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SPL must change to ensure its survival

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Jim Spence | 16:56 UK time, Friday, 30 April 2010

The SPL is set for change and about time too. It needs more teams.

Why? Well, clubs are saying income is down dramatically, both at the gate and commercially; leading one chairman to tell me that wages could be cut by up to 25% next season.

Fans are fed up with a stale product. More than 90% of fans who responded to a recent survey by Supporters Direct said they were fed up watching teams face each other four times a season, and want a revamped top flight.

That's not to say the football is dire, it's not. I've seen some top class games this season among the poorer fare.

Even in Spain, not every side plays like Barcelona, so we shouldn't expect teams here to play like them either!

However, the game should entertain and the tightness of the league often precludes that.

There is no silver bullet to sort out Scottish football's ills, so a compromise is the best we can hope for.

Teams should allow more young players to emerge since the risks of relegation are lessened.Former First Minister Henry McLeish has made 53 recommendations in the first part of his Scottish Football Review

An 18-club league would take almost all the full-time clubs in, leaving a very weakened First Division, which creates problems for those teams then relegated into it because of a lack of crowds, income and quality.

A 16-club set up allows only 30 fixtures and therefore a serious drop in income.

So, although not completely convinced, I'm starting to think that the proposed 14-team league with a split into a top six and a bottom eight after 26 games, and then featuring play-offs, is the best of a bad bunch.

It leaves a reasonably healthy First Division with a nucleus of full-time clubs and increased odds of promotion for them.

Having more clubs in the top league, of course, means the SPL cash being shared out more thinly; but it's a price worth paying in the long-term.

Otherwise, a succession of clubs will go part-time and could even fold in the coming years.

It will take an 11-1 vote to change the SPL structure, though, and that means the Old Firm, who usually vote together, will play a crucial role.

Their dreams of playing in England are dead and if the Scottish game dies they also die; so the powerbrokers at Ibrox and Parkhead have to think of the greater health of the game.

The current set up is bust; it needs to be refreshed and revitalised.

The SPL must change or die.


  • Comment number 1.

    Was it not Celtic and Rangers that voted for the sky TV deal (less cash) several years ago over the Setanta deal? Did they not get bombed by the "smaller clubs"? Your inference that the old firm have to think of the greater health of the game is bit unfair. The best thing for scottish football was to take skys money when it was the solid stable entity.
    The current set up is bust because of the incompetence and "anti old firm attitude" of the powerbrokers at the respective clubs.
    Celtic and Rangers will vote to help themselves because the last time they tried to do what was best for scottish football the other clubs were too short sighted and the disgraceful product we now pay to watch has resulted.
    You're right, all the teams in spain don't play like Barcelona, but 99% of the players in that league can control a football. Watching Barcelona this season you see how hard they work for each other when they don't have the ball. Watching Celtic under Mowbray, the players should be ashamed of themselves or they would be if shame was something a footballer had nowadays. Hard work is the minimum that should be on offer, you always seem to get from Dundee Utd and look where they are in the league.
    Performance related pay for these "athletes" is the way to go. Some of them would have to trade in their Bentleys to pay the rent!

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't think that adjusting the Premier League in order to improve the conditions for lower league teams can possibly be the way forward for Scottish football. The most important thing is that the top league is strong and that those teams are able to compete with other European top flights.

    Does the league really need another 2, 4 or 6 teams which are worse than the league already allows in? We see enough St Mirren v Kilmarnock, Falkirk v Motherwell, St Johnstone v Hamilton games where the BBC pundit that has been assigned the games starts his post match summary with a line like "A game that lacked any real quality". Please don't throw Ross County, Queen of the South and Airdrie into the equation.

    Sorry Jim but this idea that adding smaller teams into a larger teams fixture list would increase their attendances in just fantasy-land stuff

  • Comment number 3.

    I think that the best way forward would be a SPL of 16 teams and to revert the League Cup back to a sectional format as in the 60's & 70's thus giving the smaller teams a chance to make some money from the top tier teams as well. The football was better then and we were much better in Europe. The quote in Post 1 about taking the Sky money over setanta is spot on. Post 2, Ross County who drew with Hibs @ Easter Road and beat in Dingwall or who beat the might Celts at Hampden. Sorry these smaller teams might just enlighten the game instead of reducing it if given a chance to show what they can do on a regular basis.

  • Comment number 4.

    Sectional cups were scrapped because the attendance was terrible and nobody was interested. Did they not get games between Premier sides with under 1K! Equally changing the league cup 'to make some money from top tier teams' is a lack of understanding about the league cup. It is a real money spinner for the SPL and keeping it at current format was one of the conditions of the SPL. Equally going back to the 60's and 70's- the world has changed, football has changed - bosman, foreign players- massively.

