SPFL chief Neil Doncaster hopes for a 'more settled' 2014

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster

The Scottish Professional Football League's chief executive hopes for "a more settled landscape than recent years" as he looks ahead to 2014.

Neil Doncaster told BBC Scotland that having all 42 clubs under the one SPFL banner and "pointing in the same direction" gave grounds for optimism.

"That is enormously positive and gives us a real platform going into 2014 to enjoy events on the field," he said.

"The merger I hope will enable us to move forward with confidence."

by the merger of the Scottish Premier League and the 123-year-old Scottish Football League, with Doncaster named as its chief executive, a role he had performed at the SPL.

He continued: "We've been talking about matters off the field for the last few years. We all want to be talking about the great drama, the great passion, the excitement on the pitch.

"My hope for 2014 is that we can move forward and focus far more on exciting events on the pitch rather than events off it."

One such off-field event has been the growing use of flares at grounds, with some fans throwing them on to the pitch.

Doncaster warned: "The re-emergence of flares across Europe is a concern; it is not a problem that is confined to Scotland. It's a problem that we are determined to work with the Scottish FA to tackle.

"It's important that we do because flares burn at an incredibly high temperature and are very dangerous.

"We all want to see a very safe environment at Scottish games."

The creation of the SPFL was a tortuous affair, with seemingly interminable wrangling over league structure, cash distribution and voting rights.

Doncaster admits 2013 was difficult, with the football bodies' headquarters at Hampden attracting a media scrum while deals were agreed to reshape the game in Scotland.

He said: "I think it's been a very challenging year, particularly with the strenuous efforts that were made by everyone in the game to agree the merger between the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League.

"To achieve something that, so many people have worked so hard for so long. It is enormously satisfying to have got it over the line, finally.

"Clearly it has been very challenging for everyone involved in the administration of the game.

"We have waited so long to achieve all the things that everyone wanted to see, like the re-emergence of play-offs between the Premiership and the Championship, the creation of a pyramid for the entire game and redistribution, particularly towards the Championship.

"There needs to be enormous credit given to the 12 Premiership clubs who have given up so much financially towards the Championship to make the merger happen but also to the 30 other clubs who took the leap of faith that enabled the merger to take place."

Doncaster claims that top-tier teams who are relegated to the Championship no longer face "the very bleak financial future" that they would otherwise have been contemplating.

However, he admits that more must be done to boost the SPFL coffers, with securing a title sponsor for the league the priority.

"We have had a number of commercial deals that we have been able to announce in recent months, such as and said the chief executive.

"On the commercial side we are very pleased with the deals that we have done but of course our focus remains that we do have a title sponsor going forward."

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