Derek Johnstone: Fans feel cheated by SPL and SFL botch that means season of worthless ties

IF the SPL and SFL clubs back proposals for a 12-12-18 league structure, and it is pushed through for the start of next season, it will be an absolute scandal.

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SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster, left, SFA chief executive Stewart Regan, centre, and SFL chief executive David Longmuir
SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster, left, SFA chief executive Stewart Regan, centre, and SFL chief executive David Longmuir

For it would mean that 39,000 Rangers supporters have bought season tickets to see what has, effectively, been meaningless friendly matches.

It will have been a complete and utter waste of their money.

If the new set-up comes into being for the start of the 2013/14 campaign, then what Rangers do this season will be irrelevant.

The Ibrox club will go into the new 18-team bottom division, along with all the other Third Division clubs, irrespective of what happens on the park.

I agreed with Campbell Ogilvie, the SFA president, when he said that clubs must know what they are playing for at the start of the season.

Otherwise, what is the point in having a league?

Yes, it will still take the same amount of time for Rangers to return to the SPL if league reconstruction happens.

But they will end up playing exactly the same teams in the bottom league again next season – no matter how many points they win the Third Division by.

How does manager Ally McCoist motivate his players for the remaining games of the season if this plan gets the green light? What they do will be unimportant.

Why should Ally play promising kids like Fraser Aird, Barrie McKay or Lewis Macleod if they risk a serious injury in a game that does not matter a jot?

The Rangers fans have been through hell in the last year or so. But I think that once it was decided they would be playing in the bottom tier in the summer they accepted it, embraced it and got behind their club.

They have been nothing short of magnificent. Their backing of the team, home and away, has been extraordinary.

They deserve to see their heroes rewarded with something meaningful – promotion to a higher league – at the end of the season.

If the 12-12-18 system gets the go-ahead then they will have been cheated. Why should they go and see their team play in the matches coming up when nothing is at stake?

Rangers fans were already deeply disillusioned with how they had been treated by the governing bodies and the other Scottish clubs.

This latest development will simply serve to increase their sense of grievance.

In the summer, all the SPL and SFL clubs decided, in their wisdom, to place Rangers in the Third Division. Before they reached their decision, they all went to their supporters to ask their opinion.

The reason for that was – despite what they may have said publicly – that they did not want to take responsibility for consigning the Ibrox club to the fourth tier.

They were told, in no uncertain terms, that the fans would refuse to buy season tickets unless Rangers went into the Third Division. Essentially, they were threatened.

But have the clubs consulted with their fans this time? No, they totally ignored them.

Sorry, but the paying public, the lifeblood of the game, need to have their say about something so important to the future of football in this country.

I think most fans wanted to see a 16-team top division. They are sick and fed up of seeing their team play the same opponents four times a season. Rangers, too, were not involved in talks about the new league structure because they are only an associate member of the SFL just now.

But, surely to goodness, the biggest club in Scotland has to have some sort of input into talks on reconstruction.

There has inevitably been speculation about Rangers leaving Scottish football. The Old Firm clubs have been threatening to do this for 25 years or so now.

But, with the way football is going, it is something that Fifa and Uefa have to seriously look at now.

By all accounts, their attitudes towards cross-border competition is softening. Personally, I would like to see Rangers remain in Scottish football. But I can understand why Charles Green is looking at alternatives when this is forced upon him.

It has been pointed out that a similar system to the 12-12-18 has been used in Austria and Switzerland. Well, yes it was. But it was ditched because it didn't work!

I fail to see what makes this better than the current set-up. There are far too many unwanted possible scenarios..

Will the satellite broadcasters, ESPN and Sky Sports, go along with it? Will sponsors be impressed?

I think it shows Neil Doncaster and Stewart Regan, the SPL and SFA chief executives, are out of touch with a game they are employed to enhance.

Sport

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