    Whilst they talk about 'taking the Sky money over Setanta' it is great to have hindsight isn't it? When Rugby, English FA, Scottish FA and many others were 'caught out' it would be difficult to see how clubs could select a lower bid- from a new operator over one from the existing broadcaster- how would the legal side react given OFCOMs recent investigation into SKY and anti-competitive practises given the fact that we ignore a higher bid from a competitor. Simply to say we chose a different bid is fine but we have other things to consider.

    For everyone slagging off the SPL- name a smaller populated country with a higher European league ranking (and if you can one with a bigger league than 14)...

  • Comment number 5.

    It would be difficult to see how clubs could select a lower bid- from a new operator over one from the existing broadcaster- how would the legal side react given OFCOMs recent investigation into SKY and anti-competitive practises given the fact that we ignore a higher bid from a competitor.
    There were enough warnings about the fragility of Setanta at the time to have highlighted it as a more risky bid than Sky's: risk assessment being an integral part of all tendered contracts in Scotland!! There is no legal requirement to accept the highest or lowest bid in most tendered contracts. The 8 clubs who voted through the deal focused largely on the money and over time a bird in the hand proved to be worth nothing at all.

    I also think DDesmond at Celtic was either a Setanta shareholder at the time, or had been before the deal went through. You would have thought him voting against it and highlighting the increased risk (as did both Rangers and Aberdeen to their credit) would have been a big red (or green if you like!) light!!!

    So next time Jim the Dutd'd of this world will have to think of the greater health of the game eh!!?

  • Comment number 6.

    Can't see how a 14 team set-up would work if you still retain the split. Surely it would mean that you had a 26 game regular season and then an additional 5 games for the top six and an additional 7 games for the bottom eight. Sounds mad to me.

    Also in this format one of the OF each season will be playing an additional away or home fixture against the other one: raises all sorts of 'sporting integrity' issues for the team playing the additional away fixture in a close title race. After all we've already seen Rangers complain this season about the balance of post-split home/away fixtures over the past decade. Puts too much additional pressure on the body deciding the fixture list.

    A 16-team league would probably work better. Perhaps if they scrapped the league cup (and left this for the SFL teams) and had some sort of league tournament for the SPL clubs only that may help balance the income deficit.

    But whatever the structure I wouldn't believe for a second Jim that because the EPL don't want the OF at this point that this situation won't change, or that a European (or Atlantic) league may eventually come about. For the OF getting out of the Scottish game fast and at the earliest opportunity is a bigger financial necessity than changing the structure of the league. They are simply too big for the league they are in and it may help give Scottish football the competitive balance its lacked for decades and decades.

  • Comment number 7.

    Long-term an 18 team SPL would be ideal, but there probably aren't enough clubs strong enough at the moment. A 16 team league would be a good starting point.

    As for the 14 team idea, hopefully it will be ruled out. The SPL have the chance to get rid of the split, and should take it.

  • Comment number 8.

    It's easy:

    1) Reduce wages
    2) Increase the number of home grown players.
    3) Copy the Dutch league with regards to the number of teams. They have 18 teams and their set-up produces world class players.
    4) Take away the power of Rangers and Celtic in any voting! This is what is best for Scottish football, not for 2 clubs. We have gone down that route and that hasn't worked.
    5) Change the game to a Summer set-up with an extended Winter break

  • Comment number 9.

    I feel a bit of a fraud as a Sassanach commenting, but as a Liverpool supporter feel I have an historical affinity with Scottish game. Added to this I live in Greece, so if I do watch a any games its usually over the internet.
    Yes, I agree that the SPL does need a shake-up.
    However, I am going to throw something into the mix here.
    Has, anyone ever considered the possibility of the SFA attempting to introducing a cross-border competition for the teams not competing in Europe from the SPL and lower divisions?
    This could be based on the Euro competition formats of league and knockout stages.
    Of course this would have to be negotiated with the EFA and UEFA & FIFA bodies.
    But I think it would raise interest amongst clubs and fans on both sides of the border and we would revive some of the rivalry of the Home Championship and Representative League games of the past.
    It would perhaps help to raise standards, both sides.
    Replacing one or more of these small meaningless competitions, such as the Johnstones Paint in England.
    The earlier round format could be played at the beginning of the season, with a winter break to take account of the weather, then resume into the knock-out.
    The Finals being rotated between Scotland and England.
    I couldn't see the EPL wanting to take part, but the other divisions may be open to it.
    As regards to raising the quality of players and commitment, this is something wich requires addressing at the Academy level. Do the Scottish league clubs have their development programs linked to the Sporting Academies?
    In Greece the local game also has the similar, if not worse problems, but things have improved slightly.
    I really hanker after the old days of fantastic Scottish players and managers with ability, skill and passion.
    Since seeing Jock Stein's team play Shankly's Liverpool in Europe I've always had a soft spot for them. But, I always maintain an interest in a smaller club and just by chance the last few years I have adopted Inverness. I'm a romantic and I think that this is what the money men and sometimes even fans forget - a lot of the true meaning in the game is about romance - the willingness to believe the impossible with a passion that can make you shake with sheer fright, joy and excitement.

