Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne welcomed the inexorable move towards a top-ten Scottish Premier League - but admits the idea will have to be sold to sceptical fans. 

All 12 SPL clubs today met together for the first time in the ongoing discussions over league reconstruction after a working party proposed two divisions of ten in Scottish footballs top leagues.

No vote was taken at the meeting at Hampden, which lasted more than three hours, but SPL chairman Ralph Topping and chief executive Neil Doncaster emerged to declare themselves confident that they had persuaded all present that a 16-team or 18-team top league was not financially viable. With no other alternatives on the table and the status quo out of the question, it appears a top-ten SPL 1 and 2 will be ratified at the next meeting between the clubs on 17 January.

Milne left the national stadium in confident mood but was mindful of a recent poll which showed almost 90% of 5,000 fans who responded to a Supporters Direct survey were opposed to a ten-team league, with around three-quarters favouring a league of 16 or 18 teams.

The Dons chairman said: "I think we have moved forward but there is still a bit of work to be done. Each one of the options has been fully evaluated and the one that delivers way above any of the other is a ten-team league. I am still fairly confident that's where we will end up after the 17th.

"There were no alternatives put forward but I genuinely believe that's the right way forward for Scottish football, without any doubt. I don't think there is any other option that delivers on a financial front and on the football front. We know there is a big selling job to do with the media and the fans but that is the reality.

"If we don't bring money into Scottish football, where is Scottish football going?

There is no money to invest in youth and we can't afford to bring highly-paid players to Scotland so we have to change. There is work to be done and discussions are going on behind the scenes with the SFL and they will continue. But change is vital and I think everyone realises that."

More teams not viable

St Johnstone chairman Geoff Brown also left Hampden convinced that the two-tier SPL was the only way forward. "The meeting went well," he said. "I would be fairly confident that it would be okay, the two 10-team SPL leagues. There is absolutely no chance of a 16-team league, for mainly financial reasons.

"Football requires money from outside sources to survive and it certainly wouldn't survive with a 16-team league. It's not gone ahead, all it was today was discussions although I would like to think we have a consensus. But it's up to individual clubs and every club will make their own mind up."

A strategic review group featuring Topping, Doncaster and representatives from six clubs - Hibernian, St Mirren, Motherwell, Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen - formulated the proposals following research by Doncaster, who reiterated his belief that a ten-team top flight is the only proposal that can deliver on a financial basis.
There is no doubt that there would be less money coming in from a television point of view [in a bigger SPL].
SPL chairman Neil Doncaster on one of the issues preventing an SPL expansion

He said: "It was important that we put out on the table exactly the reasons why we have arrived at the situation that we have. If you go to a 16 or 18-team league, which seems to be popular in some quarters, that involves the decimation of the finances in Scottish football. It involves the cake getting much smaller and obviously cutting it into far more slices. There is no doubt that there would be less money coming in from a television point of view.

"There would be fewer games, either 30 in a 16-team league or 34 in an 18-team league and that clearly results in far less revenue for the clubs and that's why we ended up with the recommendations that we have. We can certainly say that there was a clear consensus that there needs to be change in Scottish football and that was coming through loud and clear from all the clubs.

"We have another meeting on 17 January to try and deliver that package of change that will take Scottish football forward but there is a real willingness for change. We weren't going through the plan line for line.

"We were listening to concerns, taking them on board and gathering whether the clubs were up for change or wanted the status quo and there was clearly a view that there needs to be a fundamental change to protect the future of Scotland's professional game. It is not simply for a few clubs or for the top 12 clubs, it's a package of change to benefit the whole of Scottish football going forward."

Other proposals including an earlier start to the season and a winter break were not discussed in any great detail but Topping ruled out the idea of play-offs at the top of the SPL. He said: "There was more positivity around the table than negativity, which is always a good thing. Some of the key issues were discussed and some were knocked into touch. I think it's fair to say discussions around play-offs at the top of the league is difficult to the extent that it is a non-starter."