Football: English Premier model for Scots

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The Independent Online
Chairmen from the 10 Bell's Premier Division clubs met in Edinburgh yesterday for talks which could ultimately lead to a Premiership modelled on the English Premier League.

A plan to change the current four divisions of 10 teams for a 16-team top flight, originally put forward by Clydebank's Jack Steedman three months ago, is now certain to fail.

Already the Rangers chairman, David Murray, and his Celtic counterpart, Fergus McCann, are considering change and how the big clubs can command more television revenue. They are understood to want to create a Scottish version of the English Premiership and affiliated to the SFA.

The remaining clubs would stay under the Scottish League umbrella. Any change could take at least 18 months to put in place.

Murray's Carnegie Sports International company yesterday issued a statement, headed "Scottish Football Initiative - The Way Forward".

It stated: "The Premier Division clubs have decided to take forward a major initiative within Scottish football and will meet on a regular basis to discuss the initiative's progress.

"[They] have engaged independent professional advisers and a further statement will be issued after the next meeting."

Today, the Scottish League Management Committee will meet in Glasgow and will confirm the end of the 16-12-12 proposal put forward by Steedman.

It was due to go to a vote by all clubs at the Scottish League annual general meeting at the end of May but will now not even reach that stage.

The Dundee United manager, Tommy McLean, and his Kilmarnock counterpart, Bobbie Williamson, have both criticised the arrangements for their Tennents Scottish Cup semi-final, which they believe are responsible for fans staying away. The tie will be played at Easter Road in Edinburgh next Monday and shown live on satellite television, with both factors contributing to the modest ticket sales so far.

McLean has also criticised the state of Hibernian's pitch and both clubs had wanted the semi-final staged at one of the Old Firm grounds in Glasgow.

The Tannadice manager is unhappy with the way the SFA has promoted one of the showpiece matches of the season, and said: "I feel the tie is being devalued. We have sold only around 4,500 tickets and there is a bit of a rebellion, as people feel the fans are not being considered.

"We have moaned to the SFA on behalf of our supporters and this is a protest by them, as the tie is going to a venue to cater for television and not to Ibrox or Parkhead where there would be open spaces. But we want our fans at the game, because they cannot support United sitting in front of a television."

Williamson, newly confirmed as permanently in charge at Rugby Park, also voiced his concern at the prospect of a sparse crowd for the semi-final. "It is disappointing that families will not be able to attend as the game is in Edinburgh but I hope we can give them a day out at the final," he said.

"I also hope my getting the job will be a lift to everyone in the dressing- room.

"I am pleased the directors have shown their faith in me and my aim is to lead Kilmarnock to the Cup final and to safety in the Premier Division.

"We have some young lads in our side but I am sure they will not be overawed by the semi-final, because recently they have played against Celtic and Rangers."

Williamson has made a success of his spell as caretaker manager after taking over from Alex Totten, who was dismissed in December.