Aberdeen chairman: "Whilst the group sympathises with the plight of the relegated teams, it concluded that this is not the right time to consider immediate reconstruction in the midst of a crisis"
Saturday 9 May 2020 14:47, UK
The Scottish Premiership clubs have decided to abandon proposals to reconstruct the SPFL pyramid, concluding that "this is not the right time".
A 14-club SPFL task force had been meeting to discuss the plans to change the current 12-10-10-10 format to a possible 14-14-14 league construction - which would have saved Partick Thistle and Stranraer from relegation to Leagues One and Two respectively.
However, with football in Scotland still suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the leagues beneath the Premiership having finished for the season, it was decided that a reconstruction is not the current priority.
After a meeting of Premiership clubs on Friday, Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack said: "The strong feeling of the group was that we must focus all of our energies on emerging from the crisis we face, due to the pandemic, on getting back to playing football safely and getting fans back into grounds as soon as practicably possible.
"Whilst the group sympathises with the plight of the situation the relegated teams are faced with, it concluded that this is not the right time to consider immediate reconstruction in the midst of a crisis.
"But the group is willing to engage in and pick up on these discussions once we are through COVID-19."
Hearts were four points adrift at the bottom of the Premiership with eight games remaining when football was suspended and, with reconstruction plans abandoned, now face being relegated to the Championship if the season is ended prematurely.
That decision now rests with the SPFL after their controversial resolution - backed by the majority of clubs - gave them the power to end the season, as they have already done with every division outside of the Premiership.
In a statement on Friday evening, Falkirk chairman Gary Deans said he "cannot accept this unfair decision by six clubs".
Falkirk were in second in League One when the season was suspended, one point behind Raith Rovers, and they would have joined the leaders in the second tier had the 14-14-14 format been approved.
However, while Raith are set to be promoted, the scrapped plans mean Falkirk face the prospect of staying in the third tier.
Deans said: "As a club we embarked upon this process with eyes wide open and tempered optimism, hoping that the SPFL and other clubs might see the bigger picture and act in the best interests of Scottish football.
"In fairness, some did see that bigger picture and approached talks in a constructive manner - but once again progress has been hampered by the short-sightedness and self-preservation of a small cabal within Scotland's top division.
"You will share my anger at this latest injustice, the failed promises and the general mismanagement that has occurred at the top of Scottish football for many years.
"I have already embarked upon discussions with other clubs who share my anger and we will be considering the next steps to take over the weekend. I will keep you informed as matters progress but for now the club has made it clear that we cannot support this unfair decision taken by six clubs and supported by those at the SPFL. Change is required."
And the outcome of Sunday's meeting means there will not yet be a route into the SPFL for Highland League winners Brora Rangers or Lowland League winners Kelty Hearts.
A statement from the Scottish Highland Football League read: "Today's news that the current work towards SPFL League Reconstruction has been brought to an abrupt and arbitrary halt is disappointing and frustrating in equal measure.
"This year, albeit in difficult circumstances, the SPFL had its first opportunity since the introduction of the Scottish Football pyramid to meaningfully embrace the spirit of the pyramid.
"It is a matter of great regret that the SPFL has chosen to turn away from that.
"All associated with the Highland League share the undoubted disenchantment that will be felt by Brora Rangers and Kelty Hearts."
The decision to stop talks over league reconstruction is the latest episode to make Scottish football a "laughing stock", says Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray.
Murray, who is also a former Hearts director, told Sky Sports News: "It's incredibly disappointing. It just seems extraordinary to me that a membership organisation that's supposed to be custodians of the national sport - and look after each other as members - don't want reconstruction.
"Clubs might not survive and the members of the organisation they're a part of are saying, 'we're not going to try and help'.
"Hearts probably deserve to get relegated, but in these circumstances, membership organisations should be working together.
"It's absolutely extraordinary that self-interest is in the way of trying to make sure that every single club are preserved through this crisis. A temporary or permanent reconstruction of the leagues would have helped everybody.
"Everybody is looking at Scottish football and they are laughing at us. Whether it be about the voting of Dundee, whether it be about the reconstruction, nobody has any confidence at all that the management of Scottish football is done for the interests of its member clubs and its supporters."
The board of Partick Thistle, who stand to be relegated as a result of the failure to agree league reconstruction, released a statement on Saturday strongly criticising the process behind the decision to not restructure the leagues.
It read: "The Partick Thistle board is deeply angered by the decision to halt league reconstruction. As the reconstruction group hadn't even formally presented a final proposal, it is surprising and disappointing that this decision could be made regardless.
"So it is hard to see this a considered decision about reconstruction, it smacks more about the settling of scores within the Premiership.
"First of all, the way that this news was made public before clubs affected by the decision knew - and before they could inform staff and players - was a disgrace. Yet again we were left to pick up the pieces due to thoughtless, selfish behaviour that showed no regard for fellow clubs.
"The SPFL and some clubs, namely the six who were behind that decision yesterday, have now made it even more difficult for Partick Thistle Football Club to emerge unscathed from the crisis we now face.
"What's galling is that it all stems from the arbitrary and unjust way the club was relegated, with no say in it, which effectively saw a members' organisation inflict damage on us, one of its members, amid the most extraordinary circumstances.
"Despite it all, Partick Thistle will not only survive this injustice but will flourish again. All that yesterday's development means is that we will achieve this despite the behaviour and actions of the SPFL and some of our fellow clubs. This will serve to drive us forward, not set us back."