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McCoist and Lennon split over proposals

PLANS to reorganise Scottish football have drawn a mixed reaction from the managers of Celtic and Rangers. 

Under proposals submitted jointly by the Scottish Football League, Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Premier League, the four divisions would be restructured into three tiers comprising 12, 12 and 18 teams.

The 41 clubs – Rangers do not get a formal say as associate members – are scheduled to vote on the matter later this month. Should the plans receive sufficient approval, the new set-up could be in place for the start of the new campaign in August.

That, according to McCoist, would be "farcical" and would make Rangers' pursuit of the Irn-Bru third division title this year completely worthless.

"They talk about common sense – the term nowadays is sporting integrity – but you can't make the season meaningless," said the Rangers manager.

"By all means move the goalposts, do it at the start of the season or the end, but you can't possibly move goalposts during the season, so people don't know effectively where they are going to be.

"You would end up having meaningless games. They [the governing bodies] are telling us there is a lot of work to be done and I don't doubt there is but they are also protecting themselves by prolonging the decision in terms of keeping face because as soon as they make a decision, our league is fish and chip paper. So if it is . . . please tell us now.

"But what they will do to protect themselves, is wait and wait until we have won it, or somebody has won it, and then say okay, it's pointless. It's a farce, it's farcical. You can't do it. It's just not right. The people who came up with the 'sporting integrity' term must accept it's not right."

In contrast, Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, made no attempt to disguise his displeasure at those who are criticising the plans.

"It needed changing, and we think it's going to change for the better. The proof will be in the pudding, though.

"I wouldn't say it's a radical change, but I think it's for the better. People don't like change, and there will always be factions that aren't happy with it, but the majority of people in the SPL are happy with it and I'm happy to go along with that."

"We are the ones trying to make it work, trying to promote the game here and trying to raise the profile," he said. "It's a lot of people on the outside looking in who want to chip away at it. They are the ones who do not come up with anything better.

"They sit in front of the TV while others are out there doing it, and they will just chip, chip, chip away. But that's a social thing, not a football thing. The whole Rangers thing has taken away a huge proportion of the crowds we were getting in the SPL," he conceded. "But it has made other clubs competitive.

Lennon maintains there are too many teams in Scotland, but he is content to leave the figures to those with a clearer view of the financial picture.He said: "These guys know the number crunching, and we have enough on our plate. Just accept it and make the best of it."

That view is not shared at Ibrox. The proposals require the backing of 11 SPL clubs, and 22 SFL clubs. McCoist called upon those in the lower leagues to stand alongside them and vote against the scheme but knows that the prospect, for the third division clubs, of another season in the same division as the Ibrox club may turn heads. "What I would cry out for is the SFL clubs to show complete unity," he added. "Sadly, though, money talks."

McCoist, the Irn-Bru third division manager of the month for December, conceded that change was needed to improve Scottish football but revealed the structure chosen would not have been his preference.

"I'm not happy with 12-12-18. We could be here all day picking holes in it. Not going into great detail I would think three leagues of 14 is a better idea than what's been suggested. My own opinion would be more teams in the top league but I can understand it comes down to finances again.

Charles Green, the Rangers chief executive, had claimed earlier in the week that the club would look to leave Scottish football if the reconstruction proposals were voted through, but McCoist was more circumspect on the matter.

"I know Rangers and Celtic have explored avenues to play in different leagues and I would think they would continue to do that. But where I'm sitting at the moment, I'd settle for the top league in Scotland."

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