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Open Letter on League Reconstruction

April 12, 2013

ScottishfootballTHE Sonstrust Board has approved a statement on the current situation regarding league reconstruction, ahead of the meeting of the SPL on 15th April 2013 and a possible consequent SFL meeting. Other Trusts and supporter bodies are also being invited to endorse and publicise this statement:

Next week SPL clubs, initially, vote on key changes in the way Scottish football is run and structured. Fans at all clubs have made their views overwhelmingly and repeatedly clear – they want larger divisions (not the 12-12-18 proposal presently on the table), fairer and more transparent finance, good governance and proper supporter representation and involvement in the running of the game at all levels.

Yet, once more, there is a danger that the views of those whose passion and money is indispensable to the flourishing of Scottish football will be ignored or sidelined. No other business could hope to survive in a good shape if it so systematically dismissed the wishes of its customer base by elevating short-term interests, narrow financial projections and political posturing above the need for genuine renovation and renewal. Unless this lesson is finally learned, the future looks dim.

At present there is obvious and deep division among both SPL and SFL clubs over league reconstruction. If 12-12-18 is pushed through, it will only be through arm-twisting and backroom deals, because in reality there is no agreement.

The desirable outcome next week would be for Scottish clubs to resolve together to seek a better formula for season 2014/15, rather than risking further conflict and divisiveness by railroading through a flawed plan that will only need to be unravelled and recast a few years hence.

SFL clubs had earlier put forward a constructive 16-10-16 proposal, which largely chimed with the carefully argued 16-16-10 proposition in the alternative fans’ plan first put out through Supporters Direct Scotland and then developed and published by FansFirst Scotland. There is a sound football and business case for this, which seems to have been dismissed far too readily as a result of fixation on smaller divisions, assumptions based on existing approaches which have not worked, and consequent lack of innovative thinking.

We understand the frustration that has built up, throughout the game and in the media, over the time it has taken to get reform proposals to table. But taking a bad decision in the name of avoiding more delay, while effectively ignoring key findings of the McLeish Report and the manifest outcomes of the National Football Survey, would be to squander a historic opportunity for deeper change while further imperilling the future of the Scottish game.

Taking a further season to discuss a workable league structure for all (which should also include greater detail of a viable pyramid system) will enable supporters’ organisations to be properly engaged in the process. It will also help put current disagreements between clubs in the context of a larger vision for Scottish football as a whole – not just the largest and most vocal interests.

Meanwhile, we hope that plans to unify the game’s governing bodies, together with proposals to ensure a better distribution of resources, financial transparency and good governance might move forward more quickly. This must be done, however, on the basis of proper financial disclosure to all parties for decision-making purposes, and with voting systems and a constitution that does not put power in the hands of the few and too readily act as a brake on future change.

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