League reform will ‘enliven’ the game

Turnbull Hutton
Turnbull Hutton
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RAITH Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton has called on clubs to grasp the opportunity to “enliven” Scottish football by backing plans for league reconstruction.

Hutton was speaking during an open meeting with Rovers fans at Stark’s Park on Tuesday night, where the proposals to introduce a 12-12-18 structure for next season were top of the agenda.

He outlined the Raith board’s full backing for the plans that would see the game rebranded under one unified league body, a relaxing of the rules over ground regulations, and a mid-season split for the top two divisions.

He also explained that a “fairer” redistrubution of funds would see the Kirkcaldy club earn an extra “£200,000 to £300,000” per season under the new set-up.

“The number of teams in the leagues is not the main issue,” he said.

“It is the severe imbalance between the cash in the SPL, Division One and the rest of Scottish football.”

Hutton reminded the audience that the club had lost £160,000 in the year to June 2011 despite making cutbacks in the budget.

He then revealed that, despite further cost-cutting, draft accounts for year to June 2012 show another loss of £120,000.

“Given the additional money that is being talked about, over these last two years we’d have been making a profit,” he explained.

“We’ve cut our budgets and taken out every cost we can, but the club is still running at a loss.

“No matter what we do there’s a recession out there, and whatever we do is wiped out by the reduction in crowds.

“We’ve been fortunate to get two Celtic cup games this season and that means, this year, we may even make a small profit.

“That should merit an open top bus around Kirkcaldy given where we’ve come from.”

As well as the financial benefits of the proposed structure, Hutton also believes it will bring more excitement on the pitch, despite it going against most fans wishes for bigger leagues.

“All the fans surveys say they want bigger leagues, but we know that financially SPL clubs aren’t going to buy that,” he said.

“With this set-up we have a sprint until January, and then a play-off league to decide promotion and relegation to the top tier.

“That would enliven Scottish football.

“The 18-team National League would also address the issue over playing each other four times.”

Hutton explained that SFL clubs showed initial support for the proposed changes during a meeting at Hampden last week, with 28 of the 30 clubs giving their backing to take discussions to the next stage.

The SPL, SFL and SFA will now work together to draft a constitution to present before clubs at an EGM, probably in March, where an official vote will take place.

Hutton warned that the failure to carry the proposals through could have dire consequences for the future of the game.

“I don’t want people to think that SFL clubs have been presented with an ultimatum and are rolling over,” he said.

“If we had a shopping list of things we wanted from reconstruction then we’ve got most of them.

“But if we turn around and say we’re not interested then the chances are that all the stuff on offer would disappear off table.

“The SPL could then look to resurrect SPL2, and that would wipe out the SFL as we know it.”