SPL clubs agree restructure plan

Celtic
Celtic won the SPL title last year, but the Scottish top flight could be getting a makeover. Photo: PA

Scottish Premier League chief executive Neil Doncaster has revealed all 12 clubs have unanimously agreed in principle to a "24-18" team model following further talks on league reconstruction at Hampden today.

Last month, the SPL agreed to seek the expansion of their membership, with plans that would see two leagues of 12 split into three divisions of eight after 22 games.

It is believed today's summit resulted in further agreement on issues such as financial distribution and voting structures.

Doncaster now hopes to meet with the Scottish Football League and the Scottish Football Association on Thursday to discuss the plans further.

Speaking after today's meeting, he said: "I'm delighted to say that we have unanimous agreement in principle from the 12 SPL member clubs to the 24-18 team model.

"We are looking forward to sitting down with the Scottish Football League and the Scottish FA to talk about the details.

"What we aim to have is a consensus model that cares for all of Scottish football and that's got to be the objective going forward."

Doncaster, who saw his plans for a 10-12 two-tier SPL fail to get off the ground last year, hopes progress can finally be made.

He said: "Unanimity amongst the SPL clubs has sometimes been difficult to achieve when we've been talking about structure.

"We're in a position where we do have that unanimous in-principle agreement from all 12 SPL clubs about their preferred way forward.

"There was no formal vote today but every club gave an indication informally as to where they were."

Asked what happens next, he added: "We are looking to sit down with the SFL and the SFA at the earliest opportunity.

"I believe there is a potential get-together this Thursday, when we hope to sit down with them, talk to them about what could be involved and hopefully get buy-in from everyone.

"What I don't want to do is go into too much detail at this stage.

"It's important to show those teams the respect they deserve and talk to them first, rather than talk to the media about what might happen."

Doncaster gave a strong hint that top-flight clubs were willing to share some more wealth with the lower leagues but was reluctant to discuss whether they would want any new format to fall under the umbrella of the SPL.

"We understand that there needs to be a lot of redistribution from the biggest clubs and that's something which the clubs, in principle, bought into today," he said.

"It's too early to talk about what the branding might be. We need to sit down with the other clubs and the SFA and agree the best way forward for everyone."

The SFA have been attempting to drive both leagues towards consensus and president Campbell Ogilvie believes that is possible despite the SFL clubs last month unanimously backing significantly different plans for a 16-10-16 structure.

"There is a lot of common ground between the two league bodies," Ogilvie said today.

"So often the debate is centred around the number of teams in leagues. That's not the answer.

"League reconstruction to me is much more fundamental. Is it going to produce better quality young players? Is it going to be more attractive games to the supporters, more games that are meaningful?

"The financial model, where a club drops out of the Premier League and gets £750,000 down to £75,000 for a team winning the SFL. To me that's not sustainable.

"There is only one promotion place and there are five or six SPL-type teams in the First Division. That's not sustainable.

"These are key issues which I know both league bodies buy into, that have to be rectified. I would work on the areas that there is agreement on and forget the numbers for a minute.

"Both models agree there is a need for a strong second tier, albeit with different numbers.

"We want more competitive games, more prizes. I'm afraid some of that might be relegation.

"Both models take on board a play-off system, albeit different types. There has got to be more games where supporters want to go along."

Agreement proved difficult during a summer of recrimination after Rangers were consigned to liquidation and re-emerged as a new company.

SPL clubs rejected an application from Charles Green's newco but the likes of St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour then criticised SFL clubs for putting their new member in the Irn-Bru Third Division rather than the First.

Ogilvie said: "There was ground lost in the summer with the decision on Rangers.

"There was quite a lot of fall-out and ill will but some bridges have to be built again and relationships improved.

"I think that is happening and there is more commonality between the clubs within the two bodies than there is sometimes portrayed publicly."