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Butcher wants football authorities to look at league revamp – and Caley Thistle promotion

By Alasdair Fraser

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Former Caley Thistle manager Terry Butcher celebrates with the First Division trophy back in April 2010. Picture: Ken Macpherson.
Former Caley Thistle manager Terry Butcher celebrates with the First Division trophy back in April 2010. Picture: Ken Macpherson.

TERRY Butcher is urging the Scottish football authorities to consider a league restructuring that would propel Caley Thistle straight back into the Premiership.

The England and Rangers legend, who managed ICT from January 2009 to November 2013, doesn’t pretend to have any hard and fast answers amid the coronavirus crisis.

But with the indefinite shut-down of the season threatening huge financial ramifications, the 77-times capped World Cup hero gave cautious approval to one idea believed to be under consideration.

It involves making current standings final and scrapping relegation, while promoting Brora Rangers and Kelty Hearts to League Two.

A new 44-team SPFL for season 2020/21 would then feature a 14-team Premiership with three leagues of 10 below. From the Championship, runaway leaders Dundee United would be promoted along with second top Inverness.

It is understood the two bodies are also contemplating completing the Scottish Cup and ICT’s Challenge Cup final against Raith at the start of next season.

Expressing sympathy for decision-makers given the likelihood of creating aggrieved losers whatever solution is pursued, Butcher said: “What can you say? This is unprecedented. The only comparison of sports being cancelled is the war.

“I have no answers at all. It is all ifs, buts and maybes, but [the possibility of extending the Premiership] is one idea to discuss.

“It has been spoken about for years. It may take something like this to force their hand.

“That scenario would obviously suit Inverness very well, but some of the other clubs in the Championship might say well, hang on a minute, we could have caught Inverness.

“But the football authorities are in a very difficult situation.

“Whichever way you go, there’s always going to be someone against it.”

Butcher has intimate knowledge of just how tight a budget ICT have to run to, particularly in the aftermath of relegation in May 2009.

The 61-year-old steered the club back up the next season, with impressive seventh and fourth-place finishes before leaving for Hibs.

He stressed: “I would think the banks have got to be flexible because it is a unique situation. There’s no income for the club at home games or through hospitality.

“That presents major cash flow problems that will continue well beyond April. You’re looking at a real cash shortfall, not only for Inverness but for every club.

“You’ve just got to hope banks and everyone else concerned is understanding. It’s a horrible situation but they just have to adapt to the current predicament and see where it takes them.”

Butcher reckons the prevalence of short-term player and staff contracts would make extending the current season into summer problematic.

That is even if the European Championships are postponed today by UEFA as rumoured.

He added: “Whatever the long-term solutions, it is bleak short-term for Inverness and everybody.

“When you run a small club, you’re right on the breadline in terms of whether to over-step and speculate financially or whether to save cash.

“It was difficult enough when I was at Inverness to achieve that balance. I’m sure it is even more difficult now.”

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