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RabidAl

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About RabidAl

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  1. Not really important? That'll be why all World Cup and Champions League final matches kick off at the same time then. And what if the team in 10th in your scenario are only a point or two ahead of the bottom team but then end up knowing a draw against a team who are safe will see them stay up at the expense of the team who are missing out? I'm all for innovation and even some of the more complex Belgian style solutions but that's just not going to work. Yes, and plenty of those World Cup and Champions' League games have nothing riding on them at all, as do many of the fixtures in the final round of league matches of any given season, making it an empty gesture. (The rugby union world cup, as an example, has 4 groups of 5 teams who obviously cannot all play in the final round of matches - and it is a better, more exciting format than our football European Championships and should really be considered for that tournament.) If the team who were in 10th at the split only need a draw against a team that are already safe, at the expense of a team who are not playing, then they will play for a draw - as happens anyway. If you finish bottom at the point of the split, then you'd be least deserving of playing in the final round of league matches; on the other hand, that same team would have all their games out of the way by the final day of the season, giving them the best chance of accruing the points to pressurise on opponents and so saving themselves from relegation. As I said, it is a minor issue - not a show stopper, by any means - and is fair enough for everyone provided that is all advertised in advance, so that everyone knows what to expect. If the league went to 14-14-14 using this set up, there could be plenty of interesting friendlies across the divisions between those teams sitting out; page 32 of this thread shows a possible method of transition from our current set up to 14-14-14, or to 14-14-18 if we were to add a Scottish Youth team, one from Highlands, two from Lowlands. Yep - i'm well past my 'use by' date on here, so i'll quit today. Thanks to everyone who has put up with me; sorry to anyone who i've offended; all the best to you and yours. (Boo-hoo, right?) P.S. - Absolutely agree. It would be fantastic, and is tried-and-tested so the powers-that-be have good precedent to point to when implementing it. Bye!
  2. Not really that important. The team with the least to play for once the post-split phase begins would always sit out the final round of games. For example, the team beginning the post-split phase in 9th (in a 9-5 split) would always play in the first round of post-split matches but would not play in the final round of matches, whilst the team beginning the post-split phase in 1st place would sit out the first round of matches but would always play in the final round of matches. The effect of this would be to keep the league table closer for longer (concertina effect), since the lower-ranked teams would be given the chance to close up on higher ranked teams who were sitting out that week. The biggest clubs would still be playing in the 'showpiece' final games of the season. Similarly, in the bottom 5, the team sitting in 10th at the split could sit out the first round of games with the league closing up behind them, but would eventually have the advantage of playing in the final round of matches. Of course, it'd be important not to over do it with the play-offs for European places, since fans obviously won't turn out for regular league matches if they feel that they're guaranteed a play-off for the Europa League from early on in the season. --- In terms of an improvement to the pyramid that could be made immediately, I think the next step would be to have the bottom 2 teams from League Two play in the end-of-season pyramid play-off competition alongside more teams from the Lowland and Highland leagues. It would be beneficial to the competition in regional leagues for teams to have more than one promotion play-off place to aim for and it would be a step towards a more integrated senior game. They could start with the top 2 from each of the Highland and Lowland leagues qualifying for the pyramid play-offs, possibly seeding the Lowland and Highland winners into the 2 play-off finals, with each Highland or Lowland runner-up playing against one of the bottom two SPFL teams in the semi finals in order to qualify for one of the pyramid play-off finals. They could be a bit more adventurous than that, however, by making it into an 8 team end-of-season knock out, with the top 3 from the Lowlands and top 3 from the Highlands qualifying alongside the bottom 2 of the SPFL. In time, they could have 2 from each of the SPFL, the Lowland League West, the Lowland League East, and the Highlands qualifying for the pyramid play-offs, one from each league going into two separate knock-out competitions of 4 teams, for the 2 SPFL places available. I think it's important for non-league clubs to have more opportunities for promotion than they currently do, but head-to-head competition is the only way to decide upon merit who should be where.
