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Jan 8, 2013

Scotland set to adopt 'convoluted' plan

Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan has confirmed that a 12-12-18 league structure has been agreed ahead of a vote on sweeping changes to the game in the country.

The restructuring plans would also see the Scottish Football League and Scottish Premier League merge.

"We have had a very productive meeting of the Scottish FA's professional game board at which we had board representatives from around a third of the 42 senior clubs in Scotland," Regan said at a press conference alongside SFL chief executive David Longmuir and SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster.

"I'm delighted to say that we have agreed a set of principles to restructure Scottish football. That will include a single league body, subject to club consultation."

Longmuir had indicated at the weekend that the 12-12-18 structure would be preferable to the alternative 16-10-16 plan.

"We would struggle to get a 16-team top league because of the lack of games but it could be possible to sell the other idea," he said in a Sunday Herald interview. "That's the crux of the matter."

The current plan is to have the top two divisions divided into 12 teams apiece. After 22 games - the halfway point in the season - those teams divide into three groups of eight. The top group would then compete for Europe, and the title, while the second group would fight for the right to play in the following season's top flight, and the final group would battle to avoid relegation to the third tier.

"The major weakness in a top league of 16 is the lack of games, and the two 12s into three eights has a major weakness in that it is convoluted and complicated for fans to engage with," Longmuir added. "There is no perfect solution."

However, he added that there were more important issues at stake than having a straightforward league structure.

"The four elements of play-offs, redistribution, one league body, and better governance are far more important to me in terms of growing the game," Longmuir said. The size of the league and the numbers game is hugely important to fans but for me it's not the fundamental issue."

He added at Tuesday's press conference that "the distribution of wealth will now affect all 42 clubs" and "every club should be able to embrace this because they are all going to benefit from it".

SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster echoed Longmuir's thoughts.

He said: "What's important is that we focus on what is wanted by the game, which is a single league for the benefit of all 42 clubs; a structure that benefits, particularly, clubs in the second tier, so that the financial problems faced by clubs being relegated are alleviated; that we ensure a pyramid for the whole game; that we ensure proper governance structure.

"All of these things are the fundamental building blocks that we will work towards. The detail we will have to work through but that's for another day."

Regan said that the plans will be firmed up and then taken to clubs by the end of the month, when the changes will go to the vote.

"Ultimately it will be the clubs that decide but we have seen today a willingness to make change happen and a recognition that Scottish football is crying out for a new dawn and we have now got agreement to take to clubs for a single league body," Regan said. "That is a huge step for the game in Scotland and it shouldn't be underestimated.

"The clubs will decide what can be delivered by the start of the coming season, but that's not something we are going to get hung up on. We will deliver the change, as a collective, when we believe it's the right time for the game."

The SPL requires an 11-1 majority to ensure approval, but the working plans have met with unanimous approval. The SFL vote requires only a 75% majority.

Information from the Press Association was used in this report

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