  • Comment number 10.

    You are barking up the wrong tree here Jim. Clearly the status quo is not an option but anything other than a move to 18 teams would be a half measure at best.

    The SPL must get rid of any notion of a split. Notwithstanding the vagaries of mis-matched home/away fixtures and all the rest of it, the simple principle of splitting a league during a season is laughable.

    Similarly advocates of a return to a sectional League Cup either have short memories or are too young to remember the dire crowds and utter apathy that the format attracted. The current knockout, result on the night nature of the cup has attracted a very good long term sponsor who would surely head for the hills at any return to sections, replays etc.

    Finding six clubs that would enhance the SPL may be an issue initially but I am sure that the fans of Ross County, Dundee, QOS and the likes would disagree. You make a very good point re. a weakened first division and initially this would be the consequence of skimming off the best SFL clubs. Over time though the hope would be that a two up - two down system would be sufficient incentive for an improved SFL.

    Change must happen and the SPL should go the whole hog. 18 teams, two up - two down with the League Cup unchanged must be worth a shout at least.

  • Comment number 11.

    The First Division at the moment is one of the most competitive leagues in Britain if not Europe. Its a cut-throat league - when was the last time an SPL club bounced straight back up barring this year with Caley Thistle?

    Many First Division clubs would be very effective SPL outfits. Just look a recent records in promoted teams and cup successes. Hamilton, Falkirk, St Mirren and St Johnstone have all been promoted and survived in recent seasons. In recent times Queen of the South, Raith, Ross County and others have performed wonders in cup competitions.

    Of the clubs in Scotland outside of the SPL - i believe many could perform in an expanded SPL:

    Inverness Caley Thistle

    - these three clubs could join tomorrow and be a credit to the league.

    Partick Thistle

    - these clubs are big enough certainly to survive etc and be a credit to the league and beyond these clubs the likes of:

    Ross County
    Queen of the South

    - should be able to compete when ready if not now.

    I believe a league of 14 is not ambitious enough. I would like to see a league of 16 if not 18.

    A 32 or 36 game league plus playoffs for relegation, european places and maybe the actual Championship. The split is ridiculous.

    In a league of 18 i would have 2 automatic relgation spots and two relegation playoff spots the loser of this two legged playoff would then go on to face a First Division playoff club. The First Division would send up two automatic promotees and another club as this playoff club. The First Division could have a similar two club playoff to make this promotion/relegation playoff final.

    The SPL would have set first, second and third spots - all collecting european awards and then a four club knockout playoff system for fourth place and european football. 4th would face 7th and 5th would face 6th in two legged games, the winners of which would go on to play a one off game at Hampden.

    So an 18 team league - 36 games in regular season plus 5 european playoff games, and 5 relegation playoff games.

    A winter break must be considered. And a summer football schedule or if not a completw change to summer football then simply an earlier start. This would also give our clubs a better chance in Europe.

  • Comment number 12.

    I was dumbstruck when I read the article about how a 14 team league was emerging as the favourite amongst the clubs. Being a bit naive, I was taken in by all the revolutionary talk recently and thought maybe, just maybe, they were finally starting to realise the seriousness of the situation and would make a decision based on helping to save Scottish football.

    Turns out it was just a smokescreen to maintain pretty much the status quo (small league, playing certain teams 4 times a season, 'the split' etc) whilst appeasing those who are calling for change. Maybe I'm jumping the gun a wee bit but I just found that article massively depressing. Imo(and that of the vast majority of fans I think), drastic change is needed now to save Scottish fitba from a slow lingering death.

    A bit dramatic? Mibbees. Think it's true though.

  • Comment number 13.

    The two main issues that are keeping the supporters away from the ground are ticket prices (There are lots of people I know that are loyal supporters of their team but just cannot afford the crazily expensive ticket prices at the moment. It's time the SPL stopped charging English Premiership prices to see a product that's obviously not of that standard) and also the total stagnancy of the SPL set up.

    The sheer jaw-dropping tediousness of playing the same teams 4 or more times a season (for everyone involved, I'm sure) makes the fans stay in their droves. A 16 or 18 team league is the only way forward and, as a 16 team league does not produce the required number of games without resorting to split style jiggery pokery, I think that an 18 team league is the way to go.

    How great would it be to play each team only twice a season? Everyone on a level playing field, no overfamiliarity, no split, less pressure to play negative football and so the chance to blood more youngsters, the possibilty of a late season charge up the table, more chance of a title challenge coming from outwith the big two etc. I think it would increase rivalries and gates as well eg - a once yearly visit from the old firm would be a draw for local fans again, I think.

    Ok so there might be a few extra 'pointless' games at the end of the season but so what? Every league has end of season games. The long list of positives that would come from an 18 team league far outweigh this. I think that Eufa favour every country having an 18 or 20 team league as well. Cannae disagree!

