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Superhero needed to sort out Scottish game

Chick Young | 14:51 UK time, Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Henry McLeish might want to prepare for the job ahead by changing into his working clothes in a phone box and making sure there is no nearby kryptonite.

Although this is the mission even Superman might have body-swerved.

Until we can persuade Clark Kent to take a wee look at our dilemma we have turned to the former First Minister to launch his response to the game's SOS - Save Our Soccer.

We know what the prognosis is. Ailing attendances, television revenue in freefall, clubs walking in the shadow of the Grim Reaper, no pyramid system, no winter break and three bodies who couldn't work hand in hand with the help of soft music and a romantic table in the corner of the restaurant.

henrymcleish595.jpgThe prognosis is one thing: the cure is another altogether.

And that is why he is dancing on quicksand from the start.

Hired by the SFA, he can hardly recommend that his paymasters take a bullet or that at worst they amalgamate with the SPL and the SFL, fire a few clerks and blazers and form a Scottish Football Federation.

And then there is the curious world of the Juniors who are treated like another sport altogether. If football is the bread and butter activity of the Scottish working man and woman then it is ridiculously thinly sliced.

In 1967 when Third Lanark died of shame in the murkiest of circumstances it seemed inconceivable that a famous old name could pass on.

But now they are taken with alarming frequency. Clydebank and Airdrie and Gretna have gone. Clyde and Stranraer are in God's waiting room. And the Good Lord himself only knows what is happening at Livingston.

Kilmarnock are bleating about the potential abyss from which they may never again emerge if their fate is relegation.

You have, Henry, if you don't mind me saying so, a fair wee job on your hands here.

McLeish made a point of distancing himself from the dreaded phrase 'Think Tank', since the concept has a chequered history in Scottish football.

Former SFA secretary Ernie Walker formed one which included Rinus Michels and Tony Higgins among others. As tanks go it was about as popular as a Russian one on the streets of Prague.

I'm not quite sure they ever reported back, ever came up with a verdict. For all I know they might still be meeting up trying to find a solution to all the ills of the game, lost in their bunker, lost in another time.

The trouble is, you see, that we are not all singing from the same hymn sheet.

We need a pledge that we are all in this together, that stability is the by-word and that we can guarantee sponsors a period of longevity as a football family.

But every time the Old Firm hear the words English Premier League their ears prick up like a dog's when the doorbell goes.

It is an awful state of affairs although out of the gloom has come the beacon of a heart-thumping climax to the championship race and the aforementioned battle to plummet into the dark place that is the division below.

Something then to inspire Mr McLeish as he heads for the nearest phone box.

Good luck then, Henry. Just remember to throw your cloak over your shoulder and wear your underpants outside your trousers.


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  • 1. At 3:24pm on 13 May 2009, lewismathieson wrote:

    Scottish football is awful. The fact that Walter Smith thinks that Rangers and Celtic would challenge the big four in the English Premier League shows why Smith was an utter failure during his time at Everton.

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  • 2. At 3:25pm on 13 May 2009, lewismathieson wrote:

    Oh and by the way, you're not funny. Stick to reporting facts rather than your senseless innuendos.

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  • 3. At 3:37pm on 13 May 2009, canjam wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 4. At 3:48pm on 13 May 2009, boomshakalak wrote:

    i would take up the role of running scottish football. I have no experiecne of running a National Football Association - or even a local one... hell i have never even run a 5 aside football team

    however i would be willing to take an oath on the bible that i promise that at the end of my tenure that it would be in no worse state or no more of a laughing stock

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  • 5. At 4:03pm on 13 May 2009, Genghisridesagain wrote:

    Eh? So you've been at the 'coalface' for 40 years - that might explain why your patter is like a lump of anthracite (Glaswegian rhyming-slang)?. Why dont you come up with some meaningful thoughts on how to make things better, or has all that coaldust blocked up your eyes and ears?

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  • 6. At 4:14pm on 13 May 2009, HayateSuperexpress wrote:

    Scottish football has long been in need of an overhaul.

    Firstly, the management needs to be streamlined. Do we really need the SFA, SPL and SFL? Surely some kind of umbrella organisation can be formed to try an keep everyone on the same side.

    Secondly, the SPL needs to increase in size. Fans and players are probably sick of playing certain teams 4, 5 or 6 times a season. Make it a 16 team league with a winter break, and play each other only twice a season, and then the games will mean something. If there were only two old firm games, or two Edinburgh derbies, they would take on a lot more significance, and the fans would get more into them as a result. Obviously we should scrap the ridiculous split as well.

    I would hope that the powers that be realise that this is the time for change, but I won't hold my breath.

