THE Scottish football season will kick off in July next season with a new group phase of the League Cup because the majority of clubs want summer football.
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster announced the revamp, emulating the sectional system which operated until 1983/84, as he also revealed a £200,000 sponsorship deal for the remainder of this year’s tournament with energy firm Utilita.
Scotland’s four European participants will be exempt from the group phase and will come in at the last 16 stage as normal, but how 12 places from the other 38 clubs is achieved has yet to be worked out.
Doncaster said: “There have been discussions with clubs for a number of months over a group stage format and revamp of the League Cup.
“A number have made it clear they would like to see summer football and so have fans.
“It’s our intention to revisit the format in time for next summer so that we can have a July group stage that will deliver that demand.
“The precise format has to be worked through, but ultimately it’s up to the clubs.
“I am hopeful we will announce the format by the end of the year.”
Doncaster, meanwhile, has joined chairman Ralph Topping in demanding that the BBC pays a more attractive rate than the current £1million deal, with all of their agreements – including TV highlights, live coverage of the League Cup and radio rights – up for renewal.
He said: “We are in the final year of our deal with the BBC in terms of our package. Those discussions continue.
“There certainly needs to be more investment in the national game from the Scottish national broadcaster.
“It’s something you won’t find much disagreement about within the game.”
There are suggestions that the Scottish government may become involved to exert pressure on the BBC to offer what they would consider a more commensurate financial package.
Doncaster added: “Let’s wait and see what happens, but there are a number of people interested in this debate who would like to see more investment from BBC Scotland.
“Ultimately, money is a key contributor to the success of the game.
“We absolutely value BBC Scotland as one of our key partners, but it’s important they pay a fair price for the rights.”