All eyes in Scottish football will be focused on Hampden today (15th April), when SPL chairmen vote on changes to the structure, resourcing and governance of the game.
An 11-1 majority is required to go ahead with league reconstruction, on a three division 12-12-18 basis, with a further top-end split into three divisions of eight near the end of the season.
The majority of SPL clubs look set to support the scheme, despite the fact that it goes against the repeated wishes of fans for larger divisions, and that it has has also divided opinion in the SFL.
However, St Mirren, who are particularly critical about retention of the 11-1 voting system, have said they will vote 'no', and Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor has been reported as maintaining this weekend that he will not go against his fans’ wishes after 97 per cent voted against current reconstruction plans at a meeting in February. On the other hand, he has also apparently said he hopes there can be 'compromise', even though the deal is being presented as an 'all-or-nothing' one.
If two clubs hold out, the vote may be lost. The outcome remains hard to predict.
So what happens after Monday? SFL members are due to have their say later in the week at the moment. But many full-time clubs are indicating that they will push for an SPL2 if the changes presently on the table are lost in the vote at the National Stadium.
Immense pressure is being applied to dissidents, with claims that disaster will follow in the game if there is further delay. But critics say that inadequate financial data has been provided and that the assumptions behind the declared income projections are questionable.
They also point out that previous claims behind the imminent doomsday scenario attached to the attempt to put Rangers FC into the First Division proved misleading, and that other options have been excluded without adequate consideration. Some are also alleging bullying and saying that the threat of 'vote yes to this, or end up with SPL2' is tantamount to blackmail.
The SFL had earlier put forward a constructive 16-10-16 reconstruction proposal, which largely chimed with the carefully argued 16-16-10 proposition in the alternative fans’ plan first put out through Supporters Direct Scotland and then developed and published by FansFirst Scotland. But the SPL dismissed this.
The Sonstrust Board's position, arrived at after listening to members and discussing the matter at the society's AGM, has been set out in an 'Open Letter on Reconstruction', which is also being shared with other supporters' groups and publicised ahead of Monday's meeting.
The Trust Board argues that "taking a further season to discuss a workable league structure for all (which should also include greater detail of a viable pyramid system) will enable supporters’ organisations to be properly engaged in the process. It will also help put current disagreements between clubs in the context of a larger vision for Scottish football as a whole – not just the largest and most vocal interests."
The Open Letter has also been featured on All Media Scotland ('Football trust says fans being ignored over league reconstruction'), on Newsnet Scotland, and in my own opinion piece, 'Claiming back Scottish football for the people', as well as appearing on a range of social media sites.
Monday, 15 April 2013
Friday, 12 April 2013
It has been published in full on the Sonstrust website, news released on All Media Scotland, and endorsements are starting to come in.
Next week SPL clubs, initially, vote on key changes in the way Scottish football is run and structured. Fans at all clubs have made their views overwhelmingly and repeatedly clear – they want larger divisions (not the 12-12-18 proposal presently on the table), fairer and more transparent finance, good governance and proper supporter representation and involvement in the running of the game at all levels.
Yet, once more, there is a danger that the views of those whose passion and money is indispensable to the flourishing of Scottish football will be ignored or sidelined. No other business could hope to survive in a good shape if it so systematically dismissed the wishes of its customer base by elevating short-term interests, narrow financial projections and political posturing above the need for genuine renovation and renewal. Unless this lesson is finally learned, the future looks dim.
At present there is obvious and deep division among both SPL and SFL clubs over league reconstruction. If 12-12-18 is pushed through, it will only be through arm-twisting and backroom deals, because in reality there is no agreement. The desirable outcome next week would be for Scottish clubs to resolve together to seek a better formula for season 2014/15, rather than risking further conflict and divisiveness by railroading through a flawed plan that will only need to be unravelled and recast a few years hence.
SFL clubs had earlier put forward a constructive 16-10-16 proposal, which largely chimed with the carefully argued 16-16-10 proposition in the alternative fans’ plan first put out through Supporters Direct Scotland and then developed and published by FansFirst Scotland. There is a sound football and business case for this, which seems to have been dismissed far too readily as a result of fixation on smaller divisions, assumptions based on existing approaches which have not worked, and consequent lack of innovative thinking.
We understand the frustration that has built up, throughout the game and in the media, over the time it has taken to get reform proposals to table. But taking a bad decision in the name of avoiding more delay, while effectively ignoring key findings of the McLeish Report and the manifest outcomes of the National Football Survey, would be to squander a historic opportunity for deeper change while further imperilling the future of the Scottish game.
Taking a further season to discuss a workable league structure for all (which should also include greater detail of a viable pyramid system) will enable supporters’ organisations to be properly engaged in the process. It will also help put current disagreements between clubs in the context of a larger vision for Scottish football as a whole – not just the largest and most vocal interests.
Meanwhile, we hope that plans to unify the game’s governing bodies, together with proposals to ensure a better distribution of resources, financial transparency and good governance might move forward more quickly. This must be done, however, on the basis of proper financial disclosure to all parties for decision-making purposes, and with voting systems and a constitution that does not put power in the hands of the few and too readily act as a brake on future change.