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Re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic

Rarely can the oft used phrase be so apt than when looking at what is happening in Scottish football.

Every so often when crowds are down, or several clubs have flirted with or gone into administration, or the SPL is all over by Christmas, or there is another season of European mediocrity, then the headless chickens in charge of the game here run around trying in vain to do something to improve things.

Invariably it involves league reconstruction and so this year is no different. As well as various tinkerings (three leagues to four, switch from ten to twelve and back again for the top league etc) there have been two sizemic reconstructions in my lifetime.

The first was in 1975 when the Premier league was formed. The structure went 10-14-14 from 18-19. A new club, Meadowbank Thistle were elected to make up the numbers.

Under the old system, two Scottish clubs (You know who) had won the European Cup and the Cup Winners Cup. Several other provincial clubs had reached the later stages of European competition.

Other than the quite spectacular feat of Aberdeen under Alex Ferguson winning the Cup Winners Cup, there has been no other European success for Scottish Clubs. To be fair, Dundee United reached the final of the UEFA cup and the semis of the European Cup and the Old Firm have had an appearance each in the final of the UEFA cup. However in the case of Rangers it was done on money which clearly didn’t exist.

The second big reconstruction was in 1998 when the top twelve clubs ‘broke away’ from the SFL and formed the SPL. This was to improve professional football in Scotland and ensure the future of the ‘big’ clubs. Since then most of these clubs have become financial basket cases, some have gone in and out of administration and one went bankrupt.

It’s hard not to sound like an old conservative harking back to better times. However I recall one of the pet hates of the media when I was young was the old league cup section format.

There were seeded groups of four teams. The top two teams would progress to knock out stages. I loved it because there was an opportunity to see different clubs from different levels competing against each other. In particular I can remember seeing Dumbarton beating both Hearts and Hibs in the competition in the 70s.

However the media got their way, the tired old format was consigned to history.

Well it would have been had the World Cup not continued with it or the Champions League adopted it in the 90s and stuck with it ever since.

Scottish football’s problems are not down to the need for reconstruction. Nor are they down to too few people watching the game. Per head of population more people watch football in Scotland than anywhere in Europe. The problem is that we are a nation of 5 million and our football is dominated by two clubs. Most clubs pay out far too much money in wages and there are at best, six or eight clubs here which can genuinely maintain a full time squad with the resources at their disposal.

No amount of reconstruction, splits, amalgamation of governing bodies or jazzing up of the game here can alter that.

Unless and until those at the top of the game here can address these matters instead of messing about with the league structure, the game here will continue to struggle.

If anyone thinks that reconstruction will mean bigger crowds for St Mirren, Motherwell or Inverness CT then they are living in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Fix the hole – don’t fart about with the furniture.


2 Responses

  1. I agree, Rab.
    The League Cup sections were originally made up of clubs from the same division, though. Only latterly did they take two from Div 1 and two from Div 2. Section 9 was always the bottom five/six from the previous season’s Div 2.
    I will add that during that era you talked about (the 18-19 years) the gate income was shared between the two competing clubs. Unless and until that happens again, along with more equal sharing of TV monies, no other club has a hope in hell of challenging the big two.

    By the way; sizemic. I saw what you did there.

  2. You’re right of course Jack but the latter format was really my first experience of the League Cup. When you consider the income denied to the wee clubs through various moves and manoeuvres it’s amazing they manage to exist at all!
    Sizemic? Yeah what I did was have a spelling mistake that doubled as a pun!

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