    What you say about a dip of quality in the 1st division would be true, of course, but I believe that the right set-up would still produce a 1st divsion of sufficient quality to support an 18 team SPL. It would need to still be a small league as any more and there would be too large of a drop in standard for the second league so, in terms of having a supply of second tier clubs with sufficient stadia and fanbase to enter the premier league, I would keep the 1st division at 10 clubs.

    As there wouldn't be an abundance of teams in this 1st division of the required size to enter the top flight, I would have only one club promoted and relegated (no wait!), and the second and third bottom in the SPL go into a play off against each other - with the winner retaining SPL status and the loser then going into an all-or-nothing play off final match with the second top of the 1st division.

    This would keep excitement at the foot of the SPL with the bottom three places bringing the threat of relegation - same as the EPL - and also bring the much needed excitement of play offs. It would also offer the second top in the 1st division a chance of promotion (drastically needed for years) whilst keeping the flow of clubs between the two leagues relatively restricted enough to support this larger SPL.

    I'll expect my letter of approval from Neil Doncaster in the post.

  • Comment number 14.

    Best way forward in my book is a 16 team SPL1 & SPL2, with any other clubs put in regional divisions in a pyramid structure.

    30 league games allows the winter break to return, much less fixtures will get wiped out and every game means that little bit more now the margin for error is cut. With there then being only 32 league teams you can revamp the League Cup to a Champions League like format with a group stage of 8 groups of 4 playing each other twice to qualify for straight one off game knock-out stages. This guarantees all clubs a minimum of 18 home games no matter how badly they do.

    I'd hate the idea of a 14 team SPL with more splits and even more imbalance, more than time to move on with it.

  • Comment number 15.

    That last post should read 'stay AWAY in their droves' obv!

    Does this not look much better?


    1. Rangers
    2. Dundee United
    3. Celtic
    4. Hibernian
    5. Inverness C.T.
    6. Motherwell
    7. Falkirk
    8. Kilmarnock
    9. Queen Of The South
    10. Aberdeen
    11. Dunfermline
    12. St. Mirren
    13. Partick Thistle
    14. Hearts
    15. Ross County
    16. Dundee (play off)
    17. Hamilton Acc. (play off)
    18. St. Johnstone (relegated)

    1st. Divison

    1. Raith Rovers (promoted)
    2. Morton (play off)
    3. Livingston
    4. Airdrie United
    5. Clyde
    6. Ayr United
    7. Stirling Albion
    8. Brechin City
    9. Peterhead (play off)
    10.Dumbarton (relegated)

    I count the first 5 clubs in that 1st division as having sufficient standing and facilities to enter the SPL....Morton will meet the current criteria when they stick up that old stand from Love Street in the summer (and QOTS and Ross County have definite SPL ambitions so would upgrade their grounds without much persuasion). Ayr and Stirling are without doubt big enough towns to have a club in the top flight if they get their act together.....that's potentially 7 clubs out of 10 that could be promoted to the top league. Ok so history and facilities isn't everything but I genuinely believe that with this kind of set-up, the standard of football would improve greatly all the way down the leagues.

    Would have one more small league of 10 or 12 under this with the bottom 2 being relegated out of the SFL and the 2 top teams promoted from a north and south of Scotland league respectively. Competitiveness and something to play for all the way down the leagues! Make the shift to summer football as well and I think it's a winner. It'll never happen though, obv. The clubs will continue to stick their heads in the sand and ignore what the fans want.

  • Comment number 16.

    Two teams have become too big. Shame really as the fans deserve to have a chance of glory rather than Old Firm. Not quite as bad in England tho.

  • Comment number 17.

    Changes in the format of leagure football in Scotland will be difficult to achieve because there are so many vested interest who enjoy the status quo. I have watched Scottish league football for over 60 years, and they best of these years were prior to the set up of the Premier league. My view. The present set up is boring people to death due to the teams meeting so often. This was, I am sad to say, what was predicted even before the Premier league started as has proved to be correct.

    The problem is how do you change the set up and protect income? Not sure of the answer but income will be affected in any case with the present set up because you will bore the fans to death without change.

  • Comment number 18.

    Look, the SPL needs to change. But the proposed 14 team league with the split is ridiculous. It solves none of the criticism that the fans have.

    Teams playing each other too many times - check

    The split - check

    Why why why why why?

    Only way forward is a 16 team or an 18 team league structure, better surfaces, and more football played in the summer and less in the winter.

    Dundee, Inverness, Dunfermine, Partick, Raith, Queen of the South have all got enough of a fanbase to be a credit to the SPL.

    Why are you worried about there being too weak a first division?! I think the current league structure is ridiculous for a country the size of scotland. It might work in England, but compare populations. Two divisions of 18 teams all the way for me.

  • Comment number 19.

