OPPORTUNITY knocks for the SPFL as they begin the search for a new title sponsor. The naming of Scottish football’s four divisions pre-dated Ladbrokes’ arrival in 2015 but it has become synonymous with their brand over the past four years.

With the gambling giants departing the scene from next summer, it presents an obvious opportunity for the league to move forward with a new sponsor – should they be able to land one - while taking the chance to rebrand the entire set-up in the process.

The names never made any sense to start with. The merger of the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League in 2013 to create the Scottish Professional Football League naturally required a rejigging of the brand given all four divisions were now under the control of one governing body.

But lifting wholesale the titles used in England for the three lower divisions was a massive mis-step. For starters, the English league set-up is governed by two distinct organisations. Hence the English Premier League was used for the top division, the Championship for the top tier in the English Football League, and League One and Two below that. It was a bit convoluted but you could see where they were going with it.

Naming the second tier of a newly-united four-division Scottish set-up the Championship, however, defied logic. And then having the third tier as League One and the fourth tier as League Two only added to the confusion.

Six years on and we still have many Scottish football fans – as well as too many managers and players – calling the top division the Scottish Premier League or the SPL for short. Adding to that are the numbers who use the terms SPFL, SPL and Premiership interchangeably, while also still referring to the English top flight as the Premiership – something it has not been called since 2007. What a mess.

Rather than continually trying to re-educate fans, then, why not just embrace what they are comfortable with? If people are going to keep calling our top division the SPL then let’s make it official and go back to that. And below that simply call it Division Two, Division Three and Division Four. That last part may initially cause some confusion given the numerical change from the current set-up but, logically, it would make more sense than continuing to call the second tier a Championship when it is anything but.

All will remain under the umbrella of the SPFL but the governing body’s title should be used only for announcements that affect the whole set-up. When talking or writing about fixtures and match reports just keep it to the name of each division: “Here’s Sportscene with all the highlights from yesterday’s SPL”. It rolls off the tongue. The SPL was a successful brand from its formation in 1998 until it ceased being in 2013. It will do little harm to go back to that again from 2020.

Scottish football has regained a sense of national pride and identity in the six years since the formation of the SPFL and the naming of those divisions. No longer in thrall to English football and desperate to emulate it, we have grown to appreciate the quirky but competitive nature of our own game. Detaching from the English names should serve as a further indicator that we are comfortable in our own skin and no longer looking enviously over the border, wishing we could be more like them. Who needs the corporate dullness of the Etihad or Emirates when we have our own colourful and vibrant alternative?

The change in perception of our game, the rise in attendances and football’s ubiquitous prominence in the centre of Scottish society ought to make it a hugely enticing prospect to potential new sponsors. But that may be easier said than done.

There was no title sponsor in the SPFL’s first two years of existence and it may prove just as difficult to find a replacement who will be able to match the approximate £2.5m per annum Ladbrokes is paying on its current deal.

Gambling firms such as Ladbrokes’ parent company GVC Holdings have agreed from this season on a “whistle to whistle” voluntary ban on betting adverts during live sports broadcasts, while there have been calls for a similar ban on trackside advertising at matches in a bid to encourage responsible gambling.

The decision last year to cut the maximum stake on fixed-odds terminals – puggies in layman’s terms - from £100 to £2 has also vastly reduced the spending power of many bookmakers. Both William Hill’s sponsorship of the Scottish Cup and Betfred’s backing of the League Cup are similarly on course to end next summer.

Not having a bookie for a title sponsor will please those who don’t approve of gambling advertising but there won’t be a long queue of more ethical alternatives as major firms tighten their belts and cut back on sponsorship spend.

The EPL hasn’t had a title sponsor since 2016, claiming to prefer a “cleaner” brand unsullied by a corporate title. Their huge broadcasting deal presents them with that choice.

The SPFL, though, don’t have that luxury but as they begin their wooing of possible sponsors, a clean slate on the naming rights and the possible return of the SPL will hopefully prove something of an incentive.