  3. If we do not receive more Europa League places (from 2021) but the SPFL are looking for an interim expanded league to bridge towards a 16- or 18- team top division, i'd recommend a 14-team league with a 9-5 split after 26 games (when teams have played each other both at home and away). (A 5-9 split would have been ideal if there were enough Europa League places to 'overhang' the split, giving something for the best teams in the bottom section to play for - but that would not be possible without more Europa League places being available.) The top 9 would play each other once more, either at home or away, for a total of 34 games (35 week season). This would give an open top section where teams could continue to play towards play-offs for the European places, uninhibited by a split. The bottom 5 would play each other twice more, both at home and away from home, for a total of 34 games (36 week season). This would give a 'group of death' bottom section, where 2 teams would survive, 1 would face relegation play-offs against teams from the division below, and 2 would be automatically relegated. I envisage it looking like this: 1 -> Champions' League place / Play-Off for Title, against 2nd (home) 2 -> Europa League place / Play-Off for Title, against 1st (away) 3 -> Play -Off Final for Europa League place, against winner of Semi (home, Sunday) 4 -> Play-Off Semi for Europa League place, against winner of Quarter (home, Wednesday) 5 -> Play-Off Quarter for Europa League place, against 6th (home, Saturday) 6 -> Play-Off Quarter for Europa League place, against 5th (away, Saturday) 7 8 9 10 11 12 -> Relegation Play-Off 13 -> Relegated 14 -> Relegated By minimising the head-to-heads between the best teams during the regular part of the season, fewest points would be dropped all-round among the leading title contenders, so we would likely go into the split with a closer title challenge than we ever see in the current system. This would be very attractive to commercial partners and supporters alike, as would the final 8 game 'sprint' to title and the intensity of the relegation group and play-off head-to-heads at the most decisive time of the season. The 4th Old Firm game would likely be the title play-off match, but it could instead be in Round 2 of the League Cup each season. There is also the possibility of 7th place in the league qualifying for a play-off place if one of the top 3 league sides wins the Scottish Cup (and so a Europa place becomes available for the league. A subsequent 18-team league could then be set up along similar lines in terms of play-offs and relegation, but with more teams involved it would be a little less brutal and so give more time for the introduction of youths. I think our as-many-small-national-leagues-as-possible-pyramid probably inhibits the development of young players through its overly-competitive-therefore-short-term-ist nature, and also as it stifles clubs from progressing to reach their full-time potential. Candidate full-time clubs, given genuine opportunity and openness to progress, would (for me) be: Elgin, Peterhead, Cove Rangers, Arbroath, Edinburgh City, Bo'ness, Stirling Albion, Cumbernauld, Pollock, East Kilbride and Irvine Meadow; there may be others. I wonder what the bare minimum is for a 'full-time' operation? Each club already has a basic infrastructure in place, so: a squad of youths, a coach, a physio, and somewhere to train between 10am and 12.30pm Monday to Friday. Not too onerous. I tend to think that clubs would be best suited to staying part-time in regional leagues until the point at which they are promoted to a national league where they face full-timers (and large travelling supports) on a regular basis; however, I think that the cost-savings from less travel and the increased revenue from greater local away supports within regional leagues would allow some clubs to be able to afford full-time football whilst playing within the regions, even if only on the model set out above. I take the number of full-time clubs as a barometer of the health of our game, in that it shows both strong supporter numbers and also gives more youths the chance to train full-time and play genuine competitive football alongside senior pros at the weekends.
