SPL given go-ahead for second division
The Scottish Premier League have been given the green light to try to create a second division - two and a half years after first proposing it.
The Scottish Football League had contested the SPL's bid to introduce a new top-flight structure of 22 clubs playing in two divisions, claiming it breached a previous agreement between the two organisations.
The SFL called on the Scottish Football Association to set up an independent arbitration panel to establish if this was the case.
That three-man panel was first convened in April 2007 and it has taken almost two years for them to decide the SPL had not breached any agreement, paving the way for them to move forward with their SPL2 proposal.
SPL executive chairman Lex Gold said: ''We welcome this outcome. It has taken quite some time to arrive at this conclusion. But the way is now clear for us to review this outcome with our clubs, after which we will have discussions with our colleagues in the SFL.
''Our aim through all of this has been to enhance and strengthen the senior professional game in Scotland.''
The SPL first tabled their proposal in August 2006 after reviewing a range of options involving changing the structure of the professional game in Scotland.
They believe the creation of SPL2 will ''enhance and strengthen'' the game and could serve as a catalyst for the introduction of a pyramid system.
The SFL opposed the SPL's plan on principal and claimed it breached the 'settlement agreement' the two organisations arrived at when top-flight clubs broke away from the SFL in 1998.
This agreement covers a range of areas, including promotion and relegation and support and parachute payments.
The panel who arrived at today's verdict were the Hon Lord Brodie, David Glen and Jim Clydesdale.
SFL president Brown McMaster said: ''We are pleased to have closure on the arbitration process. It has taken quite some time to arrive at this conclusion.
''But the way is now clear for us to review this outcome with our clubs, after which we will have discussions with our colleagues in the SPL.
''Our aim through all of this has been to reach a conclusion and then to engage in dialogue with our colleagues in the SPL regarding the future of Scottish League football.''
The SPL will now convene an extraordinary meeting of their 12 clubs in mid-March to ask them if they still back the creation of an SPL2.
The SFL would then put the matter to their member clubs, who could be asked to vote on the issue.
In the same month arbitration proceedings began, SFL clubs voted 22 to eight against further talks with the SPL over the formation of a new second tier.
However, most of the eight in favour were the bigger clubs.
Much has changed since then and it remains to be seen how many would be interested in joining any new division.
The SFL would ultimately be powerless to prevent a club accepting an invitation to become part of an SPL2 but they insist teams are required to give two years' notice before quitting their organisation.
SFL president Brown McMaster told PA Sport his organisation are prepared to work ''in harmony'' with the SPL over the issue.
''The SPL and the SFL didn't have much of a relationship three years ago,'' said McMaster, who was vice-president in August 2006.
''Things weren't going very well at the Scottish Football League. We were at a fairly low ebb and I think that's what probably caused the unrest amongst the better clubs.''
He added: ''We're working closer with the SPL than we ever have. Hopefully we can sit down with them over the next couple of months and negotiate. We all want to do what's best for the future of Scottish League football.''
McMaster believes whether clubs decide to join the SPL will ultimately come down to money.
He said: ''Whilst it's very nice for me to say I think it's all about football - and I think Lex Gold will say the same - the harsh reality when it gets to football boards and football chairman is it will be about money.
''If you were to speak to a First Division chairman now, if he was honest he would probably go for the one that's going to give him the most money.''