    Change or die you say. Given the state of scottish football in for several years and the shocking decline of both Celtic and Rangers suggest it has already died, but few have noticed.

    Lack of talent, too many poor games, low attendances, meagre TV contract, low revenue from other commerical deals, the most successfull club in debt and unable to spend on tranfers, early exits from the two european competions.

    A 14 club SPL will hardly change a thing. No bigger clubs are around in the First Division to increase the interest in the game, nor to raise the standard of play. A population of less than 6m can`t and won`t support a scottish PL in the 21st century with so little to offer.

    Solution to the problems? Non in sight. The only chance would have been for the big two to join either the englisch PL or a newly formed Atlantic League, but those plans seem to be dead for at least some time.

  • Comment number 20.

    Just read through the 14 team league proposal again. It's worse than what we've got at the moment! Fans of any club that has finished in the bottom half of the split over the last 10 years will tell you that, avoiding the outside chance of relegation ( 1 up - 1 down!), the season is effectively over and the rest of the games are duller than a wet weekend in Fort William.

    The only positive is that it's only 5 games before the end of the season. Under this format, it will be extended to 14 utterly meaningless games each for the vast majority of teams in the bottom section of the split. Shoot me now! If this is adopted, crowds will get even worse until eventually some clubs will be lucky if they get attendances over 1,000.

    They've got to get it right this time. Henry McLeish was right when he used the word 'crisis'.

    Couldn't someone who's more tech savvy than me set up one of those facebook campaigns or summat? As these things can gather momentum pretty quickly, how about a mass boycott of the last game of the season by all the supporters in the SPL? It's only one weekend and, if done effectively, might just frighten the chairmen of the clubs into listening to the fans for once.

  • Comment number 21.

    So, we are all agreed that 12 in the top division is too few. The games become meaningless and repetitive. The big argument is how many teams would make the ideal structure. I feel that the McLeish report ought to have pushed for a 16 team SPL - run by the SFA not the SPL - with a single tier below of 16 teams - run by the SFA not the SFL - and below that there ought to be a tiered pyramid srructure, like that in Italy, with divisions of between 14 and 18 teams organised on a regional basis, as the Juniors are at the moment. The only difficulty with this great plan is that it would mean the end of the SPL, SFL and SJFA so that the SFA could take over the running of the whole game in Scotland. There are far too many administrators at present and having 4 or more separate organisations to run one sport in a nation of 5 million just has to be excessive. Too many committees, too many self-interests and not enough focus on developing the young players for tomorrow. Root and branch surgery is required. So, how many of the administrators and organisers are willing to vote themselves out of a position? What? None of them? Oh well - let's go on, then, allowing the various bodies to tinker around the edges and imagine that they are making a difference.

  • Comment number 22.

    Yeah, that's the problem JTR....the old turkey's not voting for Christmas thing. The whole set up is organised to oppose any change/threat and to maintain the status quo (see also the 11-1 SPL voting system!).

    I don't know how but someone needs to rise above it all and somehow push through the change that's needed. I think Neil Doncaster speaks very well and could be the guy for such a seemingly impossible task.

    More evidence that league expansion is the way to go:

    FC Twente have just won the 18 team Dutch Premier League. Twente are the Dutch equivalent of a team like Motherwell and won the league by just 1 point over Ajax. If they had been required to play Ajax twice as many times (like, say, in a 12 or 14 team league) then they wouldn't have won the league.

    Compelling evidence that league expansion makes it more competitive if ye ask me!

  • Comment number 23.

    What we should do is have a 16 team league, but only on condition we can have a mini-tournament with other big european sides from smaller countries such as as Holland, Belgium and Portugal at the same time. To give teams an aim.
    Just making this a scottish league issue is rubbish. It is an issue all the small leagues face in comparison with bigger countries, we need our best clubs to be able to play other big sides more often. The Dutch club sides have gone rubbish too.
    Idea for restructuring.
    16 Teams in Premier - 30 games a season
    16 Teams in First division - 30 games a season
    10 teams in Second division - 36 games a season
    + Top 4 sides in premier playing a extra european trophy with other european sides. And the next 4 playing another european trophy.
    My new idea consists of
    a) 16 team premier, b) 2 new European trophies with other countries, c) plus a North Britain cup for teams who do not reach these two new European trophies d) Making the league cup a two legged tournament in round 1 and round 2. So that more games can be played by teams who do not qualify for Europe.
    Now my two new European trophies do not take away from Scotland and the other 3 countries taking part in the European cup and European cup these are extra trophies to play in.

    1. Make a 16 team league - Playing 30 times a year.
    Second division 16 teams 30 games a year.
    Third division 10 teams. 36 times a year.

