Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan has called for serious change in the domestic top flight following the country’s worst European club display in display.
Regan described the failure to keep a team in Europe as a “real low point for the Scottish game”, although Celtic could win a reprieve as conquerors Sion may be expelled amid a dispute over a transfer embargo.
The fact remains that all four clubs have been knocked out at the first hurdle in the Europa League – and Rangers also in the Champions League.
Dundee United’s home win over Slask Wroclaw was the only victory in 10 legs that themselves, the Old Firm and Hearts played and Regan believes Scotland must develop a more competitive top flight that can retain top players.
Scotland manager Craig Levein today named a 25-man squad that featured just five Clydesdale Bank Premier League players, all from the Old Firm.
And while Levein is happy that most of his players are being tested at the top level in England, Regan admits the drain of young talent is a worry.
SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster has so far failed to instigate the major reforms of the competition he proposed, and Regan believes ongoing intransigence could prove costly.
After watching Rangers crash out to Slovenian side Maribor, Regan told BBC Scotland: “I don’t think we can say we have reached a particular point where something has happened – I think it’s a combination of a number of factors.
“I think our league product is not as good as it needs to be.
“We have heard talk over the last 12 months since I have been here of the need for league reconstruction. It’s absolutely fundamental that we have a competition where we can develop players where they can play against good quality players.
“We need better facilities, particularly in the winter – indoor facilities and artificial surfaces where our players can practise and get coached.
“I think we need to develop more and better coaches – there are a number of things we need to do.”
Regan has instigated change since arriving from Yorkshire County Cricket Club last year, including a new performance strategy and the recent appointment of performance director Mark Wotte.
He now feels the time is ripe for chance in the SPL.
“The home grown talent is taking too long to develop,” he said. “The good ones are moving away and that needs to change.
“We have got to be able to develop players through our own system.
“We need to start looking at the league structures and I think there will be an even greater call for change now.
“We need a good quality league that retains player and unfortunately that needs investment
“We don’t have the same sort of investment that the English Premier League is getting and that’s attracting players away, not just because of the higher wages.
“That’s helping the national team. If you go back about three years there were only two Scotland players in the Premier League in England – Darren Fletcher and Craig Gordon – now we have in the region of 16 or 17.
“That’s good that players are able to play against the best players in world arguably.
“But our Premier League is not delivering the same sort of competitive football that players need to develop.
“Agents are encouraging players to consider going to challenge themselves in different leagues, we have players going to Turkey , England and other European leagues simply so they can play competitive football.
“That’s sad for Scottish football that we can’t retain and develop our own homegrown talent. We have to draw a line under that and seriously look at our own league competition and try to get it organised as quickly as possible.”