ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Alan Stubbs has welcomed the prospect of league reconstruction talks, however the Hibernian head coach remains determined to win a place in the Premiership – whichever form it may take – solely on merit.
Falkirk chairman Doug Henderson has been an outspoken advocate of an expanded top flight, prompting suggestions in some quarters that the Championship outfit were simply eyeing a back door into the top tier.
Stubbs believes the criticism of the Bairns, who Hibs welcome to Easter Road tomorrow, is unfair and has echoed the calls for a serious dialogue, insisting supporters are bored with a mundane fixture list.
He cited last season’s calendar, which saw Celtic and Dundee United cross swords four times in 13 days – facing each other on seven occasions overall.
“I think the best way to answer that is: as a club we would welcome discussions on league reconstruction,” Stubbs said.
“Do the supporters want to see teams playing each other six times a season? Look at Celtic and Dundee United last season.
“I know the likes of Celtic versus Rangers are big games but do we realistically want to see them play a minimum of four times a season?
“There are vested interests in this and that is why there has to be discussions. Everybody will have their own agenda within that and trying to bring those agendas together and get the one answer is not easy.
“But I think we all want the best for Scottish football.”
For Stubbs, however, discussions in Hampden boardrooms are secondary to results on the pitch.
One suspects gaining a Premiership place due to league construction, rather than their league performance, would be a bittersweet pill for Stubbs to swallow.
“Falkirk chairman Doug Henderson aired his views on a bigger top team league in the right way,” noted Stubbs. “However, people have said that he is only saying these things because it’s an easier way back to the top table for Falkirk.
“So, I don’t want that debate to be used an excuse for not trying to achieve our aims.
“We want to get into the Premiership on merit. I am not going to get side-tracked on anything other than what we are trying to achieve here.
“We want to be one of the – as it stands – 12 teams in the Scottish Premiership and then we will take it from there, And we want go up to the top flight as champions, we make no bones about that.”
Discussions over the future of Scottish football have intensified this week after a radical overhaul of the League Cup was announced.
The revamp includes a summer group phase, the inclusion of the Highland and Lowland League champions and drawn matches ending with a penalty shootout – with a bonus point on offer.
“The SPFL have listened to the fans and I think that is important. Why not give summer football a go?” continued Stubbs.
“If you don’t so something, you get criticised. If you do something, you get criticised. I do feel sorry for the SPFL in that respect and I commend them for trying to do something different. I say give it a go, lets see how it works.
SPFL secretary Iain Blair this week suggested that the new look League Cup could serve as testing ground for a full summer football calendar.
However, Stubbs believes that decision could be laregly driven by television companies like BT Sport, who have coughed up £8 million for the rights to the League Cup for the next four years.
He continued: “I think television is going to have a big part to play in the discussion because there is nothing in June and July. Those are the months when fans are sitting thinking ‘how long until the footy is back on?’
“That is obviously something BT Sport have looked at for this new League Cup.
“When it comes to the Premiership, of course clubs will all have their own thoughts, but an opinion – a big opinion – goes to the television companies. They have a huge say in what goes on.
“When companies can pay £6 billion contracts, they are going to come to the table with a lot to say. That is the case with summer football, they will have a big say.
“But I’m an old purist! I do like the calendar as it is. I wouldn’t be against a bigger winter break and expand that way.”