    2. Western European Cup
    So the big clubs can get more games against big sides have another European trophy with sides from Scotland, Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal, for the top 4 sides in the league from each country.
    4 groups of four.
    Top two teams in each group then qualify for single leg, quarter final. Top teams in each group get home advantage.
    Semi final one leg match, decided by home team decided by random.
    Final at a neutral venue, in one of the four countries.
    This would enable the old firm and other Scottish sides to play sides like Porto, Sporting Lisbon, Ajax, PSV Etc:.
    Group stage 6 matches
    Quarter final one match
    Semi final One match
    Final One match
    total 9 matches.
    There would be one Dutch team, on Scottish side, one Belgian side and Portugal side in each group.

    3. Western European Cup Second Division Cup - A second trophy with these same nations for the next four best nations from each country. In a straight two legged knockout trophy.
    This would be the next level of sides from these countries such as Standard Liege,
    Mechelen, FC Utrecht etc. This would be enough to get good crowds and a high standard of opposition.
    With 16 teams this would be
    Group stage of a 4 teams all from own country.
    Top teams of each group qualify for multi national stage
    Semi final Final 2 legs
    Final two legs
    Total 10 games at most.

    For the sides who do not qualify for these trophies.

    4. A North Britain cup played between the teams in the first division, and the teams in the premier who are not in either of the western European shield trophies.
    That is 24 sides.
    In the first round, the teams play in 8 groups of 3, in a round robin trophy of groups of 3 one game at home, one game away.
    The top sides in the 8 groups go through. to the quarter final.
    The quarter final is two leg.
    This is followed by a semi-final and final of two legs each.
    The final is a two leg final.
    This equals
    Group stage two matches
    Quarter final Two matches
    Semi final Two matches
    Final Two matches
    Total 8 matches.

    Advantages of this idea.
    A. More teams get to play old firm
    B Old firm get to play more big sides rather than eachother each year but other Scottish sides also get this opportunity.
    C. More Scottish sides get experience of European football. Plus against good high quality Western European sides, that are easy to get to.
    D The North Britain cup provides another opportunity for sides not in this trophy to play some extra games.

    If the Dutch, Belgians, and Portuguese do not want to take part invite some other European countries. I do not accept UEFA would have an issue with these trophies as there would only be 9 games in the European trophies and it would not be as major threat to the UEFA major trophies with only small nations taking part. Just as they did not stop the royal league or Anglo Scottish cups or the Commonwealth of indepedent states cup.
    UEFA do not stop the royal league or will my critics say Scotland is more of the threat to UEFA. LOL.
    If Scottish rugby can set up a european league why can't we.
    There is no real imagination in the game.
    This idea could enable a team to challenge the old firm. Imagine Hearts or Hibs being drawn in one of these groups they could make a few million and challenge the old firm properly.
    The Portuguese play in an 30 game season, and it does them no harm. They produce great teams and players.
    This would benefit any team or club with ambition.
    The UEFA authorities do not stop the royal league or the CIS cup (a trophy in the former soviet union).
    There have to be more imaginative ways of doing this, than just scotland only, we do not live in the 1930s.
    UEFA does not stop the royal league, so why would it stop is trying an idea like that. Or are we so arrogant to think UEFA would see us creating a little mini tournament as a challenge to their authority.

  • Comment number 24.

    At the risk of being lambasted, I think that the Scottish FA need to face facts; the Scottish Premier League is not a top class league and it doesn't attract top class income or players. The problem I see is that they are constantly living in the shadow of the English Premier League and this is not going to change. The divide between the Old Firm and the rest of the league is far too big for the league to be sustained in its current format. What to do? That's the 64 million dollar question but I don't see a reshuffle of the league solving the problems.

    In an ideal world I think maybe the Old Firm would be better placed in the English leagues - Swansea, Cardiff and Wrexham do it - which would have benefits for the Old Firm and the Scottish Leagues in my eyes. OK, the standard of the Scottish league may suffer but if it leads to a league structure where teams do not have to live outside of their means in an effort to keep up with the Old Firm then maybe the competition that would ensue, although the players may be of a lesser quality, would be fairer and more interesting. As for the Old Firm, they would finally have a league that could provide the kind of financing to take them to the next level and ensure the potential for them to become bigger clubs.

  • Comment number 25.

    The SPL has become stale and radical remedies are needed. I'd like to see a 16/18 team league with each club playing each other twice. Derbies and games against the OF have become devalued over the years knowing that you'll have another chance to play them in a few games time.

    My biggest concern is that with less home games, income for clubs will fall. Also, with less home games will Season Ticket prices fall? I doubt it.

    I'd like to see the possibility of some sort of UK Cup/Atlantic Cup competition to freshen things up but what clubs from other countries would want to be involved?

    No easy answers but this 14 team league seems to be the worst of all worlds.

  • Comment number 26.

    18 Team league format - No solution is idea, but this seems to work for everyone else.

    The big problem is most of the teams have nothing to play for.

    More relegation.
    4 teams go down.
    2 with least points go straight down.
    2 above them go into a two legged play of game with the 3rd and 4th placed finishers from the 1st division. Winner gets a place in the SPL.