  4. If we're serious about developing young players to benefit the future national team, then we should really be looking at introducing a quota of at least 3 Scottish teenagers per starting XI in SPFL matches. This would undoubtedly give them the experience that they need at an early enough age and would be fair in that it would apply to all teams across the League. Failing that, a less cut-throat league set-up would give managers the freedom to introduce youngsters without such fear of losing their jobs; our current high-stakes small leagues seem to encourage short term-ism, and it seems only to have been the recent financial woes of SPFL clubs that have forced managers to introduce youths. It is not a dichotomy, however, as larger leagues can be competitive as well as helping to develop youngsters... ...there is a double dividend available if we have a larger league with a conventional season of playing each opponent once at home, once away followed by play-offs for the European places. Firstly, since any two teams cannot come away from any given match with full points, a larger league will minimise the throat-cutting that we have at the moment between potential title challengers. In itself, this measure would likely keep several teams within a few points of each other at the top of the league until the season's end, and so would be very attractive to sponsors and supporters - such as with an 18-team league, 34-game season. Secondly, end of season play-offs for European places would provide an additional spice for supporters and boost for commercial revenues, not only with more to aim for during the course of the season (negating the 'meaningless games' argument), but also in a winner-takes-all type finale to the season. Such as: a play-off ladder from 6th-3rd, where the team finishing 6th plays away to 5th, the winner plays away to 4th, the winner of that playing away to 3rd to decide the Europa League places; this could be a quick-fire week of Sat-Wed-Sun one-off games to decide the season. These European play-off places could extend down to include 7th-place in the league in seasons where the Scottish Cup is won by one of the top 3 teams. 2nd could play 1st for the title if they finish within a reasonable number of points, such as if they within 10% (or about 9 points) of 1st place; the play-off could also be for the Champions' League place, if 2nd finished within 5% (4-5 points) of 1st; this could be either a one-off match or a two-legged affair, as required. Other benefits of a larger league would be a greater variety of fixtures/less boredom from playing the same teams repeatedly, and more winning teams in the top flight so (possibly) higher attendances. If there was an issue with there not being enough guaranteed Old Firm games in a larger top division, I would recommend deliberately drawing the Old Firm together in Round 2 of the League Cup each season to give a guaranteed Old Firm game for commercial revenues and so one fewer OF match being required of any given league structure; or, more controversially, draw them together in a two-legged quarter final each year. Any imbalances/odd numbers of home games between them could, of course, be played at Hampden. If a bridge between the current 12-team top division and an 18-team top level is needed for a few seasons, I would recommend a 15-team, 34-game, 37-week league season. As outlined below. Teams would play each other home and away for an initial 28-game, 30-week season. Due to the odd number of teams, everyone would have two free weekends each during this part of the season, so our Champions' League representatives (for example) could have their free weekend between the two Champions' League Play-Off Round matches in order to help their progress. (The SPFL could look at doing something like this at the moment, scheduling Round 2 of the League Cup for the Saturday in between CLPO matches.) Thereafter, the league would split into a top 4, middle 7 and bottom 4. Teams in the top section would play each other both at home and away for a further 6 games; teams in the middle section (of 7) would play each other either at home or away, for a further 6 games; teams in the bottom section would play each other both at home and away, for a further 6 games. This would guarantee everyone 17 home games each, and 34 league matches each. It would look like this: 1 -> Champions' League place 2 -> Europa League place 3 -> Europa League place 4 -> Play-Off (Final) for Europa League place 5 -> Play-Off (Semi) for Europa League place 6 -> Play-Off (Semi) for Europa League place 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 -> Relegation Play-Off place 14 -> Relegated 15 -> Relegated This would require a fourth European place to be allocated to the League, which happens when one of the top 3 win the Scottish Cup; if so, the top two from the middle section would meet in a one-off play-off game, with the winner progressing to meet the team finishing 4th in the league in a play-off for the final Europa League place. (Ideally this would require additional Europa League places to be allocated to Scotland.) This set-up would give more variety of fixtures, most teams would have something to play for at the season's end, would give 4 Old Firm League matches, would give a less cut-throat season until the end-of-season splits (giving more teams in the title race until that time) and could also give more room for young player development during a more open regular phase of the season.
