Bairns call for league expansion

Falkirk chairman Martin Ritchie.
Falkirk chairman Martin Ritchie.
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Falkirk FC have called for the Scottish Football League to lobby for a 16-team top tier.

At a board meeting on Wednesday the club re-iterated Martin Ritchie’s previous statement proposing reconstruction across Scottish football and urged their fellow Scottish Football League clubs to discuss expansion at the league board meeting on Thursday.

It followed detailed discussion from the fall-out of all 30 SFL clubs meeting at Hampden on Tuesdaywhere the Bairtns were represented by general manager David White and director Lex Miller.

Chairman Martin Ritchie - currently on holiday - said in his statement: “It is clear that supporters the length and breadth of the country want to see league reconstruction, play offs, and fairer allocations of the game’s wealth.

“The board at Falkirk call on the football authorities to come up with a commitment that would lead to a 16-club top division.

“We are asking the SFL board to discuss this at their board meeting (today, Thursday) and to take this matter up with the SFA and SPL with a view to coming up with some immediate proposals that can be tabled at next week’s SFL general meeting.

“We believe that introducing Rangers to the First Division as proposed throws away the chance of introducing real change to our game and, in the short term, simply reduces existing First Division clubs chances of securing an automatic promotion place.

“We cannot therefore support the current proposal put forward by the SFL.”

A proposal was sent out yesterday (Wednesday) offering £1m to be split between the SFL this season, play-offs to be re-introduced along the same lines of the Division One and Two set-up, in addition to the foundation of an amalgamated solitary football authority - all in return for Rangers to drop into Division One.

Another stipulation appears to suggest an increased share of finances spread to lower divisions.

The proposal was discussed last night by Falkirk and an indication of all clubs’ answers had to be lodged with the SFL today.

Before last night’s meeting, David White re-iterated the club’s position.

“We see this as the one time, the one chance to make a change to Scottish football. It’s been labelled a crisis, a mess and in a perilous state by each of the authorities.

“We see this as the perfect time to make a change. It may not be implemented this year but now is the time for re-construction and a commitment to doing so. We could draft up a plan for years to come - it doesn’t have to be immediate.

Clubs will reconvene in seven days to formally vote on allowing Rangers into the First Division.

An alternative avenue back into the SPL appears blocked, while clubs were briefed that a demotion to Division Three would cost SPL clubs 90 per cent of their income and likely to plunge at least five into administration.

The sweetener offered to the SFL was dismissed by Steven Pressley in last week’s Falkirk Herald and his “disgusted” warning echoed in the national media in the days after. But Mr White added “What’s being offered in return - play-offs and £1m split between the clubs won’t make or break the existence of Falkirk FC.”

BairnsTrust has already concluded fans don’t want Rangers in the First Division (see page 76) and Trust chief Tom Paterson echoed the views of Steven Pressley and Martin Ritchie.

However, following Tuesday’s meeting the survey’s overwhelming wish appears in vain as the vote now centres around admitting Rangers to SFL one - or not.

East Stirlingshire’s board members are re-evaluating the situation having entered Tuesday’s meeting to make a decision on Rangers re-application to Division Three, but then being asked a view on the Division One scenario. The club hopes to submit a consensus of opinion to the SFL this morning.

Stenhousemuir chairman Bill Darroch was represented by two directors at the meeting but told The Falkirk Herald his club would also be discussing the matter with the Warriors supporters trust.

“We will look at the proposal and bring it before the board bearing in mind our fans and trust, and resubmit our decision to the SFL.

“It is a straight yes or no decision now.”