BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hearts have vowed to be at the forefront of reconstruction talks as the debate about the future of Scottish football intensifies.
A revolutionised League Cup was announced this week, which will see a group stage in July testing the water for summer football.
The Lowland and Highland League champions will also be included for the first time, while drawn matches will go straight to penalties with a bonus point on offer for the winner.
Amid one of the most radical revamps of a cup competition in recent years, Falkirk chairman Doug Henderson has re-asserted his hope that a 16-team top-flight will be the next innovation.
A three-year moratorium was placed on discussions regarding league structure following the merger between the SPL and SFL in 2013, however Hearts’ chief operating officer Scot Gardiner believes there will be an appetite for change when that expires this summer.
Gardiner was involved in the discussions three years ago in his previous role as chief executive of Dundee and now works closely with Hearts owner Ann Budge.
Gardiner said: “I do believe we need to look at change. They say ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ – but I think we are all of the opinion that we can do better than this.
“With Ann [Budge] leading the way, we will be at the forefront of that. There is a swing towards looking at everything.
“Because of the reconstruction that took place [in 2013], taking the 42 clubs under one banner, there was a three-year moratorium put on any further changes. This is the last season of that and I believe that changes will be proposed.
“Then it is a case of every club coming back to their constituents, their fans, and saying ‘here is what we believe would be the right thing to do’.
“In the last round of reconstruction talks we were only one vote, and two teams, away from quite a radical plan.”
Budge believes the sheer number of clubs in the Scottish senior ranks is problematic, with SPFL currently comprised of 42 members.
The Hearts owner added: “I don’t think anyone [at Hearts] would disagree that there are too many clubs. That is one of the problems we do have to address.
“The club’s position is that we are very keen to get the subject back on the table and start a dialogue because I think a lot of clubs feel that we need to look at the structure.”