  5. I think it might, and would be worth a look given that the loan system seems to be discredited since it and our current league structure have comprehensively failed to produce a national team with players capable of even taking us to a major finals, let alone be competitive at one. I think the best under 18s would be more competitive at that level than the under 20s have been in the Challenged Cup, because there'd be more concentrated quality in a single squad of our best 23 under 18s, rather than in 12 squads of however-many under 20s/development sides. It'd give the future national team real competitive experience training and playing alongside each other, which you would think should pay off in the long term. And it's only a pilot, so flaws could be ironed out or it could be binned completely after a couple of years. Other tweaks I can see to the current system that could help the national team would be around the development league, where dumping 14 teams in a division with only one prize to play for shows a complete lack of thought or imagination from the powers-that-be on how to develop talent. If we agree that youngsters need competitive football around senior pros in order to develop to their potential, then it can't be right that most of the games are entirely meaningless since most haven't a chance of winning the title. It would show more gumption if the development league was split into leagues of 8, for example, with autumn and spring seasons, top few playing off at the (overall) season's end, promotion and relegation, etc. Further, younger players could be guaranteed more games by simply shifting the quota around, so that 5 under 19s (for example) would have to be on the pitch at a given time during a match; this would continue to give game-time to 20 year-olds who would become part of the over-age element, and it would also give more older senior pros minutes on the field - since most clubs still cannot afford to run a full reserve team, a hybrid system is the best we can do.
  6. With more Europa League places available from 2021, it'd pretty much terminate the larger league=meaningless games argument and leave a clearer path for the larger top tier that the majority of supporters prefer; a consequence of this would be to enable the SPFL to change to the 3 national tiers that supporters also prefer (see page 32 of this thread). The remaining difficulties regarding an expanded top division relate to fitting in 4 Old Firm matches per league season (for tv deals), and whether having more full-timers in the top tier makes the second tier less financially viable for clubs in that division to remain full-time (because there are fewer large travelling supports in a division where there are fewer full-time clubs). Firstly, it's surely more appealing to have fewer head-to-heads in the course of the regular season and saving them for the decisive time at the season's end - so a regular season of playing opponents once at home and once away in an expanded division of 16 or 18 teams, followed by play offs for the title and for Europa League places at the season's end, would give the additional OF and other head-to-heads greater meaning. (A 14-team top tier with a 5-9 split would achieve something similar.) The Champions' League place could still go to the team with the highest points total. Secondly, an expanded top tier would give much more scope for promotion and relegation between the top two divisions, so full-timers relegated to tier 2 would not find themselves stuck in tier 2 or 3 for the years that they currently do - more fluid promotion and relegation keeps the money flowing around the game and would enable them to continue with full-time squads. The other thing that i'd be interested to see, if they do introduce an 18-team bottom division of the SPFL, would be a pilot of a Scotland under 18s team in that division. The Scottish FA could take the best youths in the country from their clubs on a unique development loan, training them full-time at Oriam during the week and playing them in all the competitive league and cup football for that level at weekends. It'd be the logical outcome for Club Academy Scotland/Project Pave graduates to have a year or two to finish honing their skills, being coached tactics and techniques by the best that we have, and also playing at a high level. I see them as playing at either Linlithgow or Livingston, since both are handy for Oriam and both offer good rail links for supporters travelling from our highest-populated areas - around Glasgow and Edinburgh - from where there'd surely be plenty of interested supporters. I'd expect there to be good interest from sponsors, given the media attention on a national team of the future. Furthermore, it'd put to bed the idea of Old Firm colts/B teams in the league. The issue over the inconsistency of a team of youths could be addressed by simply reversing the fixtures at the mid-point of the season, so that teams having the easier fixture against an inexperienced team of youths at the season's beginning would also have to face the hardest fixture of playing the youths towards the season's end - a bit more fair that way. The pilot would determine if this is the correct level to develop a team of our best youths, and whether promotion or relegation would be a factor if a Scotland Academy FC was to become a permanent feature in the leagues.
