BY DARREN JOHNSTONE @CCP_Sport
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson insists the only way you will guarantee making the League Cup a more prestigious competition is by offering the winners a route into Europe.
The triumphant team used to be handed a place in the old UEFA Cup but that privilege was revoked in 1995 due to the reduced number of European places granted to Scottish clubs.
The revamped League Cup will feature group stages involving all 38 teams not in Europe, plus the winners of the Highland and Lowland Leagues, at the start of next season.
Where possible, the groups will also be regionalised and games will take place during the latter stages of July, a period normally dominated by pre-season fixtures.
The SPFL also announced a winter shutdown of a minimum of 20 days.
But Neilson admits the lure of Europa League qualification would add more glamour to the competition.
He said: “To be honest I don’t know the ins and outs of it or dates but I think if we’re going to get prestige for the League Cup, the one thing we can do is make it European qualification, that would get everyone gunning to try and win it.
“We’ll see, time will tell whether the change is a good thing. We’re all for change.”
Asked about his thoughts on the planned winter break – which will start from 2017 – Neilson added: “It depends on how long we get.
“Sometimes with these breaks you end up just getting one free weekend and if you get one free weekend, you just train right through anyway so you don’t get a break.
“A month would be a better shout but when you do that it then affects the finances for midweek and Saturday games. But we’re heading in the right direction.”