    That should keep some interest for the bottom of the table.

    Now the top.

    Create a new cross border cup. Top 8 teams that DON'T quality for europe from the SPL and EPL.

    That will give a lot of teams something to play for.

    Format could be as simple as a straight knock out.
    4 games. winner get the cup.

    Or go with a group stage. 4 groups of 4. Play for games. Top two teams go through.
    That drags it out to 7 games. 4 guranteed matches for everyone.

    Its not messing about with europe. And I can see the EPL teams we arn't in europe being up for a few more games if its good money and a chance at a trophy.

    End result.
    18 team league.
    european places
    8 cross-border cup places.
    4 relegation places.
    = Last game of the season everyone still has something to play for.

    Wont' solve all the problems but it would much a much better product for the fans.
    No one wants to watch a league that about nothing but the top 2 and bottom 2 clubs.

    Add in a greater focus on grass-roots football and developing local players.
    And perhaps the game can really florish again.

  • Comment number 27.

    Fans can't criticise the old establishment if they're not prepared to accept change themselves.
    Don't know if you'll read this Jim but you may remember I was saying this 8 months ago. Some teams will have to merge to survive and least cash in on current assets before they're stripped. To everyone who can't think outside the box or even renmember the real reason for the SPL. You cannot ignore the social and financial conditions of the shirt sponsors, no sattelite tv and a 3 day week. This time it's different but there is no getting away from the fact that Scottish football was actually more successful when there were bigger leagues and part time teams. It worked through the great depression, through 2 world wars and supplied England's most successful teams with their heart. For once, PLEASE, will someome have a real look at the Italian and Spannish leagues. Bottom clubs in the top divisions get smaller gates than Partick....but they share grounds and half their costs. They don't own the grounds but rent them, they have no national stadium so share the income of internationals around. They play in warm weather on good pitches so that the fans aren't put off by bad weather. If Scotland wants a bigger in decent weather. We can't criticise the old boys at the SFA if the fans ain't prepared to accept change as well.

  • Comment number 28.

    The situation facing Scottish football is not unique and there have been a number of examples in other sports where it has been tackled successfully. In the Sixties, American football suffered from a lack of competition due to domination of the sport by two clubs. This lead to fans of the majority of teams losing interest as there was no liklihood of their favourites winning a trophy.
    The solution was to go for 'parity' as the Yanks call it with a number of significant changes being made. The most important was to level the field by introducing play offs to decide the Championship. If applied in the SPL, that would mean all teams playing during the season for a place in the last eight.
    The teams who finish in the top four go into the quarter finals as the home teams and the teams who finish 5th and 6th also make it as the first of the away opposition. Clubs who finish in 7th - 10th place are the 'wildcards' and play for the last two slots in the quarter finals. The Championship is then decided like the Scottish Cup and, as we have seen recently, the Old Firm do not always contest the final.
    That means that there is every opportunity for the 'diddy' teams to provide an upset and win the league. As we have seen in the NFL, this gives fans of every club more reason to support their local team as the target is to finish in the play offs and not start the season looking at mediocrity.
    I know the traditionalists will throw their hands up in horror but this works (on a much bigger scale) in the US and would give our ailing sport a much needed shot in the arm.

  • Comment number 29.

    Pittodrieloon,My point about an eighteen club set up leaving a weakened first division is that teams dropping into it from a full time set up would find lack of quality,crowds and income.

    Chairman of clubs are not keen in the main to share out the cash they currently make in the SPL with more clubs than they have to.

    That's why I mention the 14 club set up. If we could take the money argument out of the equation completely, I would want to see an eighteen club league, and a proper pyramid system which kills off the closed shop currently operating in the SFL.

    We also need to relax some of the ludicrous rules applying to grounds in the lower divisions so that ambitious juniors and Highland league clubs and others get a chance to compete.

    So I'd prefer an 18 team top league, I'm open to persuasion on the number in the first division and then a regional set up underneath that.

    How you sell that to club chairman who can't take finance out of the equation is the big problem.

  • Comment number 30.

    The minimum number of teams you can have for a league and still expect a good standard of competition and quality is 16. It's not an exact science, but looking at the current league rankings certainly suggests that leagues with fewer teams suffer - with the exception of Switzerland and Denmark, the top 15 are all 16+ team leagues. Okay, so there are countries with more teams than us in their top league who are below us in the rankings, but Scotland is slipping down the rankings so this may not be the case much longer.

    I'm not entirely sure about summer football. Zenit and Donetsk have shown that you can succeed in Europe despite the bulk of games being played in their off season, but generally the summer football leagues are ranked even worse than ours. Scandinavia and the former Soviet states are all fairly low down, but is this a symptom of having an off season in the middle of everyone else's seasons, or is it just a coincidence?

