SPFL clubs to discuss reconstruction proposals next week


Hearts owner Ann Budge has suggested changing the structure from four to three divisions, each with 14 clubs, for two seasons.

Clubs will discuss Scottish league reconstruction proposals next week but Hearts owner Ann Budge’s plans already look doomed to fail.

Budge has suggested changing the structure from four to three divisions, each with 14 clubs, for two seasons.

The plans were discussed at a Scottish Professional Football League meeting on Wednesday but it is the clubs who will determine their fate and there appears little prospect of success.

Budge, who is aiming to save Hearts from relegation, will need the backing of 11 of the 12 Premiership clubs and 75 per cent of the remainder.

Ann Budge faces an uphill struggle
Ann Budge faces an uphill struggle (PA)

However, top-flight clubs ended earlier discussions on the same topic and the new proposals have received an underwhelming response.

Following an SPFL board meeting, a league spokesman said: “The board has now received Ann Budge’s paper to clubs on the topic of league reconstruction.

“As these matters are ultimately decided by clubs via a democratic process, we will now facilitate a series of divisional meetings, starting with the Premiership on Monday, at which all 42 clubs will have the chance to discuss the proposals in detail.”

A majority of Premiership clubs wanted a permanent solution when the issue was discussed earlier this month and the plans leave open the prospect of three top-flight teams being relegated in two years’ time, a situation unlikely to find favour with the likes of St Mirren and St Johnstone, who helped scupper the initial idea.

Stranraer's Stair Park ground would be hosting bottom-tier football
Stranraer’s Stair Park ground would be hosting bottom-tier football (PA)

Championship clubs are also reported to have baulked at the plan and there has been little encouragement in the lower leagues.

Although Budge has also stressed she is aiming to save Partick Thistle and Stranraer from an “unjust” relegation, the bottom four clubs in League One would find themselves in the bottom division, which carries with it the threat of dropping out of the league altogether.

Budge has acknowledged the uncertainty over whether clubs in the lower leagues can play at all next season and claimed her plan is flexible, depending on which of them are able to field teams.

But Stenhousemuir chairman Iain McMenemy believes she has misjudged the mood in the lower leagues.

McMenemy told BBC Scotland: “I just think Ann’s got her timing all wrong. There are so many uncertainties, so many questions, that to restructure now just adds another set of issues and risks to an absolute plethora of unknowns already there.”

He added: “It does seem to be revolving around Premiership clubs. I can’t see a lot has changed since we found out they weren’t keen on it two weeks ago.

“If you’re St Mirren, Hamilton, St Johnstone, Ross County, you’re being asked to save Hearts for this season in the Premiership. But you’re pretty sure that in a couple of years’ time there’s going to be at least a double relegation from the Premiership.

“If you’re a Championship club, then if that league has to go from a 14 back to a 10… and you’d have 16 teams when the two come out of the Premiership. So you potentially have six clubs dropping out of the second tier. Why would the Championship clubs support that?”

Elgin are unimpressed
Elgin are unimpressed (PA)

Clubs are grappling with the financial impact of playing behind closed doors and likely carrying out a series of Covid-19 tests if they were to re-sign players.

Elgin chairman Graham Tatters also has little time to consider Budge’s plans.

“We would want to stick with the status quo,” he said. “Some of us are hanging on threads at the moment, so it is hard enough without worrying about reconstruction.”