Friday, April 16, 2010

Is 18 the magic number?

The size of the SPL is a constant theme in any discussions about the future of the game – and I’ve had quite a few of them in the last couple of months. Some people advocate extending, others argue that we’re fine as we are and that the cure to our many ills lies elsewhere.

The one constant is that nobody can imagine the 12 top flight teams agreeing to extension, that chairmen would think any expansion wasn’t much more than turkeys voting for Christmas.

Well, it seems that the poultry have just filled in their ballot papers and are about to return Santa as president.

The reason? If today’s Daily Record is to be believed (no sniggering at the back) the clubs are faced with a financial meltdown. They don’t see an 18 team league as a quick answer but the beginning of a process that will bring sanity to their wage bills. Basically it will let them survive.

Faced with the firing squad, the condemned me are entering into a plea bargain:
Record Sport understands a move towards the restructuring of the SPL will start as soon as this season's championship and relegation issues have been decided.

Concerned chairmen have been holding emergency talks in secret for weeks. Matters are now coming to a head in advance of financial figures being released which will show the catastrophe that's on the way unless the Top Twelve is expanded into an 18-team league.

SPL chairmen met at Hampden yesterday as calls mounted for a change of direction and even the SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster has now publicly admitted the split isn't the answer to falling crowds and declining standards.

One concerned club spokesman said: "There are balance-sheet figures about to come out which are appalling.

"Clubs will go to the wall. unless there's change across the board, and soon.

"We can't go on paying salaries that the clubs just can't afford. Income must become relative to clubs' expenditure.

"Chairmen have been talking to each other in the background but it would be inappropriate to speak out before the major issues have been settled.

"Scottish football needs restructuring because the game is the big picture.

"If you sort out the product then the financial picture gets better in time.

"It might be sore to begin with, and income might drop by as much as 30 per cent, but if we don't take steps to find our true level then there will be serious consequences."
I can’t claim to be waiting with bated breath. But I’ll be watching this with interest.