted through, would take effect this summer and remain in place for two years before being reviewed in 2022.

Budge is aware many of Scotland’s lower-league clubs feel they cannot afford to play closed-door games without income from crowds during the coronavirus pandemic.

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That could have a serious impact on next season’s fixtures and she has attempted to plan for such a possibility.

She wrote in her paper: “The proposed changes, creating three bigger leagues, means that if, unfortunately, some clubs cannot see a way to play this season, there will hopefully be sufficient clubs in each League to allow the season to go ahead, albeit in a modified form. Maximum flexibility is crucial.”

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