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  • 7. At 4:28pm on 13 May 2009, liamf1 wrote:

    It annoys me when people say Scottish football is terrible! The problem is we compare it to the English Premier League but if you look at Real Madrids game against Liverpool in the champs league then you can see the english game is miles ahead of every other country and for a country of 6 million our game is in a decent state compared to similar sized countries. Fair enough I do believe that something needs to be done to get more people into grounds to go and support their local teams but to say its awful is a bit far. The players who have moved from the Spl to england recently have been excellent.

    Also people who slag off the national team annoy me 2 as I believe we now have the best squad or a long time with players like Darren Fletcher, Craig Gordon, Alan Hutton. Even players like Cristophe Berra, Garry O'connor and James Mcfadden will be in the premier league next year with other players like Ross Mccormack getting looked at by English PL teams and all these players played in the Spl in the last few years except Fletcher and Mcfadden and i believe the spl helped these players alot.

    All in all I believe our game is in a good state right now and it really annoys me when we constantly slag it off, but ppl are entitled to their opinions i suppose. I just wished people would realise that our game will never be as good as the english top flight but neither is any other league in the world doesn't mean our game is terrible! And if people are interested in improving the scottish game then start going to support your local team!

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  • 8. At 4:31pm on 13 May 2009, Glaucon wrote:

    Ah, you were doing so well Chic with your last couple of blogs. I'm presuming that you write this one in a rush?

    Its an important topic however. I am struggling to see what can be done however to improve the state of our game. It's unfortunate that football is now dominated by cash and without this i cannot really see a way that Scottish football can challenge on the big stage, or how smaller clubs can challenge the Old Firm on a consistent basis.

    Its a shame, but i hope that a solution can be found. Good luck to them. I think they'll need it!

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  • 9. At 4:32pm on 13 May 2009, collie21 wrote:

    The problem is the football is just no good.

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  • 10. At 4:49pm on 13 May 2009, paulmc_hfc wrote:

    quite simply, scotland should not have FOUR division! it should be two simple divisions with a third semi-pro tier like the conference division
    and this is my propsal to the Scottish Football Format (based on this seasons placings):

    SPL (bottom Three go down)
    Rangers, Celtic, Hearts, D Utd, Aberdeen, Hibs, Motherwell, Hamilton
    ICT, Killie, St Mirren, Falkirk, St Johnstone, Partick, dunfermline
    Dundee, QOS, Morton, Livi, R-County

    SPL2 (top two up - next four play-off - same as championship)
    Airdrie, Clyde, Raith, Ayr, Brechin, Peterhead, Stirling, E Fife, Arbroath, Alloa, Queens Park, Stranraer, Dumbarton, Cowdenbeath, East Stirling, Stenhousemuir, Montrose, Forfar, Annan, Albion

    Scottish Conference (played in a North/South or East/West split)
    Berwick, Elgin, Whitehill Welfare, Edinburgh City, Cove Rangers, Keith, Edinburgh Uni, Linlithgow Rose, Spartans, Selkirk, Dalbeattie Star, Burntisland, Vale of Leithen, Girvan, Huntly, Pollok, Forres Mechanics, Gala Fairydean, Coldstream, Civil Service Strollers, Glasgow Uni, Keith, Deveronvale

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  • 11. At 5:10pm on 13 May 2009, rchrdav wrote:

    Not being scottish I probably shouldnt have an opinion but for what it is worth I think that you have far too many clubs for the size of the country, this along with the old firm spreads the support thinly making it difficult to attract big enough crowds.
    Removing the split would make sense but I would not worry about the old firm coming down here as it just wont happen, at a time when the dissolution of the union is getting nearer it seems bizzarre that in the sporting world t his would go the other way

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  • 12. At 5:13pm on 13 May 2009, MissionaryDave wrote:

    Couldn't agree more with paulmc_hfc...although his choice of Berwick and Elgin as the 2 teams dropping into the 'Conference' tickles that why East Stirling got their finger out this season? :-)

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  • 13. At 5:17pm on 13 May 2009, Rabster wrote:

    One thing I do not understand is if Santooti sign a contract how can they simply pull out or "re-negotiate" when things get tough? Cannot the SPL sue them or whatever?

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  • 14. At 5:37pm on 13 May 2009, markrp wrote:

    That's the spirit Chick!

    Why can't McLeish recommend the SFA amalgamate with the SPL and/or SFL? Does he have a clause in his contract with them that says he wouldn't be paid for the work he's doing?

    He can certainly recommend it. They might not agree, but once the genie's right out of the bottle there will be even more public pressure on them to streamline/sing from the same song sheet.

    Agree with the posters on here who say our game is not all that bad and about restructuring the league: there seems to be a real consensus of opinion amongst the fans about the latter, at least.

