Falkirk chairman calls for 16-team SPFL top league

Doug Henderson

Doug Henderson

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Falkirk chairman Doug Henderson tonight called for an expanded top league in Scotland.

At the Bairns AGM - his first as chairman since replacing Martin Ritchie, Henderson urged Hampden bosses to return the top flight to a 16 team competition.

Speaking at the Westfield Lounge, the former MP warned that the slide of Scottish football, from falling attendances and poor performance of the national side, would continue unless steps are taken to address the current “out-dated” system.

His comments came as he revealed Falkirk FC were on a solid financial footing, one of few Club’s in Scotland in this position, with a reserve fund for future investment and a strong academy developing local Scottish talent.

Henderson said: “Our League structure is out of kilter with the economics of football in Scotland and I believe that my counterpart Chairmen recognise what we have currently is outdated.

“Playing other Clubs four times a season is not attractive to most football supporters – as surveys show – and there is a slippage of attendance for many Clubs in the Premier League.

“Television dictates our fixtures with high revenue Saturday games often being moved to midweek with little consideration given to fans and their families, or the financial consequences for Clubs like Falkirk.

“Our international side does not compete with countries like Ireland, Norway, Iceland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Belgium and others.

“Even with Celtic’s unique financial position, it has in recent times been incapable of competing effectively in Europe. Our other Clubs which qualify for Europe are very frequently knocked out at the early stages of competition.”

He called for those involved at the higher levels of Scottish football to put “vested interests aside” to make “sensible changes” and ensure Scottish football can be secured as an attractive proposition in the longer term.

He said: “Reflecting economic reality and the need for Premier Division full-time football, I believe that we must put vested interest aside and reform our leagues bringing about a 16 league Premier Division.

“There are suggestions that the League Cup should be restructured. But, I don’t believe that a sectional League Cup would be attractive to supporters – unless the leagues themselves are restructured.

“Next summer Scottish Football concludes its three year deal linked to the play-offs.

“This is an opportunity for us all who love the sport to make sensible restructuring changes which can help to lay a strong foundation for the future, protecting the maximum number of full-time Clubs and securing a sustainable platform for growth in our national sport.”

More on the Falkirk shareholders’ meeting at www.falkirkherald.co.uk over the coming days.