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SFL clubs vote for shake-up, but without Old Firm colts

Members of the Scottish Football League today backed a proposal for radical league construction, but sidelined a suggestion that the Old Firm should be able to field "colts" teams.

David Longmuir
David Longmuir

They are calling for the current league structure of 12 clubs in the SPL, and 10 in three SFL divisions, to be replaced by a 16-10-16 model.

The League Cup competition would be reshaped into eight qualifying sections of four teams, but the controversial idea for Old Firm colts to be included was shelved.

Significantly, though, SFL members voted for a merger with their SPL counterparts to create one overarching body for all league football in Scotland.

SFL chief executive David Longmuir said it was time for the SPL sides to put aside self-interest and work with his members for the overall good of the game.

However, the Scottish Premier League clubs have not been involved in the talks thus far and any agreement between the SFL teams is effectively redundant if the top-flight clubs fail to concur.

Following the overwhelming approval of the 30 SFL member clubs, Longmuir will now take the proposal to the Professional Game Board and the Scottish Premier League, including its chief executive Neil Doncaster.

Longmuir said: "I'm delighted to say that this morning's meeting we got clear direction from all 30 clubs unanimously that they would like us to continue to develop this proposal and to take it to, first of all the Professional Game Board, and then through dialogue with Neil and the members of the SPL.

"The key to this is that we are trying to put Scottish football back on a growth curve as opposed to managing decline. It's a first stab, it's not a panacea to change the world of Scottish football."

The aim is to heighten interest with a more dynamic structure and distribute wealth more evenly.

Longmuir added: "I think what we've put together today gives us that opportunity. What the clubs have said is they're fully behind it."

The 12 SPL clubs are scheduled to meet on December 3 at their regular general meeting where reconstruction, and possible expansion, is sure to be on the agenda.

Major change currently requires an 11-1 majority but the loss of Rangers has not sparked the expected end to what had been termed by some as the 'Old Firm veto'.

Whatever happens, compromise will be required if change is made, with the possible merger of the SPL and SFL.

"I grew up in Scottish football with only one league body and it served us quite well," Longmuir added.

"We had differences of opinion, but we were able to make decisions quicker, we were able to grow the game better, we were able to come to conclusions.

"The reasons for the change are well documented, but getting back under one roof allows us to get our full weight behind this plan, gets us back on the focus for growth on the game.

"I want a league structure which promotes young Scottish talent without risk of financial failure."

Instead of a structure believed by some to be relatively stagnant, Longmuir believes the proposals add "vibrancy".

He said: "The structure itself is based on a 16-team top league, a 10-team middle league and a 16-team bottom league, with promotion and relegation, two-up, two-down throughout the leagues and play-off positions as well.

"It encourages the flow of clubs between the divisions. It encourages change, it encourages refreshment and vibrancy of clubs changing their positions.

"But it also accommodates the threat and challenges faced by relegation and what that means financially.

"It's about how much incremental benefit it can deliver, both commercially, from broadcast and sponsorship revenues, but also in the development of young Scottish talent and also from the impact of the broadcast media, who may well be interested in something that is dynamic."

Dunfermline chairman John Yorkston has suggested the Scottish Football Association need to take the lead on the plans.

"Every club has got their own agenda but hopefully we can get together and work something out for the common good," Yorkston said.

"It may be that we need an outside committee to make the recommendations.

"If they (SPL clubs) don't agree to it then nothing is going to happen. Maybe that decision has to be taken away from the clubs. Maybe the SFA have got to come out and say 'this is where we're going boys. If you want to be part of football in Scotland that's it'.

"It's the only way I see us getting movement. I don't think there's a solution that everyone will sign up to 100%."

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