JIM MANN, the Kilmarnock chairman, hopes clubs will put the greater good before self-interest and vote in the changes necessary to reinvigorate the Scottish game. Representatives from all 42 senior clubs will convene at Hampden today, with league reconstruction one of the items back on the table after a three-year moratorium. Mann is a proponent of a bigger top division, believing the Ladbrokes Premiership could easily accommodate 16 or 18 teams rather than continuing as a 12.
Finding sufficient support for that will likely prove difficult within the framework of the 11:1 voting system for “qualified resolutions” such as altering prize money, but Mann believes that declining attendances are only likely to get worse if the SPFL retains the status quo. Moving to a 16 or 18-team league would deprive Kilmarnock of an extra visit each season from Celtic (and Rangers should they win promotion) but their chairman believes that loss would be offset by more supporters coming to other games if change was embraced.
“From our point of view we would like to see reconstruction to a bigger league as soon as is practically possible,” Mann told Herald Sport. “Whether it’s a 16 or 18-team league we could go either way on that but my preference would be 18 teams with three up and three down. There’s a chance self-interest might get in the way of change but I really hope it doesn’t as we need to address the bigger picture. The game is going nowhere at the minute. Crowds are dwindling and I don’t see that changing unless we take action.”
Mann also hoped that, before any potential changes were implemented, there would be consultation with supporters. “I talk to a lot of fans and they are finding the set-up tedious with the same teams playing each other year in, year out,” he added. “The game is for the fans so I think before anything is set in stone we need to get the views of those who pay their money to watch it every week. And hopefully they will then start to come back regularly. Having 2000 extra fans at every home game would be as valuable as an extra visit from an Old Firm club.”
With Kilmarnock currently languishing in the relegation play-off place, Mann was aware that any push for immediate change would look like a self-serving act. To alleviate that he believes any new system should probably not come into play before season 2017/18.
“On the aspect of fairness it would only be right to say to clubs at the beginning of the next season, 'here’s what you’re playing for the following season'.”