Date: 8th December 2015 at 9:48am
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The Scottish Professional Football League have announced changes to the Scottish League Cup for the coming 2016 season.

The changes that will effect Hearts from the summer of 2016 include a new format to the Scottish League Cup, which sees the introduction of competitive group football in July, a new points system and a new broadcast partner that is set to bring more live games and increase revenue returns.

There is also the re-introduction of a winter break.

The new format will see eight groups of five teams play each other once in a round robin affair across five July dates – 16, 20, 23, 27 & 30.

Broadcast partner BT Sport will show six group stage games lives, out of a total of 13 matches from next season.

The press release states ‘this new 80 game group stage will involve all 38 teams not involved in UEFA qualifiers plus winners of this season’s Highland League and Lowland League.’

The group stage itself will continue to use three points for a win and one point for a draw, but in what`s believed to be a worldwide first, any matches that end with the scores tied, will go straight to a penalty shootout setting and the winner will be awarded one bonus point.

With hopes of creating greater excitement and more meaningful games through the group stage with this innovation, ultimately the eight group winners and the four best runners up will progress through to the second round where UEFA qualified clubs will join, and then it reverts to its natural knock out format.

BT Sport will become the exclusive broadcaster of the League Cup from the summer of 2016 and they are signed on until 2019-20.

As part of this, it also sees a reintroduction of a two week winter break for Premiership clubs during January 2017.

Chief Executive Neil Doncaster explained.

‘The new format of the Scottish League Cup marks an exciting new chapter for the competition and sees Scottish football leading the way with a number of innovations. Fans, the media and clubs alike have expressed a desire for competitive summer football which will be delivered from next July while the ground-breaking bonus point system should add incentive to teams and excitement for supporters. We are delighted to welcome BT Sport as our exclusive League Cup TV broadcast partner and to have their support for the new format. Our agreement with BT Sport delivers a huge increase in the number of games being shown live as well as providing increased competition prizemoney for clubs. The new format has also enabled the re-introduction of a winter break for Ladbrokes Premiership clubs. We are consulting with Ladbrokes Championship, League 1 and League 2 clubs to establish whether they also favour a winter break in their respective divisions.’

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