THE seemingly interminable debate on how best to fix Scottish football goes on.
At this rate they will probably have resolved the Middle East crisis and made lasting peace in Afghanistan before some sort of consensus is ever reached.
Loading article content
At Hampden yesterday, though, there was a step forward of sorts. The 12 Scottish Premier League clubs met and shook hands on what they believe is the best way forward. Their proposal centres on the creation of a two-tier top division of 12 clubs each that splits three ways 22 matches in to the season. That, they believe, will offer plenty of meaningful, exciting matches, while also helping to reduce the financial chasm between the SPL and the first division. There will be financial sacrifices made by all the SPL clubs if this goes ahead but they feel it is a small price to pay if it helps take the game forward.
The next step, they hope, is to convince the Scottish Football League to back their proposals, probably at a meeting this Thursday. The Scottish Football Association are having a board meeting that day and will probably wander in to have a listen in their role as part of the Professional Game Board, even if, for the moment, they are no more than interested spectators. A time may come, however, when the SFA decide they have to "knock heads together" as their president Campbell Ogilvie put it yesterday, even if he comes across as being far too mild-mannered to ever do anything so confrontational.
Ogilvie, though, is determined to make the most of his new lease of life. The longer the First Tier Tax tribunal delayed its decision on Rangers' use of Employee Benefit Trusts during a period when he served in office at Ibrox, the more he felt unable to fulfill his duties as SFA president to his full potential. Ogilvie was never burdened by guilt or any sense of wrongdoing but it was the issue from which he could never truly escape.
"I tried to be totally up-front from day one, from the first time I sat with journalists last February or March," he said. "I tried to highlight my involvement in it in any case. But it was always a cloud. It was there every week. So I am pleased to move on and get back to the subject matters we should be focusing on."
While Ogilvie will be involved in the selection of the next Scotland manager – there were no updates on that front yesterday – it is administrative matters that are his forte. This is the man, after all, who helped come up with the blueprint for the Champions League. So it should come as no surprise that league reconstruction is something he is keen to get his teeth into.
While some in the SPL believe any new set-up could come into effect from as early as next season, Ogilvie believes it would be more prudent to wait until 2014/15 at the earliest. "My own view is that you should start a season and play for any structure changes and not have it implemented straight away," he said. "It's got to be right this time and if it means taking an extra year I think we should take the time to get it right. If you are bringing in any change, you start the season knowing what you're playing for. That's my opinion."
Most of the debate has revolved around the optimum number of teams for each division but Ogilvie believes that has attracted too much focus. "There are two proposals on the table and I still think we get caught up in the numbers sometimes," he added. "We can't lose sight of the fact it must be more attractive to the fans in the first place and to do that there must be more to play for, whether that's the in the top division or the second tier division.
"Two of the main stumbling blocks at the moment have been on the financial side. The gap dropping from team 12 in the top league to team one in the SFL goes from £750,000 to £75,000. Finance shouldn't be at the top of the debate but that's a fundamental issue."
There is a view held by some that any changing of the format will be done to help Rangers move quicker through the divisions but Ogilvie, who plans on standing for a further two-year term as president, moved to allay such a suggestion. "Whatever model we agree on, then it has to be on sporting merit and as far as I know that's on the agenda."