Players and fans suffer in power vacuum: David McKinney on the Super League's challenge to the Scottish Football League

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The Independent Online
THE Scottish League's proposals for a revised 14-12-12 three-division structure seem doomed to failure at today's special meeting in Glasgow, following a statement of unity from the 10 Super League clubs who met yesterday to cement support for their cause in the face of a threatened mutiny.

The original five who proposed the Super League - Rangers, Celtic, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Hearts - were joined later last summer by Motherwell, Hibernian, St Johnstone, Partick Thistle and Dunfermline. Yesterday they concentrated efforts to prevent a break of ranks from relegation-threatened clubs who would gain from a change of league next season.

Celtic have already indicated their intention to vote for the Scottish League's proposals, which call for a winter break, after which the league would split into two: the top six teams would then play off for the championship while the rest would be fighting to avoid relegation. The main stumbling block for some top sides is the suggestion that points from the first half of the season be wiped out, leaving a championship race of 10 games. With Rangers, Celtic and Aberdeen almost certain of a top-six place every year, they would have little to play for in the first half of the season.

Partick Thistle's resolve was thought to be wavering with the suggestion that they might join Celtic, but, following the promise of financial help to a relegated member club, yesterday's statement from the Super League clubs appeared to suggest that harmony has been restored. 'The board of the Scottish Super League is pleased to advise that the other nine members of the SSL remain convinced of the need for radical and permanent change in the structure of the game,' the statement read. 'The SSL application for membership of the SFA incorporating detailed rules of the new league structure will be submitted by Friday 29 January, 1993.'

The Super League clubs kept the door open for Celtic, adding: 'We are confident that Celtic will see the merits in our proposals. Their future support will be welcomed.'

The immediate priority for the Super League clubs is the defeat of the Scottish League's proposals, but the only certainty in this whole situation is that change is inevitable, with the top clubs unhappy with being forced to play 44 league games on top of European ties, cup matches and internationals.

But the welfare of their players is only part of the equation, with the big clubs seeking tighter controls on their finances, insisting they they have not wavered from their original intention to improve the standard of football, with a top league of 10 clubs safeguarding, as they see it, the professional game. The danger remains that change could be made for change's sake.

For the Scottish League proposal to be carried today, another two of the Super League clubs would have to vote with Celtic in order to reach the required total of 57 votes, assuming the First and Second Division clubs are solidly behind the plan.

Whatever the outcome, no clear-cut decision can be made today, because a 'yes' vote would bring about a change unwanted by at least seven of the biggest clubs, while a 'no' vote would leave the status quo, which means a continuing state of flux.

The Super League clubs have expressed a willingness to operate within the umbrella of the Scottish League, but clearly some form of compromise will have to be reached. The proposals being voted on today, while being short of perfect, could prove a starting point.

Both factions have their own interests at heart, which is understandable, but a way must be found not just for change but for change which will last, because the most important people in the game, the players and supporters, are becoming marginal to the power struggles within the game's administration.

Constant squabbles and talk of change can only damage the game's image with the supporters, and no doubt players, becoming weary of the whole thing. Their love for the game will survive, but those charged with the running of the game have a duty to provide a stable and lasting foundation for them to play and watch the game.

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