    Whether all this can attract more fans through the gates remains to be seen, but McLeish has a chance to recommend the best way forward. Then we need to take the plunge.

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  • 15. At 5:38pm on 13 May 2009, manelson_1 wrote:

    Liamf1 - I symapthise with what you are saying, but don't fool yourself that SPL players have done well in England. The Scottish league is in a decnt state compared to many other European leagues that are the size of Scotland, especially when you consider how well the old firm do in Europe. Just getting into the Champions League is credit to those teams.

    But I have to address the players moving to the English premier league from SPL (or those who played in SPL). McFadden moved from Motherwell, struggled to get in at Everton, was in and out at Birmingham who were relegated and was in and out (although injured quite a lot) this season. O'Connor was sub at Birmingham when they were relegated and was in and out of the team this season in the championship. Barry Ferguson failed to make an impact at Blackburn. Craig Gordon has been second choice at Sunderland to Martin Fulop for most of the season. Craig Beattie struggled to make an impact at West Brom and is now in and out of the team at Sheff Utd. Shaun Maloney couldn't get in the side at Villa. Hutton has failed to hold down a place at Tottenham, although he seems to be breaking through more now. Fletcher is the only one who I would say has been successful, but he was nurtured by Man Utd and has not played in the SPL. That's not to say that none of the players will be able to make an impact in the EPL, but a few years ago the quality in SPL was a lot better I think with players like Larsson, Sutton, Hartso, Van Hooijdonk and Lennon playing there. These were all players who had been successful in England (with the exception of Larsson who could have been very successful if he had moved in his prime). I fear the SPL is now more of a place for failed EPL players such as Pedro Mendes and Barry Ferguson which shows a decline in the league.

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  • 16. At 6:09pm on 13 May 2009, elemenopea wrote:

    Chick, your blog only ever makes a simple point completely pointless. Your metaphors and analogies fail miserably.

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  • 17. At 6:11pm on 13 May 2009, sounesstablishment007 wrote:

    Why don't we just forget about English football for a bit? It's a country with 11 times the population of Scotland, with obscene riches coming in to fairly average sides and the 'top 4' managed, owned and played for entirely by foreign imports, yet it's all we ever hear about and to compare football in this country to 'the most exciting league in the world' (TM) is frankly bizarre. They'll get their's when the 6+5 rule comes in anyway, but maybe if people stop comparing us to them with a sense of typically Scottish paranoia surrounding it, we can get our house in order. As for you ignorant EPL worshippers - where's your next generation of home grown players coming from? Serie A and the Spanish League are far better quality, with much more competition.

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  • 18. At 6:37pm on 13 May 2009, paterson_5 wrote:

    Manelson_1 i agree with your point that the SPL used to have a lot more top quality players but i think you need to take off you geen and white spectacles and give a more balanced viewpoint. To say that Ferguson and Mendes are both failed Premiership players is simply untrue. Ferguson was made captain of a team mid-table in the Premiership and performed consistently (admittedly not spectacularly) for 2 seasons. Pedro Mendes won the champions league with Porto before moving to Tottenham where made several appearances. He then moved to Portsmouth and kept them in the league before winning the FA cup. There doesn't appear to be a great deal of failure here...???

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  • 19. At 7:09pm on 13 May 2009, GeorgetownBhoy wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 20. At 7:11pm on 13 May 2009, paisleyturnip wrote:

    some teams need to amalgamate with their neighbours, others need to invest more in youth . rangers and celtic would both struggle if they didnt make champions league , but remember the scottish premier is rated 10th best league in europe behind england,germany,france,netherlands,italy,spain,etc so all in all i think not such a bad thing for a small country . ireland doesnt come close yet has a bigger population . we need to look to norway, denmark and sweden for comparisons but we tend to look to england !
    rangers lost uefa cup final to multi million team . celtic lost final to jose morinho, knocking out english giants along the way :)
    dundee utd, hearts, hibs , aberdeen all have competitive teams but seem to work as feeder teams for old firm , so are unable to compete in the league ...

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  • 21. At 7:38pm on 13 May 2009, C123 wrote:

    Post 15 - "a few years ago the quality in SPL was a lot better I think with players like Larsson, Sutton, Hartso, Van Hooijdonk and Lennon playing there."

    Lennon!? LENNON you couldn't be more bias could you? In my opinion he was nothing more than less than average. Yes, Larsson and Sutton, at a push hartson. Are you a Celtic fan?, before you say it, no i'm not a Rangers fan, but Pedro Mendes is one of the best bits of business to be done - in terms of 'technically better' players recently, I might add.