    Both are probably worth a shot, but we certainly need more teams to make the season more entertaining, and the more straight-forward the league structure, the better. There are few (if any) examples of league splits and multiple play-offs that work.

  • Comment number 31.

    Seems that any idea being floated needs to have the 4 old firm games as mandatory before it can be considered. Obviously it's the one that gets the large TV contracts but, just from the old firm fans' entertainment perspective, I wonder how they would feel about a possible reduction of these games per season.

    Doesn't meeting each other so often turn something that should be a special event into part of a routine?

    Pretty much the no. 1 bugbear of Scottish fitba fans is the tedium of playing the same teams 4+ times a season, I think. Has this feeling permeated even the 'biggest derby in the world'??

    Seems like the need for 4 old firm games a season is standing in the way of proper league reconstruction and, therefore, only superficial change can be the main problem of overfamiliarity is set to continue.

    As will the fans' apathy and dwindling attendances.

    Why let familiarity breed contempt when they're already pretty contemptuous of each other in the first place?!

  • Comment number 32.

    I really like your proposals at 29 Jim. I think that would amount to a massive improvement, although yes, I recognise the difficulty in getting the Chairman on board and they are ultimately the ones who make the vote, not the fans.

    Would you favour any play off system to avoid (to an extent at least) meaningless games come the end of the season in the theoretical 18 team league structure?

    Also, is there any time frame on when decisions will be made? Bureaucracy probably means it'll be years before any changes are implemented, but has there been any indications of the fact that there definitely will be changes at all?

  • Comment number 33.

    As a Dundee Utd season ticket holder i'm fed up watching the same teams play each other four times a season, even our derby games against Aberdeen are becoming a chore. I only go to some games because i have a ticket and not because there is a sense of excitement about the game. The last two games against the old firm were dire and meaningless with the next two against hearts and hibs likely to follow suit.

    I would prefer to play in a bigger league of 16 teams with home and away fixtures, have a winter break of some kind and have group games for both cup competitions split into groups that would be seeded on previous seasons league positions.

    SPL 16 teams, 1ST Div 16, 2 up and 2 dowm system.

    Example: SPL top 8 pot 1, bottom 8 pot 2, 1st top 8 pot 3, bottom 8 pot 4 and so on,

    groups could either be played round robin or home and away with top 2 from each group going into a knock out round or another group. teams from lower leagues would still play there normal rounds to qualify for, want of a better word "Wildcard" places to top the groups up and still give them a chance of a cup run and some extra money from bigger teams. Once groups decided have knock out round from Quarter final onwards. Something has to change.

  • Comment number 34.

    Pittodieloon, not directed at me I know but, as well as at least 2 play off places at the bottom, I think play offs for the final Europa place between clubs 4 to 7 might work and help to maintain interest and excitement in an 18 team league.

  • Comment number 35.

    I agree with post 33 that a 16 team spl 1 and spl 2 should be created, playing 30 games in a season. This would get rid of league games being played mid-week and as teams would only have to play the OF 4 times a year instead of 8, this would definately help make the league more competetive. Whether clubs would accept the lost revenue in playing less games, especially against the OF, is another story.

    The league cup should then be played by these 32 clubs in a normal knock-out format but with each round played over two legs. This would ensure at least 1 more game for each club. While im altering everything about scottish football, why not start the league on the 1st of july thus leaving room for a much needed winter break. I'd say generally january is the worst month so taking 4 or 6 weeks off after the new year derbies should hopefully allow pitches, fans and players a much needed rest.

    SPL and SFA, get it sorted!

  • Comment number 36.

    Pittodrie Loon, The play offs can see teams who are well ahead of others on points at the end of the season still losing out to those who over a long campaign finished well behind them.

    That said in an eighteen club league two promoted and two relegated automaticaly would be my choice, and then perhaps a play off between the third bottom club and the third and fourth placed clubs in the division below.

    I'm open to persuasion on the exact formula but we need something to galvanise the game.

    In light of Hamilton chairman Ronnie Mcdonald's suggestion that we award points for goals maybe that is a policy worth pursuing. (Motherwell and Hibs might favour that after last night's epic 6-6 draw)

    There is no time frame on when decisions will be made? and you are right Bureaucracy and self interest may mean it'll take years before any changes are implemented even assuming clubs can agree to what changes if any they want, and so far they've agreed to nothing.

    But you can see from these boards how pasionate fans are for real change and if the people running the game don't go with the flow they'll get swept away in the rapids when the demand for change becomes irresistible

  • Comment number 37.

    Think we need to get rid of these playoff ideas for teams at bottom of SPL, straight relegation would be better. Why should a team that is down at the bottom have a second chance. While we're at it i'd also like to get shot of the mid table split, it makes a mockery of the league. Teams focus on top six safety net instead of focusing on winning the league.

    I understand that teams dont have the financial clout of the old firm, but they all start of with a defeatest attitude of lets aim for third place or top split safety, why not aim for actually winning the league.


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