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When part-time football is the sensible option

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Jim Spence | 16:54 UK time, Wednesday, 23 June 2010

With dire warnings that finances in the game are getting tighter, how much longer can Scottish football sustain a full-time game outside of the SPL?

With Airdrie United's relegation to the Second Division meaning the introduction of part-time football for the Diamonds, has the time for clubs in the First Division to bite the bullet and accept that full-time football is simply not viable on current crowds and income?

St Johnstone chairman Geoff Brown has long advocated that having full-time clubs outside of the SPL doesn't add up.

Clyde director of football Neil Watt recently criticised players who complained that they couldn't live off the wages paid by part-time clubs like his own.

Watt described players unwilling to find additional employment as "lazy".

Have we convinced ourselves in Scotland that players have to be full-time at their sport to be any good?

And just what is full-time anyway. How many hours a week qualifies?

redbluefooty595.jpgIn the Scandinavian countries there has been in the past a healthy acceptance that young players should learn a trade or profession to combine with their football. This gives them the ability to earn an income independent of football.

The Gothenburg side that defeated Dundee United in the 1987 Uefa Cup final was a part-time one, with players mixing day jobs and their football.

But the lifestyle mentality involved in claiming to be a full-time player despite earning in many cases a very low wage, and putting in a fairly short working week still has a hold on many players.

Rather than accept that combining a good day job with their football would make much more sense to them and the club, some players persist in deluding themselves.

Clubs will have to accept that the inevitable consequences of tighter finances must mean a move to part-time football.

Good dedicated part-time players, who also spend a couple days keeping fit away from the club, prove currently at a lower level that decent standards of fitness and ability can be maintained.

Perhaps it's time to stop buying into the illusion that the full-time game is the only one that counts.


  • Comment number 1.

    I'm surprised more teams haven't adopted a model similar to my own, Raith Rovers. John McGlynn has been extremely successful in providing part-time players with an opportunity within the first division while operating around a core of full time players. Two of our outstanding players from last season: David McGurn and Mark Campbell, both played as part-time players with jobs outside football and rewarded the club with some fantastic performances.

    Meanwhile it allowed McGlynn to tempt the players who he feels could do a job in the first division from the 2nd and 3rd divisions. No other team has a model such as this yet other teams have turned to cutting back their playing squads in an attempt to reduce their deficits.

  • Comment number 2.

    Totally agree Jim, however it would have to be a league-wide decision. I imagine a lot of the part time players would pick up manual jobs like postmen, joiners, plumbers etc simply because of the flexibility afforded by certain jobs, which would allow them to train, play in midweek games etc.

    If this policyw as only adopted by certain clubs it provides an advantage to the full time clubs as their players can relax and take it easy before games, whereas someone in a part time team might be lugging sinks and timber around.

    I played amateur football for St Pats FP's when i lived in scotland and we came up against this very problem when we played Queens Park under 19's in the scottish amateur cup. My entire team ahd went and done a days work before playing in the semi final, whereas the QP Under 19's hadn't done anything but relax, Not to say they didnt deserve the narrow 2-1 win, but i maintain the fact that we had all done a days work, most of them manual labour, had an impact.

  • Comment number 3.

    Full-time football hasn't really done a lot for the standard of football in Scotland. Perhaps more players would appreciate professional football if they had another job.

    I think more clubs going part-time has to be the way ahead. Whenever league reconstruction finally happens, clubs will find their level, whether it be in the SFL or in the lower leagues as part of a pyramind system.

  • Comment number 4.

    How come no one believes in professional football in scottland anymore? The SPL needs a professional first and second division to fill their ranks. Also, every so often a foreign club will pick a young talent from Scotland and give the national team some international experience...

    In Scotland, even the SPL is competing with the English PL. And I think thats the problem. The games are held at rediculous times of day! I live in Germany, but went to see the United-Hearts Match in Dundee last season. This was possibly the most important match for anyone not from Glasgow and I was shocked when I sat in an almost empty stadium! I had never expected that. Over here, even a couple of third division teams AVERAGE at way more than 10.000 visitors per game.

    Something has to be done, and its not going to happen without some cooperation with the English, because they are hogging too much of the weekend.

  • Comment number 5.

    Totally agree, if the players are good enough they will get picked up from the lower leagues.

    My own team (Dundee Utd) have just signed Barry Douglas and won the cup with players like Conway, Swanson and Gomis who have all progressed through the leagues.

  • Comment number 6.

    RobbieWeir, I agree with you, Raith have been a sensible model. In an ideal world clubs would be able to maintain a full time squad with all the benefits which should go with that model.
    However, increasingly it'll be a part time or mix of part time and full time model which clubs will adopt if the financial climate is as bad as predicted.

  • Comment number 7.

    So, where are the avenues for teams in the SFL that would like to play full-time football with a view to getting into the SPL?

    It's hard to argue that, in the economy as is, with a truly rotten standard of football, our unwillingness to move away from our telly sets to attend matches and calcified thinking about how the Scottish game is run, that part-time is the sensible option.

    However, when or where does the SFL support teams that want to play full-time with a view to promotion? Is the league just dragging all its constituents towards the lowest common denominator? After all the chest-beating and rending of garments about ambition are there not 10 or a dozen teams capable of arguing or fighting their interests with the league, with local authorities to beat down rates and overheads? Is confidence in the Scottish game that low when many clubs are so close to 'nothing left to lose'?

  • Comment number 8.

    Is it the sensible option? I think it's the only option!!!

    It saddens me but there must be a restructuring. Clubs should start to merge. The game isn't dying - it's dead. Like our German friend says - Scottish football has such poor support even within the SPL how can lower teams survive?

    Like the dude who played for St Pats said, there is absolutely no question that going part-time will reduce the standard of players. Now, mentally I think this is a great thing as they learn another trade and maybe, just maybe develop a little humility. But they will get worse as footballers - no question.

    But I do think all footballers must learn a trade. The Hibs youth team have their lunch at Queen Margarets College in Edinburgh and I can state categorically that you will never meet a bunch of more undeserving, obnoxious, rude, unnappreciative, spoilt little idiots in your life. It's such a shame (never meet your heroes!) as none of them will really make it either so they're gonna be skint as well as being all of the above. I'm sure the discipline of learning a trade would round some of this off.

    So, in conclusion: we gotta do it - not just below the SPL but EVERYONE should learn a trade.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think tht harsh realities of life will soon make themselves felt in the never-never land that is Scottish football. Indeed, it would suit some media commentators more if they were to devote a fraction of the column inches they habitually devote to divining the smoke signals from Ibrox and Celtic Park to concentrate seriously on the future and structure of the Scottish game whilst it still exists. The reality is that there is no substantial difference between the top teams in Division One and the so called elite. Unless some form of league re-construction is not attempted soon; I fear simplistic solutions like mandatory part-time football will only serve to increase the downward spiral in terms of quality, competitiveness and indeed existence of Scottish football whatever guise it adopts.


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