    There has been plenty of fine players at Rangers aswell, as I noticed you chose to leave out .. the likes of Van Bronckhorst and Gascgoine, plus many many others, not just for the old firm either.

    Moyes stated only weeks ago that McFadden would be playing in his Everton side if HE didn't choose to leave, Hutton was injured, Barry Ferguson had a love affair with Rangers, its like putting Del Piero in a Madrid shirt!

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  • 22. At 8:40pm on 13 May 2009, Attila™ wrote:

    Everbody seems to be aware of the problem with the existence of three governing bodies except those who actually run them! As others have already pointed out comparing our league to that of England is a pointless exercise. It may have been that in the past we have punched above our weight very often and in comparison things now may seem bleak. It is not so much that our game is beyond repair, it is the fact that the formation of the premiership changed everything in England. For example take the year 1992, Rangers have managed to beat the champions of England in the champions league. Move forward a couple of decades and Celtic beating Manchester United now would be an amazing result and far from expected. We simply cannot compete with the funding English clubs get so there is no real comparison there. I believe if ITV digital had not collapsed it may have been a different story for Scottish football, as the funding generated was much greater. But we cannot expect to achieve the same results without similar funding, and arguably to go with the funding, the league system requires revamping in order to provide suitable competition and it would also give lower clubs a chance of better funding.

    Maybe we as the fans should start a petition to the respective governing bodies to amalgamate and thus giving us all a chance of restoring Scottish football to its former glories!

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  • 23. At 8:59pm on 13 May 2009, bmxmoron wrote:

    Some reasons I stopped going to games -
    1. Overpriced.
    2. Dire football.
    3. Overpayed players.
    4. Players behaviour and attitudes off the pitch in my city.
    5. League format.
    6. Badly run clubs.
    7. Being expected to fork out more and more for less and less.
    8. Winter football (nuts).
    Good luck trying to fix it! What a mess.

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  • 24. At 9:06pm on 13 May 2009, rjaggar wrote:

    Mr Young

    You've been writing about football as long as I can remember. Ditto Mr Forsyth. Ditto Mr McPherson if he's still around....

    Why don't the lot of you put YOUR proposals on paper to help Mr McLeish?

    After all, is he really as dedicated to football as you lot are?

    If you guys have the good of the game at heart, without allegiances or status to defend, surely your proposals will be the best compromise available?

    It's too easy for journalists to just demand from others.

    Deliver yourselves without expectation of success. At least then, you've put your solution on the table........

    Course, you might break a few relationships that way..........

    But hey: the BBC's survived without talking to Fergie for a good few years, so I guess you lot would survive if Walter Smith threw a hissy fit........

    Think about it........

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  • 25. At 10:29pm on 13 May 2009, acoustamatix wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 26. At 10:51pm on 13 May 2009, FitzyBhoy1 wrote:

    The infamous split is some what of a sham. Teams who have finished 7th and maybe even 8th, in some seasons, have collected more points than the teams finishing 3rd, 4th, 5th etc. My theory would be, yes let the top 6 play the top 6 and the bottom 6 play the bottom 6, but if teams like Caley Thistle, Kilmarnock and what not in the bottom half collect more points than say Hearts or Dundee United in 3rd or 4th then they would gain the european place.

    So rather than it finishin (hypothetically);

    3 Dundee United 67 points
    4 Hearts 64 points
    5 Hibs 57 points
    6 Motherwell 52 points
    7 Inverness 69 points
    8 Kilmarnock 68 points

    (which lets be honest just looks stupid) It would finish;

    3 Inverness 69 points
    4 Kilmarnock 68 points
    5 Dundee United 67 points
    6 Hearts 64 points
    7 Hibs 57 points
    8 Motherwell 52 points

    I know this would bring the whole "Kilmarnock & Inverness etc had easier games than us in their run in" argument into play, but thats where the league could counter the argument and say well you got better away gates from the Old Firm comin to your place and better tv money. Plus the fact that if they really want the european spots then they will fight harder in those last 5 games to secure it and the fact that they'll fight harder would mean the games for Hearts etc against Celtic and Rangers would be must wins and that would provide a nervy end to the title race.

    Just a thought.

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  • 27. At 01:21am on 14 May 2009, FirhillJag wrote:

    Ocht this always bothers me. Why compare ourselves with England? Why bother? Why do we crave it so much? Why do English people come on here bandyin on about how the scottish league is rubbish? What nonsense! Keep your commercially driven business league- I'll stick to watching football.
    I do enjoy watching the EPL, its good, competative, exciting etc. But I completely love watching the lower Scottish Divisions too. Poorer football technically, but equally competative and exciting. In fact one of the best games I've been to recently was standing on a grassy terrace watching Kirkintilloch Rob Roy hoof the ball in every ungracious manner imaginable. The fans there loved it, it was raw and real football, a scrap to decide a cup semi-final. What makes that any less valuable than the EPL's hairless, rich and overdramatic 'stars'?

