Raith Rovers: Boss Ian Murray thinks ‘mundane’ Scottish top flight set-up needs changed as Celtic and Rangers are miles ahead of rest

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Raith Rovers manager Ian Murray reckons the achievement of lower-league sides Falkirk and Inverness Caledonian Thistle in reaching the Scottish Cup’s semi-finals – they play against each other at Hampden on Saturday, April 29 – is proof that the “mundane” 12-team Scottish Premiership needs to be expanded.

Murray, 42, watched his side defeated 3-0 by Scottish Premiership big guns Rangers at Ibrox in the quarter-finals. He feels that Michael Beale’s second-placed side and leaders Celtic are so far clear of the rest – they are 28 points and 37 points ahead of third-placed Hearts respectively – that the existing set-up needs changed.

“I think it’s becoming very mundane for teams in the top league,” Murray told the Fife Free Press. “I think we’ve seen this year in the Scottish Cup that the leagues pretty much really need to be expanded.

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"I think some clubs have got to kind of forget about themselves a little bit to an extent, try and balance it up and say: ‘For the good of the supporters, for the good of football in Scotland as a spectacle we need to do something’.

Ian Murray with Rangers boss Michael Beale before Raith's recent 3-0 Scottish Cup quarter-final defeat at Ibrox (Pic Rob Casey/SNS Group)Ian Murray with Rangers boss Michael Beale before Raith's recent 3-0 Scottish Cup quarter-final defeat at Ibrox (Pic Rob Casey/SNS Group)
Ian Murray with Rangers boss Michael Beale before Raith's recent 3-0 Scottish Cup quarter-final defeat at Ibrox (Pic Rob Casey/SNS Group)

"Because Rangers and Celtic – especially Celtic – are absolutely miles ahead and I really don’t see how that gap’s going to close. I think Hearts in third place are closer to the bottom team than they are to the top team.

"You’ve got Inverness who have beaten two premier league teams on their way to the Scottish Cup semi-finals.

"And you’ve got Falkirk who’ve beaten a Championship team (Ayr United) so it shows that the competitiveness of Scottish football is there.

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"We just need to try and revamp it a little bit and make it a little bit more entertaining and get a little bit more excitement in it.”

While acknowledging the difficulty there could be in implementing any changes, Murray – whose team are currently sixth in the Scottish Championship – would support an increase in the number of teams in the top flight, which would give Raith a much better chance of mingling regularly with this nation’s biggest clubs.

One possibility could be an 18-team Premiership with sides only playing each other twice a season as opposed to the three or four times at present.

Murray added: “It would be a tighter league if teams only played each other twice. I understand teams would lose revenue and I get that as it’s a huge amount of money.

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"But we all go through hard times, we all have to cut our cloth accordingly.

“Either that or you bring in a revamp of the system. As crazy and radical as it sounds, you could play each other twice, split the leagues again and start from zero.

"That would give Aberdeen, Hibs and Hearts a real opportunity to go and try and win a title.

"Because the interest in Scottish football is there and I understand Rangers and Celtic generate most of that interest.

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"But for the rest of Scottish football it is becoming a two-way shootout.

“No disrespect to Inverness or Falkirk in the slightest, because anything can happen on the day.

"But on cup final day in June, let’s just say it's Celtic versus Falkirk. There’s only one winner.”

Murray also acknowledged that, with recently-released figures showing that per head of population Scotland currently has the best supported football in Europe, there remains much to be optimistic about.

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He said: “That is in its current format as well. People want to go to games.

"I think we’re trying to get as many fans as we can and it’s great.

"I even think the viewing figures for a Friday night in the Championship are very high because people want to watch their domestic football.

"We know most leagues in Europe are dominated by X amount of teams. You look around everywhere, Germany, England, Spain, it's always the same teams at the end of the league so it’s not just our problem.

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"I think our biggest issue is we’re next door to England and everybody wants to harp on about it.

"The reality is that there’s only two or three teams in England that are winning things pretty much all the time and it’s the same all over.

"How we get round it I don’t know but certainly the Scottish supporters are coming out in numbers, that’s for sure.

"I think they always have to be honest. I think Scottish people like to go to a game on a Saturday, guys like to go down the pub and speak to their mates before and after the game.

"Women are now becoming more prominent in the game as well and young kids. So we need to try and think of a way to capture their imagination a little bit.”

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