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Plans to change structure of Scottish leagues are too complex and confusing, says Andy Walker

Kilmarnock - Andy Walker Posted 7th January 2013 view comments

Having been around the Scottish game for a long time, I have to say I'm far from convinced that the proposed changes to the structure of the leagues is the best way forward.

With the SPL in a two-week break, all the talk centres on how the game can make a positive step forward and after much discussion between all interested parties, a format of two top leagues of 12, which split into three leagues of eight after 22 games, is on the cards.

Longmuir: encouraged by reconstruction plans

Longmuir: encouraged by reconstruction plans

It seems to me that if there's a way of making an easy game of football much more complex, we'll find it.

SFL chief executive David Longmuir has described the on-going talks on league reconstruction as being very positive. Following the collapse of Rangers in the summer and a rulebook that had no provision to deal with such a scenario, their eventual placement in the bottom tier of Scottish football resulted in relationships between SPL & SFL clubs being extremely fragile.

It seems to me that if there's a way of making an easy game of football much more complex, we'll find it.

Andy Walker
Quotes of the week

Initially, the SFL wanted a top league of 16 with a league of 10 and another league of 16 below that. A fairer distribution of wealth was their driving force with play-offs also top of their agenda.

But apart from Rangers, the biggest and most powerful clubs are obviously in the SPL and their chief executive Neil Doncaster immediately described the idea of a top league of 16 as "unworkable".

This new proposal of 12-12-18 is gathering favour and here's how it would work.

The top two divisions would split after two rounds of fixtures, 22 games, with teams meeting home and away. The top eight then play a further round of fixtures home and away giving a total of 36 games. These teams would be playing for the title and European places.

The bottom four of the initial 12 would play against the top four of the lower division of 12 and these eight clubs would also play another round of games home and away with the top four staying in the initial 12 for the following season and the bottom four being relegated.

The bottom eight in the lower 12 would also play off against one another for relegation places.

Confused? I'm not surprised.

Switzerland and Austria tried the same experiment in their top division for seven years before going back to a 12-10 set up.


All of this of course has been on the back of a recent report from the SFA by former First Minister Henry McLeish who took a year to examine in detail the set-up, finances and best way forward for our game in the immediate to short term.

The SFA are an easy target for criticism but in giving him a free reign to say exactly what he thought, the former East Fife player didn't hold back.

With no hidden agenda and no allegiance to any side, McLeish proposed going back to a top league of 10, playing each other home and away twice for a total of 36 games with one relegation place as well as the second bottom being involved in promotion/relegation play-offs.

He also suggested every club should be under one body, something almost everyone agrees with. Having an SFA, SPL and SFL means self-interest is the driving force in every league.

But surely we can come up with something better than two top leagues of 12 splitting into three groups of eight?

Comments (6)

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Alex Mcleish (Rangers fan) says...

I like the idea very much.! The SPL (and other Scottish leagues) has a tendency to become boring in it's annual infancy. By Christmas the title will be won by Celtic/Rangers and there is normally a strong favourite for the single relgation spot. Okay, there may be a scrap for 3rd place spoils but... YAWN.! The mid table teams have no reason to hold the interest. They are safe and boring and not worthy of note until the play the Old Firm. With these proposals, we will be watching 6 teams battle to avoid the bottom 4 positions for a mid season relegation battle, plus a battle for top spot (probs Celtic/Rangers given time), plus a battle for third place spoils. This gives cause to have an interest in all teams. A viewers Interest can be held. ...and all this in half a season. For the second half of the season, we have 8 teams battling for 4 promotion/relegation spots away from the top 8. Exiting. We have a continuation of the title race, 3rd place race. My favourite league in terms of its ability to hold interest in the English Championship. Right up until the later stages there are usually 10 teams fighting for promotion (via play-off) and half a dozen fighting relegation. A good league structure should keep the neutral interested in all clubs, not just the top few. Last years SPL was a forgone conclusion for Champions by about February. Relegation was a 2 horse race by February with an obvious candidate in Dunfermline. This hardly captures the imagination. Lets giive the proposals our backing, it CANNOT be any worse than what we have at present and we can intriduce refinement/further change it it is required as our league developes. Scottish Football for Change!!!!!!!!!!!1

Posted 10:21 10th January 2013

Neil Maffey (Newcastle United fan) says...

The suggestion of 2 x 12s splitting into 3 x 8s for the second half of the season is great ...... in reality the English, Spanish, German and Italian leagues are all unofficially in this situation with the batle for European places in the top eight, the 6 at the bottom fighting relegation and the guys in the middle treading water. Scottish football needs to have some variety in opponents through the season and this will achieve that. Plus it will give a fairer revenue stream to more teams. It's got to be better than the 'same old, same old' that is gradually killing Scottish football off as it is now ........

Posted 17:33 9th January 2013

John O'brien (Hearts fan) says...

I am in favour of the new plans. Scottish football needs change. This will provide added interest, and avoid a lot of meaningless games. It does not seem complex at all.

Posted 16:55 9th January 2013

James Stevens (Kilmarnock fan) says...

Why not just have the SFL 16-10-16 structure. They say its the share of the money that matters not the structure. As for the loss of games - the 'champions league' format of the League cup could make that up. Just include it in TV deals and season tickets.

Posted 23:37 8th January 2013

Kevin Dubourt (Celtic fan) says...

Why not just go with the 12-12-18 (assuming both Rangers and Celtic are putting B teams in the bottom tier) and then make it 2 up 2 down at the end of season with bottom relegated and next 2 playoff for survival and similarly for promotion?? All this splitting of the divisions just futher alienates the teams from the rest. A 10 team division will mean playing each other 4 times in a season with a 36 game total and the 18 team division will only play twice resulting in 34 games in a season. Surely this is more sensible and certainly less complicated. It seems SPL and SFA boffins only want to put forward ideas that nobody can understand! They're already laughing at us from below the border. Why do we insist on giving them something else to laugh at?

Posted 16:42 8th January 2013

Stevie Calder (Aberdeen fan) says...

I think it's a good plan. The main thing people want is variety in opposition - not playing the same teams four times a season, year after year. But we know that a big league of 16-20 is not practical in a country like Scotland. This format allows us to have as much variety as possible within a smaller top division. It also brings excitement because which side of the split you fall on has real importance, unlike now where the split is seen as a bit meaningless. No format is perfect, but this seems like the perfect compromise. However, in Scottish football people are so desperate to be negative that it doesn't really matter what we have, people will shoot it down. Everyone is constantly crying out for league reform, but literally any proposal which is seriously workable is instantly criticised.

Posted 04:26 8th January 2013

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