    I admit however that Scottish football needs a shake up.
    I love the idea of the pyramid system. I love the idea of two divisions. Makes so much more sense, but SPL teams wont go for it because they love playin the old firm 3 or 4 times a year. Cant blame them, but if Scottish football is to develop, grow and not implode on itself then it needs football clubs, as well as the SFA, SPL, SFL, AND Scottish Junior FA to stop worrying about themselves, and worry about football and work together to create a system that will last for another 150 years.

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  • 28. At 02:27am on 14 May 2009, derekthegrumpycleric wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 29. At 07:32am on 14 May 2009, zerankashrek wrote:

    Another load of codswallup, turkeys dont vote for xmas, another 20 years of a 2 team title race what a yawn, oh and Motherwell in the Europa League maybe ! what a joke
    we have had 12 team leagues, 10 team leagues, increased to 12 every time Motherwell were threatened with relegation on at least 2 occasions,
    and although the clubs devote time money and coaching to develop youth, how many actually get to a level to compete at the highest.

    Turn the lights out Scottish Football is drab and poor thank the Old Firm for that, but the turkeys will still be there in 20 years.

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  • 30. At 09:24am on 14 May 2009, stroma88 wrote:

    I am Scottish through and through, patriotic but not blindly so.
    Why don`t we face up to the fact that Scottish football is second, no make that third, rate at best reality and merge English, Scottish, N.Irish and Welsh leagues into a British league, do away with national associations and create a British F.A. Have only British represenative at UEFA and FIFA and Streamline the whole concept of British football.

    While we are at it we should abolish the Scottish assembly and trim the number of civil servants who are a drain on the economy

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  • 31. At 09:51am on 14 May 2009, brooklynbrawler wrote:

    Yeah in response to #15, you've got a very blinkered view.

    Barry Ferguson was Blackburn's player of the season when he was there, and picked up plenty of MOM awards.
    He was not a failure, but chose to return to Rangers, his boyhood club, without giving it a full crack.
    Craig Beattie was never any good anyway.
    Maloney, in the games he was given at Villa made a decent impact.
    Another player who suffered from homesickness though.
    McFadden went to Everton when he was 21.
    He wasn't played in his preferred forward position when he did get a game.
    Yet he still played well enough for 5 or 6 EPL teams to be in for him when he left at more than 5 times the cost Everton got him for.

    You;re also forgetting Arteta, Tugay, Van Bronckhorst, Larsson, Johansson (who did well at Charlton), McCormack (who Cardiff got for buttons and was a revelation in the Championship), Iwelumo who started the season soaring at the top of the CCC Scoring charts, but could barely get a game for St Mirren ffs!
    I can't even be bothered to go and list a host of other names who have done well.
    For the price these teams are playing for some of our (not even top class - most of them go to the Old Firm) players sometimes, the EPL is getting fantastic value for money by raiding our game again.

    In any case, we have less than 10% of the population of England, and still manage to put 1 or 2 Champions League teams EVERY season.
    When you consider we are a lot smaller than Ireland, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Greece etc etc etc, then these are the types of country we should be comparing ourselves to in footballing terms, NOT England, Spain, Italy, Germany.
    Sky has come in and made a complete mockery of football, by making once great teams, complete paupers in footballing terms, because of the massive divide in terms of income in just a few leagues.
    I don;t know about you, but I am alreayd bored of seeing the same teams reach the later stages of the Champions League every season.
    They even managed to amend a competition FOR CHAMPIONS into a league which totally favoured a handful of leagues, further helping their domination.
    The Sky bubble will burst, and you'll see an end to that.
    When even very average players are exchanging hands for £15-20m and players are getting paid £70k a week to sit on the bench then there is something VERY wrong.
    The punters would not stand for that if the money was still coming directly out of their pocket at the gate, but at the end of the day be it from subscriptions, gate money or merchandise, the fans are being completely ripped off.
    Particularly in Scotland, the cost to go to a game is too much imo, and that is why we will see freefalling crowd numbers until it's probably too late :(

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  • 32. At 09:54am on 14 May 2009, brooklynbrawler wrote:

    As for your blog Chick, please stop knocking our game.
    We can no longer afford the Laudrup's, De Boer's, Gazza's and Larsson's of the game.
    Our national game is all the better for it.
    We are still performing to an exceptional level in Europe.

    We're hitting above our weight and have been doing for some time, so stop trying to compare us to the EPL and be thankful we're even this far ahead.