  7. Oh, I nearly forgot; there's just one more thing - If you consider that the Europa League may be expanding from 20211, the SPFL would be looking at having any restructure in place in time for an increased number of Scottish teams being able to qualify for that expanded tournament - so season 2020-21 would need to be the first year of any new structure. It is probably coincidence, but both the SPFL's main sponsorship2 and tv3 deals expire in 2020 - i.e. in time for new deals to be agreed alongside a new league structure from season 2020-21. The first evidence of this change was shown in a recent article4 on 'colt' teams in the league, where it was claimed that the bottom tier of the SPFL was going to be expanded to 18 teams in 'year 3' of a pilot scheme (which was due to begin next season): this would mean the SPFL are looking at an expanded bottom division beginning in season 2020-21, and it seems unlikely that would be the only change to the league's structure. If we really are looking at change from 2020-21, then next season will be the last of the current set-up - season 2019-20 will have to be a transition season, where teams are playing towards however many promotion/relegation places are available for the divisions of the new-look SPFL. 1 https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/celtic-chief-peter-lawwell-reveals-11527511 2 https://spfl.co.uk/news/article/spfl-retains-ladbrokes-as-title-sponsors/ 3 https://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/916502/Scottish-Premier-League-Sky-Sports-TV-deal-Neil-Doncaster-football 4 https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/sport/football/chris-mccart-gives-detailed-insight-11925894 Then again, 2 + 2 = 22. Sorry to have bothered you; I, eh, I appreciate your time.
  8. Hehe, caught me! I did that, but it's mostly from impressions that I've formed from years of looking at individual attendances and asking whether, say, Annan would have brought many supporters up to Arbroath or wherever - probably not, or not much more than 10% of their home support - and so arriving at whichever club's core home support by deducting that way. --- The regionalisation thing - I just look at the difference between the high attendances at the derby matches and low attendances at the matches against clubs from Timbuktu and my mouth waters. Obviously, too many derbies would kill them off for the fans in terms of interest but plenty of fans are happy to travel in good numbers fairly locally - because we are creatures of habit and would love to see a game every weekend if the distances/costs (time, money) weren't so prohibitive. Anyway, I'm clearly in a minority of one on these issues so i'll head back off to dreamland and leave youz in peace. (Also I am a hypocrite since I quit going to senior football a dozen years ago - it was too expensive and too repetitive; now just happy going to watch the local youths at the weekend, which is free, several matches to choose from, and I can leave after half an hour if I'm too cold, too bored or when my old knees are too sore from standing without feeling guilty about having wasted sixteen quid!) Cheers.
  9. Yes, i'll just produce that evidence when there isn't a regional set-up in the SPFL at the moment. Don't be silly! Yup one thing that I am suggesting is that full-time football in a regional league is possible, that greater local travelling supports would help to pay for it and so would reduced travel costs. You don't know that it doesn't work, because we haven't yet seen it. (And probably never will.) So would I - I think it'd be very instructive. Again, I think with Airdrie managing full time with their crowds in a part-time league, and Livingston doing so with a similar home support to yours, but with the larger away attendances, Arbroath may well manage full time football in tier 2. Interesting about Peterhead's attendances, because whenever I check in the papers on a Sunday they seem to be 700+.
