SPFL: Hearts propose 14-14-14 league revamp for two years

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack says he is “supportive in principle” of Budge’s temporary reconstruction plan

Hearts owner Ann Budge has submitted a reconstruction proposal to the SPFL board for three leagues of 14 for the next two seasons.

The document has been circulated to all 42 member clubs and the SPFL board will meet on Wednesday to discuss it.

Budge’s plan involves the Premiership splitting after two rounds of fixtures into a top six and bottom eight.

Hearts, relegated when the top flight was curtailed, would avoid demotion if the proposal passed.

The Tynecastle club and Inverness Caledonian Thistle would make up the expanded Premiership.

Championship side Partick Thistle and League One Stranraer were also relegated in the current 12-12-12-10 format when the season was ended by the SPFL amid the coronavirus crisis.

Thistle would retain Championship status, with Stranraer playing in the third tier.

The Hearts owner insists the proposal is “a better way for Scottish football to deal with the current emergency, while at the same time righting an unintended injustice”.

Budge also suggests a 14-14-16 structure could be implemented if clubs voted to include Lowland League champions Kelty Hearts and Highland counterparts Brora Rangers.

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack is “supportive in principle” of Budge’s plan given that it is for temporary reconstruction. He said: “For the survival of Scottish football, I hope every club feels they can get behind this approach.”

For the proposal to pass, it would require 11 of the 12 Premiership clubs to vote in favour, as well as eight of 10 in the Championship and 15 of 20 in the bottom two tiers.

Fixture imbalance, potential Euro play-off & testing help

Adding two teams to the top flight would require a change to the distribution of prize money model, but Budge says this would be offset by Premiership clubs not having to finance the £300,000 parachute payment that Hearts would be due on relegation.

There is also scope for a play-off involving teams in fifth, sixth and seventh to determine a European place and address concerns about potentially meaningless fixtures.

The Premiership split would create an imbalance, with top-six teams playing a 36-game season and bottom-eight teams having 40 matches. Budge says the guarantee of an extra home game in the bottom eight allows clubs to make up the loss of income from potentially missing out on a visit from Celtic or Rangers.

The second and third tier can decide the nature of their split.

Budge cited a “growing acceptance” that some clubs may not be able to play at all next season, with lower-league teams fearing the financial consequences of games behind closed doors.

She pledged to share Covid-19 testing facilities and resources with clubs across the divisions to help cover the costs of enabling players to return to training and playing matches.

And she says the “flexibility” of her proposal allows “each division to decide what is best for them”.

She added: “This is not about permanent reconstruction. It is about finding a path to deal with the emergency situation, which is likely to impact all member clubs for the next two seasons.”

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