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  • 33. At 09:55am on 14 May 2009, mrjbmrjb wrote:

    You have been writing for so long and I won't forget!

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

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  • 34. At 10:08am on 14 May 2009, ya_dafty wrote:

    Football has evolved and moved on and has left Scotland behind.

    The guys running it haven't got the selfless will to change it.

    The clubs are on their knees.

    The BBC should cut the funding for BBC Scotland. I don't think it gets too much expsoure for what really is a dire product.

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  • 35. At 11:19am on 14 May 2009, Brummerdickens wrote:

    "The BBC should cut the funding for BBC Scotland. I don't think it gets too much expsoure for what really is a dire product."

    Amen. I'm sorry, but any English fan will tell you they know little about the Scottish leagues to the point where they won't know if its Rangers or Celtic top of the league, and yet we constantly see "Rangers vs Celtic" live text appear on the BBC homepage without want nor mention for La Liga, the Bundesliga or Serie A, three leagues I have far more interest in.

    The extent of my interest in Scottish football is seeing which of the top two will fail to win the league, assuming Alex McLeish will then be able to lure them to Birmingham.

    As far as I'm concerned, Scottish football, when compared to English, is superfluous, and the coverage should represent that.

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  • 36. At 11:46am on 14 May 2009, thevoiceofreason wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 37. At 11:48am on 14 May 2009, telemonster wrote:


    i was with you all the way, apart from the bit about playoff's. 2 divisions from the existing 4,or 3 divisions with the set up you mention, would be fine, i feel.

    the existing set up is a total joke and doesn't work. playoff's are scandalous. why play all those games and then go into a lottery and lose out to a team that finished well below you?? wrong, wrong, wrong!

    with more teams in less divisions we could have automatic 3 up/3 down, as it should be. this would give more access to smaller clubs to spend time in the spl - spread the wealth a bit, if you like..

    tbh, i'd take anything over the current system!

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  • 38. At 12:16pm on 14 May 2009, pigg_dogg wrote:

    hmmm reading these comments highlights the arrogance and ignorance of english people. and they wonder why everyone else loves to see them fail.

    football has evolved and scotland is still living in the past, in fact i think we have gone backwards. changing league formats or the administration will do nothing to improve our game. it is another example of our society's lack of sporting interest. we enjoy watching and moaning about it, maybe we should change that to our national sport.

    kids are no longer playing football in the numbers or as constantly as they did before the days of playstations etc. this is the issue that must be addressed. the rest is just cosmetic.

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  • 39. At 12:34pm on 14 May 2009, ....and surely that's great news for the rest of scottish football. wrote:

    I can tell you how to sort out Scottish football straight away - disband the Largs coaching courses. They're a joke. All they produce are managers of the ilk of Jim Jeffries and Gus Mcpherson, coaches who don't have clue about how the game is played, and can't offer anything beyond the usual 'punt it' mentality. That's why so many players go missing once they reach 21.

    We're among the best in Europe up to about 20-21, as our youths, under 19's, under 21's etc have consistently shown, as players tend to get by on raw talent up until that age. From then on, the only way to progress as a player is through coaching, and that's where our players fall down. How many players have we seen touted as something special and then stagnate (or worse, go backwards) when they get into their twenties? Scottish coaches are just incapable of bringing players on. Is it a co-incidence that Scotland's only player to play for a world class side hasn't actually played in the SPL? (D Fletcher)

    The best thing we could do would be to send a delegation to Holland to study their methods, and pay them a consultancy fee to advise us how to build a coaching centre of excellence. Everything else stems from there. Anything else, the league set up, the TV money etc. is secondary to the standard of play.

    It says a lot that one of the few Scottish players of recent times to play abroad (Paul Lambert) and get exposure to European methods, took one look at Largs and went 'Nein, danke!' and scuttled off to Germany to learn how to coach properly.

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  • 40. At 12:44pm on 14 May 2009, Howling_Sheep wrote:

    There are no easy solutions here. The SPL 'concept' dates back something like 34 years when the old First Division of 18 clubs was abandoned and a 10 team set-up adopted ... going back to 18 teams would mean more variety but could see a club like Celtic (average attendance this season, just over 57,000) playing a team like Ross County (average attendance, just over 2,000) ... which would just turn into a cannon fodder show ... keep the best teams in a league of 12 or 10 and you get stale; spread it out and it soon becomes apparent that Scotland just doesn't have sufficient concentrations of people willing to watch live football (in numbers) ... there's no answer

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  • 41. At 1:02pm on 14 May 2009, jwn007 wrote:

    As a Peterhead supporter (come on boys tonight!), I have to say that the situation for Scottish football is farsical at best. Gretna succeeded in donig what teams like Peterhead hope to do - breaking into the top flight...and look what happened. Money is an issue, and requirements such as 6,000 seated stadiums with at least three stands is madness. If a team like Peterhead played good enough football for the SPL, then that should be that. There is no point putting ourselves in debt and waiting for fifty years to pay it back as we'd only fill a quarter of the place. Scottish football is like anything else in this culture - money driven...and the Old firm rule the roost. Nevertheless, I still want to see the Blue Toon in Division One.

