28 February 2009

Whither Football?

Seeing as everyone's looking at ways to take Scottish football forward, I thought I'd add my ideas.

Bringing the SFA, SFL and SPL all under one roof won't work. You'll still get rows. You'll still get clashes. The SPL clubs were sick of the SFL anyway, and that's why they split. The row between the SPL and SFA over fixtures was not a product of the two bodies having separate management, but that the SPL is managed by idiots. It won't harmonise a thing, and if you still have muppets in charge of a combined body then the whole Scottish football structure will go up. And whoever's in charge...

SPL2 is a ridiculous idea. All it would do is shift the First Division clubs from being big fish in a small pond to minnows in a slightly larger pool. The amount of TV cash they got would be greater than at present, but coverage would be limited and ultimately, the larger clubs would take the view that the others were holding them back and would split once again, leaving the smaller ten up the creek without a paddle. Instead I'd...

Expand the existing SPL to 16. The Top 4 in the First Division would doubtless hold their own in an expanded SPL and the only things holding Livingston back right now are their off-the-field woes. It's also a suitable number: the current 12 is flawed, ten would be worse, fourteen would result in only 26 matchdays, while sixteen would enable a calendar of thirty matchdays - reducing fixture congestion, creating a suitably sized league for teams to play each other only twice (reducing boredom) and allowing the introduction of a winter break, which would doubtless be good for playing surfaces. You could also...

Ditch the idiotic split. I mean, seriously, what's the point? You can usualy see what direction the League's going in by Week 33 and the only pize for finishing in the Top 6 is getting gubbed by the Old Firm on account of them needing the points more than the team in sixth place. There's still a bagload of exhibition matches and it just makes the fixture list more complicated. Instead it would be better to...

Introduce Dutch-style play-offs for Europe and relegation. Think about it... it would reduce the likelihood of rubbish games at the end of the season - more positions would matter and even position within the play-off zone would determine who would play whom. The play-offs themselves would have to be keenly contested: relegation would become more interesting with the possibility of two teams going down, and if the Champions qualified for Europe automatically, second to fifth could play-off for the remaining places. You could also offer an opportunity to the sixth to ninth places. Alternatively, it might be an idea to:

Offer a Europa League place to the League Cup winners. Give the non-Old Firm teams something besides pride and a trophy to play for: access to European TV money. And at the other end of the League:

Reconstruct the SFL. Obviously, the departure of fur teams would leave something of a hole in the SFL, and it's clear that the present setup isn't working, hence the drive for SPL2. You could easily move to sixteen-team divisions, and potentially set the stage for...

A Regionalised Second Division. Well, with only eight teams left from the present setup to form a second division, there's going to have to be a massive expansion anyway, and this presents an opportunity to be radical, to bring in a fair chunk of clubs from the lower leagues who could make a decent fist in the League setup. The likes of Preston Athletic, Spartans, Edinburgh City and perhaps even teams from the Universities (as happens in Rugby Union) would be a great addition, to say nothing of a big complement from the Highland League. Also, it's hardly fair for Elgin fans to be expected to travel to somewhere like Annan, so this would reduce the distances for fans and clubs alike. Also, the SFL would start to resemble the English Conference, which might not sound ideal at first, until you realise that if the Conference can attract cash from Setanta...

An SFL TV deal is a must. Let's face it, Setanta will soon be losing some of their English Premiership rights and will need something to fill the scheduling gap (fair enough, it might not draw the punters in like the Premiership, but it's better than a test card), while BBC Alba have expressed an interest in a proper deal for First Division coverage. If people will happily sit down and watch Weymouth v. Ebbsfleet, there's no reason why people couldn't get interested in Ross County v. Clyde. There's a potential service to be provided for the right broadcaster to tie into. It could also be tied up with League Cup rights, as happens in England. But besides that:

There absolutely needs to be a pyramid system. As well as regionalised Second Division, a full-on possibility of relegation from the League altogether. Not the bureaucratic contraption thought up to eject East Stirling (which has since backfired) but proper relegation from and promotion to the League on merit as happens everywhere else. Why? Well, take a look at the teams who have been voted into the League since 1994. Inverness are an SPL side; Ross County or relatively secure in the First Division and Peterhead are pushing for a play-off place in the Second. Gretna reached the SPL at Warp Speed 9 (but the club's setup was unsustainable in the long term) and their replacements Annan Athletic aren't precisely setting the heather alight but look comfortable in the Third Division and are doing far better than some more established names. Only Elgin are letting that line-up down, rooted to the bottom of the third, but there's no way of replacing them with a team like, Deveronvale, who might actually be a credit to the League. But whoever does join them...

SPL reserve sides should not take part. OK, it sounds good to Celtic and Dundee United, but, really, how's it going to work? You'd have to effectively hive them off from the first team completely for it to be fair, you'd have to find somewhere for them to play, a fan base from somewhere that wasn't watching the first team (and, if it came, how would the other clubs cope with it?) and you'd have to decide just how high they were allowed to climb. And if they reached that ceiling, what then? No, it would be a step too far and a total pisstake of the League setup. There does need to be some sort of League for the Reserves (not necessarily based around the SPL), but it should not be the SFL.

3 comments:

Holyrood Patter said...

As bad as times are, some clubs really need to sort out their pricing.
it costs 20 quid to get into stirling. Stirling!
I support Morton (you may remember giving me the score updates at conference) and I resent having to pay 15 quid to watch that standard of football

Bucket of Tongues said...

If there are regional leagues, then who will earn promotion into the SFL? How will that work?

I think Celtic reserves/youth might will pep up the 3rd division. It's unlikely they'd get past the 2nd division though, so I don't see that to be a problem either. There would have to be rules about ratio of youth to experiences pro's, otherwise you would have had players like Gravesen and Evander Sno playing there.

Jack Deighton said...

Let the SPL reserves form a league below the SFL with Spartans, Preston Athletic, Cove et al in as well (this could well be regionalised) and the non-reserve top team(s) could maybe play off for an SFL place with the bottom SFL team.