  10. Fair enough, but I think Airdie's full-time-with-youngsters set-up of last season has set the benchmark of what can be done with a limited (but healthy) home support of 700 or so. My view is that semi pro League clubs need to look seriously at this model because the alternative is looking like being the lower leagues full of colts teams. If the big clubs don't trust their youths to be developed by semi pro clubs because their development with these clubs is currently stunted by not being able to train full-time, then they're going to continue to push for the introduction of full-time colts teams into the lower leagues. If we want to avoid Project Grave and other such nonsense, then we really need to be looking at how we can 'blood' youths in a competitive first team environment whilst allowing them to train full-time throughout the week. Nope, but what I keep suggesting is that playing regionally is a more cost-effective model that curbs this sort of thing by lowering costs and bringing in more supporters. A previous post (not by you) dismissed travel for a semi pro Glasgow club to Stranraer or Peterhead as being effectively the same thing, even though trips to Peterhead and Elgin are twice as far as away trips to Stranraer and Annan - large savings are to be made by regionalising along east-west lines. Meanwhile, the travelling support attending semi pro clubs in a West Conference of 10 at tier 3 (for example) could be significantly boosted by the more local matches of: Alloa, Stirling, Stenhousemuir, Albion Rvs, Airdrie, Clyde, Dumbarton (if relegated, for Ayr promoted), Queen's Park, Stranraer and Annan. Clubs at this level could be making more money than they are and spending plenty less. I'm quite sure the advent of a senior Pollock would add more to their coffers also. Raith Rovers' core home support is closer to 1200, but you may have been looking at their average attendances from seasons where they have benefitted from being in a league with mostly full-time clubs and their larger travelling supports. Ayr United's would be about 1100 - both currently managing full-time football in a part-time league, I think. Peterhead regularly have 700+ of a home support, so based on the Airdrie model I included them as potentially full time. I agree about your lot as well who, as you say, also have very good attendances and who I think would benefit from being in an East region at tier 3, with Angus derbies regularly boosting attendances to over 1000, if I remember that correctly. I think you'd manage full time football well enough in a tier 2 surrounded by full-time clubs with larger travelling supports. Haha, take it they're not too chuffed with it then? As I said above, I think full-time-with-youngsters needs to be looked at by more clubs - for early player development towards the national team, and to stave off the big clubs and their colts ambitions. Bringing junior clubs through into the senior League will, I think, boost revenues for part-time clubs provided that it is done sensibly, through regionalisation. There's money being thrown away here, that the game could really do with. But, just my opinions.
  11. Interesting post - all news to me! I think with our League One and Two teams, the standard is pretty much the same across the two divisions save for the couple of full-timers who there's no room for in the current top 2 divisions; as far as that goes, I don't think there'd be an issue over knowing whether the leagues would be of a roughly equivalent standard/whether there'd be too many mismatches. I'm surprised it doesn't appeal to sponsors to have West and East divisions, given local radio (and now TV) coverage, and there's surely a bit more prestige to being the best in a region than to winning an oddly titled third tier. I could see the fluid boundary line potentially being an issue, which is why I suggested cross-conference fixtures to supplement the within-conference component - no derbies would be lost entirely, yet travel distances would be cut considerably. And local away supports could turn out in greater numbers for fixtures closer to home than for those middle-to-long distance journeys - giving more money for the semi pro clubs, in my opinion. Yep, I think you're probably about right with that set up initially. It'd allow for more full-time clubs in the top two divisions, and give a bit of stability for those promoted to tier 2 and hoping to establish themselves further. Obviously I'd like to see tier 3 regionalised, but I don't really think it'll happen. With the Europa League possibly undergoing an expansion* (from 2021, I think), it'd be good to have the top of the Premiership bottom section qualifying for any additional Europa League play-off spot, since some teams will be safe from relegation pretty early on in the post-split phase and so will need something to play for. I'd probably do it slightly different to you, though, in that for the top division I'd have a 5-9 split after 26 games with the top 5 then playing both home and away for 34 games each and the bottom 9 playing either home or away for 34 games each; in the second tier I'd turn that on its head, with a 9-5 split so that more teams would still be involved in the chase for promotion play-offs until the season's end and a bottom 5 'group of death' -type of scenario to avoid relegation to the third tier; with tier 3 - as you say - being 18 teams playing twice for 34 games in total. *https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/celtic-chief-peter-lawwell-reveals-11527511
  12. Yes, it is a (n intermittent) hobby for me - as it is for most of us who post around here; everyone has their prejudices and is entitled to try to discuss and explain them (I hope). I note your comments about Livingston, who are managing full-time football quite well at the moment with a core home support of 700-800 and decent away supports from the full-time clubs who they play almost fortnightly. As a 'new' club in a large town, I take them as comparable to East Kilbride and Cumbernauld. I'm also interested to see how Edinburgh City and Cove (assuming they'll be promoted) will do in terms of attracting more supporters over the long term in the SPFL. Since they are clubs of a metropolitan area (and Aberdeen is a 'one club city'), they might well attract enough support over the long term to go full-time. But the current SPFL league structure isn't conducive to progressing clubs towards full-time football, and perhaps even inhibits current full-timers from staying that way.