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  • 42. At 1:14pm on 14 May 2009, DelaneyVonTrap wrote:

    Financially Scottish football is in a bad way but it isn't the only country with struggling teams. Even in the promised land of English football a few clubs are looking at administration and even closure.

    As for restructuring I think it needs to happen. We may have to go for region teams i.e. North Lanarkshire Lightning and amalgamate three or four poorly supported club sides into a larger one. Take the support of Airdrie, Clyde, Albion Rovers and Motherwell combined and you could be looking at 12-15 thousand gates.

    I think expanding the SPL to 16 is a waste of time though. How will adding four more mediocre teams improve the league? Added to that, thirty games a season would not be enough so another contrived system will be introduced to make it up to 36/38. People just seem to be stuck on the bigger is better idea.

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  • 43. At 1:48pm on 14 May 2009, GeorgetownBhoy wrote:

    Chick's Blog-writing checklist:
    1) Inane title?- check
    2) Meaningless link provided (superman?)?- Check
    3) Meandering mixed metaphors?- Check
    4) Range of one sentence paragraphs in order to highlight intended witticisms?- Check
    5) Failed witticisms?- Check
    6) Mention of Third Lanark (including link)?- Check
    7) Scottish dialect to ensure 'everyman of football status' remains intact (eg 'stramash', 'blooter', 'pieces', 'wee' etc)- Check
    8) Failure to come across as 'everyman of football'?- Check
    9)Alternate 'Old Firm' and 'Rest of Scotland' topics?- Check
    10)Mention of the central metaphor in the final paragraph to ensure circularity (because someone at 'Wee Jock's School of How Tae Write Guid' said that made the article complete)?-Check
    11)Endless reader comments on ridiculous nature of Chick's blog?- Check

    It's easy this blog-writing stuff, Chick, eh?

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  • 44. At 2:06pm on 14 May 2009, thevoiceofreason wrote:

    Would all you sad people who log on just to have a pop at Chick please go away and get on with your lives somewhere else. The guy is only doing his job. His job is to give his opinion. If you dont like his opinion then fine. If you dont like his sense of humour, then stop logging on to it. The guy makes me laugh even if I dont agree with the blog. More power to your arm Chick, keep sniping away at the great and the good, and the not so great, regardless creed, greed or colour of scarf or whatever persuassion they claim to belong to. The world would be a more boring place without you.

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  • 45. At 2:15pm on 14 May 2009, biscuittinmentality wrote:

    40 years at the coalface and all you have been able to unearth is this string of cliches.

    Should we appoint a working party to look into the crisis facing your prose?

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  • 46. At 3:05pm on 14 May 2009, manelson_1 wrote:

    Response to posts 18, 21 and 31 - I seem to have given a very false impression here as you refer to my blinkered view. Just to clarify I am a Birmingham City fan from Blackburn and have never supported (or even favoured) Celtic. Rangers are actually the team in Scotland that I followed as a youngster, but not in a supporting kind of way as I have no Scottish connections. I apologise for forgetting the likes of Gascoigne etc as Rangers - they just didn't come to my mind at the time and I believe they were also good quality, but my point was not disproven by this, it was merely emphasised. There used to be a lot more top quality players in the division.

    A quick point on McFadden - he does have quality, but he isn't world class. He has failed to stand out in the championship despite being given plenty of chances as a centre forward. Failure in this role led to him being moved to the left and right wing at both Everton and B'ham. Moyes only said he would have played due to the massive amount of injuries to strikers this season. He is a lazy player with a lot of ability who is well liked by McLeish which is one of the major factors in Birmingham's relegation from the Premiership (McLeish chose to use McFadden instead of Mauro Zarate who was technically better, faster and had a bigger workrate. He is now at Lazio and is wanted by several big clubs including L'pool according to this website). Several clubs wanted him when he joined us due to his exploits for Scotland, not club form.

    I live in B'burn and all of their supporters have told me how poor Ferguson was for them, but that they could see he had ability.

    As for the other "successes" - my point about Mendes was that he went to SPL when he had lost his way in EPL - out of the team and Portsmouth and struggling to get back in. He was a success before that and was Portsmouth saviour at one point. Van Bronkhorst was decent in EPL, Tugay has done well (although used sparingly), but none of these have set the division alight. Arteta on the other hand is the major success story - a terrific player who should be playing for a top 4 side in my opinion. Larsson came a bit too late in his career to make a big impact, but he is one of the older quality players (like Tugay, Arteta and Van Bronkhorst) who played in SPL a few years ago when the division had much more quality in.

