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Fans don't like Scottish league reforms


Major changes to the structure of Scottish football look almost certain to go ahead despite opposition from almost 90 per cent of Scottish fans and most of the Scottish media.   There will now be two top divisions of 10 clubs each and a regional structure is likely below that level.   From 2013 the bottom club in the premier division will be relegated while those finishing eight and ninth will contest play-offs with the clubs finishing second and third in the second tier for a place in the top flight.

A recent Supporters Direct survey showed that almost 90 per cent of 5,000 fans responding were opposed to a 10-team league with around three-quarters favouring a league of 16 or 18 teams.   However, money is the driver and the leadership of the Scottish Premier League think that a top league with 16 or 18 clubs is not financially viable.  

Chief executive Neil Doncaster argued that a larger league would decimate the finances of Scottish football: 'There is no doubt that there would be less money coming in from a television point of view.  There would be fewer games, either 30 in a 16-team league or 34 in an 18-team league and that clearly results in far less revenue for the clubs and that's why we've ended up with the recommendations we have.'

Final decisions will be taken on January 17th, but there is a broad consensus in favour of the changes.  A 11-1 vote is needed and Hearts is believed to be the only dissenting voice.  (There's a very interesting article here by a Hearts fan that looks at all the SPL clubs and where they stand on the issue). The recommendations are in line with those of the SPL's working group and the report on the Scottish game by former first minister Henry McLeish.

It is likely that there will be a winter break and an earlier start to the season.   As in Spain and Germany, it is likely that 'colt teams' of the top clubs will be allowed to play in the lower divisions.  This is thought to help with the development of younger players.   At one time top league clubs had 'A' teams in non-league competitions, e.g., Spurs in the Eastern Counties League.   Having colt teams in League 2 would probably be a step too far for English fans as it would be at the expense of existing clubs.

However, the idea of play-offs at the top of the league which happens in sports like ice hockey was thought to be too big a change.  It was felt that it could lead to the team that was fourth in the league taking the Champions League spot which would hardly improve the Scottish coefficient.