The prospect of an expanded, 14-team top flight in Scotland next season is now a live one, after the Scottish Professional Football League’s plan to abandon the 2019-20 campaign remained in a state of flux.
The SPFL asked clubs to vote on a resolution which would have immediately declared standings in the Championship, League One and League Two as final on an average points-per-game basis. Likewise applied to the 12-team Premiership but only beyond 23 April after Uefa asked member associations not to abandon leagues before that point. A number of Scottish clubs have been anxious to have final placings funding released by the league, with the SPFL so far adamant that can only happen when the season is permanently halted.
As of 5pm on Friday – widely cited as the voting deadline – three clubs from 42 had failed to vote. It is understood the voting window is actually 28 days, with Friday only issued as guidance. While the shortfall is not relevant in context of the Premiership, League One and Two – where the necessary supporting votes had been submitted – the one remaining Championship club will now determine the entire outcome.
“It is very important that clubs consider carefully the resolution and we are grateful to those clubs who have voted already,” said a SPFL statement. “With the Ladbrokes Premiership and Ladbrokes Leagues 1 & 2 divisions each having approved the resolution, we await the voting slip from the one Ladbrokes Championship club that has yet to vote. We will provide an update as soon as we are in a position to do so.”
Nonetheless, the SPFL is believed to be close to convening a detailed consultation process on league restructuring, aimed at placating dissenting voices. The SPFL’s chief executive Neil Doncaster has previously and routinely been cool on reorganising the leagues, with the necessity for an 11-1 vote in favour from the Premiership also seen as problematic.
A 14-team Premiership, as is the most likely outcome, would spare Heart of Midlothian relegation from a current position of four points behind with eight games left. The Hearts owner Ann Budge is an advocate of a 14-team league, where the annual split could be retained at eight and six. Inverness would be promoted to the top league alongside Dundee United. Partick Thistle would remain in the second tier and Falkirk would join Raith Rovers in advancing from League 1. The SPFL could even choose to retain their pyramid model by promoting clubs from the Highland and Lowland Leagues to make up the 10 sides in League 2.