  13. If this is accurate, then your club would support full-time football quite comfortably in a tier 2 containing mostly full-time clubs. It would also manage full-time football in the current tier 3, if it opted for the full-time younger player model that Airdrie, with a core home support of maybe 750 or so, were operating last season.
  14. Doesn't the team bus travel to the away ground and back again, regardless of where some players live? It's probably a substantial recurring cost for clubs that can only be mitigated by playing in away matches that are closer to home.
  15. A 20 club tier 3 with parallel West and East conferences of 10 teams would probably work best if situated below the SPFL's preferred top two divisions of 12, since a 12-team tier 2 would give scope for each conference winner to be automatically promoted (with 2 relegated from the Championship) in addition to 10th in the Championship going into play-offs with 2nd and 3rd of each Conference: a 12-12-20 SPFL. In terms of the fixtures, using 'option 1' (from previous post) would be best used where local derbies would not fit into the same conference, and it would be best to keep within-conference fixtures until the season's end in order to give more meaning to those games that are head-to-heads within the same division for promotion/play off/relegation places. --- In a north east/south west split of clubs, I think those in the Forth 'valley' (Stirlingshire, Clackmannanshire, Falkirk) would play in a West Conference. With the south-west to north-east trajectory of both the border and the base of the highlands meaning that the majority of Scotland's population lives in the band in-between, dividing into south-and-west/north-and-east regions may be reasonable. --- Within the current SPFL 42, if an 18-team (34-game) top tier could be agreed (as outlined in previous post) then the remaining 24 teams could compete in a semi-national second tier with West and East conferences of 12. Teams would play each team of their own conference both at home and away (22 games) and each in the other conference either at home or away (a further 12 games; 34 in total). This would give the full variety of fixtures of playing nationally whilst also having more derbies from playing within a 'local' conference. Although there could be half-a-dozen full time clubs playing within these largely part time conferences, there would be very good and frequent opportunities for them to be promoted to an enlargened top tier. In practice, I would have the fixtures as if it was a 24-team league where every team plays each other team once until they reached 23 games each; then the fixtures against those in the same conference would be reversed, so that the final 11 games would be head-to-heads within rivals of the same conference playing for promotion/play offs/relegation. I would also have the top team of each conference being promoted automatically (replacing bottom teams from the west and east respectively of the Premiership), with 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the West Conference playing off with 8th in the West Premiership; 2nd, 3rd and 4th of the East Conference would play off against 8th of the East Premiership (therefore, 2-4 promotion places to the Premiership). The bottom team from the West Conference would be relegated automatically, to be replaced by the winners of the West Lowland League; the bottom team from the East Conference would be replaced by the winner of a play off between the East Lowland League champions and the Highland League champions. The Lowland League could become part of a semi-regional tier 3, with a 10-team West LL playing each other both at home and away for 18 games and also playing teams from the East LL once, at home or away, to give a further 10 games and a 28-game season. The East LL would be set up to mirror this. In practice, the Lowland League would play their first round of fixtures as if one united league of 20 teams, so each team would play 19 games before the fixtures would be reversed - against those within their own West or East division - to give a final 9 games against within-conference rivals for promotion and relegation places. The Highland League would remain similar to its current format, but would open up to promotion from below. The Challenge Cup could then become a 24-team competition for those competing in the tier 2 Conferences, with a 16-team Round 1 before the 8 winners would play the 8 remaining sides, then the competition would continue though the rounds as normal. With a non-league trophy for those outwith the SPFL. So a top-of-pyramid of: 18 - 12/12 - 10/10/18 -
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