SPFL reconstruction talks break down after Premiership meeting

Daniel Stendel’s Hearts were four points adrift in the Premiership when the campaign was halted

Scottish football’s reconstruction talks have ended with insufficient support for any plan to reconfigure the leagues.

A 15-strong panel had been set up to look at proposals following the SPFL’s ballot to end the season.

But at a meeting of the top-flight sides – plus Dundee United – on Friday, it emerged the majority were against changing the 12-10-10-10 format now.

That means Hearts would face relegation should the SPFL board call the season.

A 14-14-14 structure had seemed the most likely to succeed, given that the backing of nine of the 12 Premiership clubs was needed, along with eight in the Championship and 15 across Leagues One and Two.

The 10 current bottom-tier clubs have already agreed to support that en masse.

However, speaking on behalf of the Premiership clubs, Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack said: “The strong feeling of the group was that we must focus all of our energies on emerging from the crisis we face, due to the pandemic, on getting back to playing football safely and getting fans back into grounds as soon as practicably possible.

“Whilst the group sympathises with the plight of the situation the relegated teams are faced with, it concluded that this is not the right time to consider immediate reconstruction in the midst of a crisis.

“But the group is willing to engage in and pick up on these discussions once we are through Covid-19.”

‘Undoubted disenchantment’

The group intends to meet next week to focus on the plan to get through the pandemic.

The other proposal under consideration would have added Kelty Hearts and Brora Rangers to the bottom tier in a 14-14-16 model.

That needed the approval of 11 of the 12 Premiership clubs, 17 in total from the top flight and Championship, and 32 of the current 42 in all divisions.

“[This development] leaves both ourselves and Kelty potentially with the door slammed in our face,” said Brora chairman William Powrie.

“I would have thought that reconstruction would be part of the solution and not part of the problem and I think they have missed an opportunity not just for the Premiership but also for the greater good of Scottish football by bypassing the reconstruction options.”

In both plans, bottom side Hearts would have remained in the top flight even if it was called off. They would have been joined by second-tier runners-up Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Similarly, Partick Thistle would have escaped relegation from the Championship, Falkirk would have been promoted to the second tier and Stranraer would have stayed in the third.

The Scottish Highland Football League described the end of talks as “disappointing and frustrating in equal measure”.

“This year, albeit in difficult circumstances, the SPFL had its first opportunity since the introduction of the Scottish Football pyramid to meaningfully embrace the spirit of the pyramid,” it added in a statement.

“It is a matter of great regret that the SPFL has chosen to turn away from that. All associated with the Highland League share the undoubted disenchantment that will be felt by Brora Rangers and Kelty Hearts.”

Who is on the SPFL Reconstruction Group?
Premiership: Les Gray (Hamilton Academical), Ann Budge (Hearts), Gordon Scott (St Mirren)
Championship: Lachlan Cameron (Ayr Utd), John Nelms (Dundee), Dave MacKinnon (Morton), Jacqui Low (Partick Thistle)
League One: Paul Hetherington (Airdrie), Gary Deans (Falkirk), Bill Clark (Raith Rovers)
League Two: John Sheran (Cove Rangers), Jim Brown (Edinburgh City), Gerry Crawley (Queen’s Park)
Highland League: Rod Houston Lowland League: George Fraser

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