SPFL reconstruction group: Zoom bunfight or meeting of minds?

The panel (clockwise from top left) will be chaired by Les Gray and Ann Budge, and will include Jacqui Low, John Nelms, Lachlan Cameron and Dave MacKinnon

The arguments about missing votes is done, after a fashion. Now the squabbling can move on to league reconstruction.

A working group chaired by Ann Budge of Hearts and Les Gray of Hamilton Academical – the Scottish Premiership’s bottom two teams – convened for the first time on Monday afternoon.

Gray said the mute button would be used on Zoom calls to avoid “a bunfight” but what will be discussed in these meetings? What timetable are they working to? And is there any chance of this actually coming to anything?

Who is on the panel?

An unwieldy 14 members, after Hibernian chief executive Leeann Dempster announced on Monday that she had withdrawn to focus on how and when fans can return to grounds.

That leaves Hearts and Hamilton Academical – the Premiership’s bottom two – as the top-flight representatives, with four from the Championship, three from each of Leagues One and Two, and one from each of the Highland and Lowland Leagues.

SPFL Reconstruction Group
Premiership: Les Gray (Hamilton Academical), Ann Budge (Hearts)
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

How will it work?

Budge and Gray, as co-chairs, had initial discussions before launching into the full 16-way “bunfight” from 16:00 BST on Monday.

The plan for that conversation was that the terms of business would be discussed before clubs were asked to go away and come up with their own ideas.

What is on the table?

Depends what the clubs come up with, frankly, and it’s a bit of a blank canvas.

A 14-10-10-10 set up has been mooted as the most likely, however this would need the addition of two clubs to the bottom tier – Lowland League winners Kelty Hearts and Highland League counterparts Brora Rangers.

Three divisions of 14 and staying with a top 12 has also been suggested, while a 16-team top tier has long been championed by some fans, too.

What timescale are we working to?

That remains to be confirmed, although Budge spoke of wanting a “three-week turnaround”.

However, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying earlier on Monday that Scottish football should not expect to hold matches in front of fans “any time soon”, there perhaps need not be as big a rush.

How does the vote work?

Partick Thistle will vote with the League One clubs following their relegation

Right, so this is where it gets complicated.

First, the easy bit. For any proposal to pass, it needs eight of the 10 Championship clubs and 15 of the 20 in Leagues One and Two to support it. So far, so simple.

The Premiership is more of a morass. It had been reported that 11 of the 12 top-flight clubs would need to back any plan, but this is actually only the case if the number of clubs in the SPFL is increased or the prize money split changed.

Should the group suggest a reshuffle that does not involve going up from 42 teams or mucking about with money, only nine top-tier sides need back it.

That’s written – clear as mud – in the SPFL articles of associations and rules and regulations. That’s article 64 and rule C3, should you be so minded to check.

That could be a game-changer. Oh, and one more bit of housekeeping while we’re here…

BBC Scotland understands Hearts would still vote as a Premiership club unless they are relegated before any ballot.

Consequently, Dundee United’s submission would count towards the Championship tally. The rest of the promoted and relegated clubs would vote in their ‘new’ divisions.

See, all nice and straightforward.

BBC News

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