Rovers chairman backs plans
Outspoken Raith Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton has given his overwhelming backing to new plans for Scottish football.
The Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League, in conjunction with the Scottish Football Association, have struck a merger deal in principle that would see a 12-12-18 set-up complete with mid-season splits and end-of-term play-offs.
Hutton, who has been one of the biggest critics of the SPL and SFA and the way they managed the fall-out of the Rangers crisis, believes common sense has finally broken out.
The Stark's Park chairman claims new plans for a fairer share of money throughout Scotland's 42 senior clubs will also spare his side from the kind of financial peril which has enveloped many of teams north of the border.
He said: "I'm optimistic. If I had a list of things I'd like to have changed about Scottish football going forward, then I was never a fan of the financial distribution, the fact we had two bodies running our leagues, the boredom of playing each other four times.
"But if I look at what is being proposed now, there are some interesting possibilities.
"Does the financial picture look a lot brighter now? Absolutely.
"Without quoting numbers, the indicative numbers would make one hell of a difference to a club like ours."
Hutton claims strict rules on stadium capacities and under-soil heating may be relaxed, taking another cash burden off of the shoulders of hard-pressed clubs.
"The dawning reality from the SPL is that the criteria for stadiums are going to have to be tempered with some realism.
"That also make a big difference. There has been millions wasted on infrastructure for a bankrupt football set-up just to tick a box on the old SPL check-list."
And as for fans, he believes the plans, which will see the two top leagues of 12 split into three divisions of eight to decide the title and relegation to the following season's second tier, will entice supporters back to games.
"If Rovers make it into that middle league of eight, you won't have to go to an Airdrie, a Cowdenbeath or a Livingston for a third and fourth time," Hutton said.
"You will have the likes of Hearts, Hibs or Aberdeen possibly coming to Stark's Park. That can only excite fans.
"And if you do get promotion, your team will have done it on merit because they will have taken on SPL teams and succeeded."
Meanwhile, Hamilton chairman Les Gray insists that the share of money and governance of the new set-up is more important than the make-up of the leagues.
He said: "I'm very supportive of the new plans.
"Everyone knows my position. I'm an advocate of protecting full-time Scottish football and in the past I have been one of the voices calling for an SPL2.
"I openly admitted to being one of the five SFL chairmen who voted for Rangers to be admitted to the First Division in the summer because I was looking at the bigger picture; I was looking at a better distribution model and a better governance.
"For me, if you have a better spread of money and better governance, then the number of teams you play isn't as significant as some people think."
SPL clubs are understood to be willing to forego a seven-figure sum each-year to placate their lower-league partners.
And Gray insists that money will go a long way to soothing the strains SFL teams currently face.
He said: "Teams winning the SPL receive £3million or £4million, whereas Dunfermline in 12th last season got £800,000. But for winning the First Division, Ross County were handed just £60,000.
"That's too big a gap.
"The new set-up will change that significantly.
"(SFA chief executive) Stewart Regan has called these plans a new dawn for the game but that's for him to say. But we do need change. Fans are turning away in their droves.
"We need to freshen things up, to make it more exciting. If more promotion and relegation and play-off games do that, then it can't be a bad thing."
The SFL will put the plans to its clubs later this month, with 22 of the 29 full members needing to give their formal approval. Rangers, as associate members, do not have voting rights.
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