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Stephen Craigan

Scottish football must restructure leagues to ensure no club loses out over coronavirus pandemic

Stephen Craigan


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Cash plan: Steven Gerrard’s Gers have pushed for the release of prize money

Cash plan: Steven Gerrard’s Gers have pushed for the release of prize money

Getty Images

Ann Budge

Ann Budge

Getty Images

Cash plan: Steven Gerrard’s Gers have pushed for the release of prize money

On Wednesday, the SPFL put out a proposal to its 42 member clubs giving them the option of concluding the season now and paying out prize money as each club currently sits, cash which lower league sides are in desperate need of.

As in any democratic vote, though, the clubs were well within their rights to oppose the proposal and I thought that would be the outcome last night.

But the picture is still a foggy one and the outcome of the SPFL's proposal to finish the lower league season may not be known until next month.

That's because the 5pm vote passed with only 39 out of 42 teams having responded, with the fate of the resolution resting on one Scottish Championship club.

Under league rules clubs actually have 28 days to submit an answer, and this deadline was a requested cut-off.

For the SPFL motion to be passed, it needs nine Premiership clubs, eight in the Championship, and 15 in Leagues One and Two combined to vote in favour. Ten in the top flight have voted for, with seven in the Championship and 16 in the lower leagues doing likewise.

A vote for would also lead to the Premiership being called on the same points per game basis if the SPFL board "determines the games cannot be played".

It's an uncertain time for many.

I felt the proposition wouldn't pass because there wouldn't be enough support for it from all four divisions (75% of clubs from each league was required).

Some clubs claimed they needed more information and thought it was too premature to call a halt to the season now.

Others asked for more consideration to be taken regarding playing games when it is safe.

Rangers have been very vocal in their condemnation of what they believe was a hasty decision that didn't need taken.

They do, however, want the league bosses to pay out prize money because they recognise the plight of so many lower division clubs.

They feel the league season will only be complete when 38 games are played to a finish but haven't expanded on how that would be possible.

I have to say I'm not fully convinced the season will actually get played to a conclusion the way everyone wants after a further suspension was placed on football in Scotland on Thursday until at least June 10.

I feel we will get to the stage where it's impossible to play because of complications surrounding players' contracts and with the pending 2020-21 season on the horizon being a priority for the league bosses.

Their mindset is why affect more than one season if it can be avoided? That's clearly why they wanted the season ended now at last night's vote.

It was actually Hearts who stood to lose the most with relegation from the Premiership with eight games to go.

Their owner Ann Budge had campaigned that no club should be penalised as a consequence of these exceptional circumstances.

Basically no club should be worse off than the position they currently occupy and Hearts would have been.

The SPFL were also committed to consulting with clubs over the possibility of reconstruction for next season. This has to be a necessity for me.

A lot of clubs need to back up their recent comments about Scottish Football needing to unite and help each other out; actions will speak louder than words and reconstructing leagues will be that action.

I feel the four leagues should be enhanced from 42 to 44 clubs, even for a single season.

A top-flight 12 has been the desired choice for the bosses but this is uncharted territory so they have to adapt as well to protect all the clubs and limit unnecessary punishment.

They are the custodians of our game and they must show that now.

Bring two sides up from non-league to make up the numbers within a 14-10-10-10 set-up.

At the end of the season, reconfigure with relegation, play-offs and promotion based on final standings.

Simply then adjust back to the set-up as it is now, 12-10-10-10.

Every club will have had the best possible chance to survive first of all, then regroup and rebuild.

No one needs to be relegated unjustly or feel unfairly treated and this will eradicate that.

We currently sit with 42 senior Scottish clubs at present, I just hope we still have the same 42 when football restarts.

Belfast Telegraph