Give The Fans What They Want
League recontruction plans need some meat on the bones of the 12-12-18 proposal before anybody can realistically vote on putting it in place.
SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster is sure that the reconstruction proposals on offer will give fans what they want - and that all other plans have no chance of succeeding. SPL and SFL clubs backed the radical 12-12-18 plan at separate meetings last month and Doncaster expects both groups to vote in favour of concrete proposals in March. There are not many fans willing to sign up for the 12-12-18 structure, with the top two divisions splitting into three after 22 games. However, Doncaster stressed that the option of a 16-team league was "financially unaffordable" and that there was not enough support for a 14-team top league. He also warned that the more popular elements of the plan would be lost if it was rejected. Doncaster said: "Fans tell us they want a single merged league, an all-through and more equitable distribution model, play-offs, a pyramid structure, significantly more relegation and promotion, and more meaningful games. The only way we can achieve that is through consensus and we are only going to get consensus through this model. If people want these changes, that everyone says they want, we need consensus and the vast majority of the 42 clubs to vote in favour of the package. There were some clubs that would perhaps want a bigger league. But they know we need consensus. If you put a 14-team model on the table you're not going to get consensus." Doncaster reminded everybody that Hibs biggest home attendance last season was for a game which was available on TV on a Monday night, when they secured their SPL status with a win over Dunfermline. He argued that the determination to avoid the middle eight among the top-flight clubs, and "scramble" to finish in the top four thereafter, would attract more fans and television companies, despite concerns over resetting points to zero after 22 fixtures. He said: "There will be far more meaningful games that fans want to go to. What it will give you is real tension in the second half of the season. Every club in the middle eight has 14 games to determine their future." The 12 clubs in the top-flight gave Doncaster unanimous backing to take the plans forward and he rejected suggestions that the failure to hold a formal vote was a sign of weakness. He said: "They want a rule book in front of them, they want to know exactly what's in place and what it means for them. You can't vote on a concept - you can vote on a rule book. That is the only point it is relevant, that's when it will be binding. If the clubs vote against it, it won't happen. It will be the status quo and that's not what people want." The system of splitting two leagues of 12 into three divisions of eight has been tried before, in Austria and Switzerland, before being dropped. But Doncaster claimed a failure to redistribute wealth and problems with stadia below the top 12 had undermined a generally exciting structure. Former SFA chief executive Gordon Smith claimed the system was attractive. He said: "I played under this system in Austria and Switzerland and I think it's quite exciting. If you have a 12-team league, this is a better way of splitting it. In the first half of the season teams want to avoid being in the bottom four and teams fight like mad to do so. In Austria, I was fortunate to play in the top eight and get a European place. In Switzerland, I was in the middle eight and every game was like a cup final. You were desperate to win every match and it became very, very exciting. I don't understand why people can't grasp that."
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