    Response to point 30 - I may get a bit of stick for this as I guess most people on here are Scottish, but most of us (English fans) don't want a merge of the leagues. This sounds selfish (probably because it is), but it would be of no benefit to English clubs. There are problems with the quality in Scottish, Welsh and Irish football which would all benefit from the money that comes into English football, but what's the benefit to English football. Rangers and Celtic are very well-supported clubs who could become much bigger and compete with the EPL top four if they had the kind of money that EPL teams get. They would already be able to compete in the EPL and would have a good shout of finishing in the top 6 (if not 4th place with the way Arsenal are stuttering at the moment). They would get big investors interested too and could have multi-billionaire chairmen before you knew it. This would mean the smaller English clubs (such as Birmingham) would be pushed down the league. Scottish football has been happy and proud to have it's own league during the good times, so English football has no responsibility to bail it out of the bad times or to provide better competition for the old firm.

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  • 47. At 3:57pm on 14 May 2009, GeorgetownBhoy wrote:

    Roverbhoy58, I think it's sadder to post a metaphorical 'arm-around-the-shoulder' of one of the BBC's most over-paid exponents of verbal tosh. He should be able to handle criticism after 40-years toiling at the coal-face etc... Check out his interviews with Walter Smith for proof.

    In terms of the Scottish game, a system similar to the Eredivisie in Holland would work, especially with their more exciting promotion and relegation playoffs, but would smaller teams be able to cope with only having the Old Firm visit once a season each, considering the TV money and expected full houses? Teams want to get in the top six for more than simple pride.

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  • 48. At 5:57pm on 14 May 2009, markrp wrote:

    Is it just me, or does this picture of McLeish make him look like a grumpy neighbour refusing to give you your ball back after you kicked it over his fence?

    Perhaps from Little Hamden?

    I hope it won't prove oddly prescient...

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  • 49. At 7:06pm on 14 May 2009, SAFandthedons1983 wrote:

    i agree that the league should be expanded- as an Aberdeen fan, im sure the likes of us, hearts, Hibs and Dundee Utd could bring in more fans on a regular basis if we were playing more teams- even if some of these games became slightly predictable wins for the established SPL teams such as those mentioned against the relative minnows who would make the step up, well everyone likes to watch their team winning (hence why the likes of Mourinho can get away with such dull football). I also think that with the odds more strongly stacked in their favour, these teams would be encourged to play a more passing, attacking, exciting game (or hope they would anyway).

    Last point- when you're playing the same team for the 4th time in a season, then if their manager is anything like competent, he should have been able to work out how to shut you down and park the bus, if he so wishes. Witness Hearts v Aberdeen on tuesday.

    on the blog- i think criticism can be warranted, as there is rarely an insight in this blog. Tim Vickery manages to make his blog engaging, whilst also offering a different perspective, and offering up new information (for most of us). Phil mcnulty isnt as good, but still does this to a lesser extent- i think its reasonable to ask Chick to do the same (though dont even get me started on 'Robbo Robson'- the worst blog on the net surely).

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  • 50. At 9:47pm on 14 May 2009, rebairn wrote:

    i think the split has worked well this season for both halves, the only team left in no mans land has been motherwell but with their chance of european football still to play for they still have to at least seem interested.
    the bottom half i think is the closest its been for a while as usually someone is cast adrift around christmas,and as a bairn its been a nailbiting season end the most enthralling in ages thats what it should be like supporting a football team. we have a cup final every week just now M & S in falkirk are fighting of the recession with the rush for clean underwear after everygame.
    forget the english premier go out and cheer on your local outfit its great!!

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  • 51. At 01:22am on 15 May 2009, Tim wrote:

    Re #42
    I would agree that regionalised 'franchises' would be one way of creating more balanced teams, and I would love to see what colour the amalgamated Glasgow region teams would wear!!!
    But seriously, in Scotland there are far too many people who seem to think that the world revolves around The 'Old Firm' How many towns that currently have a league football club see as many people heading off to see Celtic or Rangers as come through their turnstiles?
    Now I appreciate that the standard of the lower divisions is not the same as the Premier league, but you will see honest toil, entertaining football, and perhaps something that your average Old Firm fan may have forgotten about - the chance to interact and have a banter with the opposition support.
    I'm an Aberdonian, and when I can I do still go and see the Dons, but having not lived in Aberdeen for a number of years, I've always made a point of going to see my local football team - currently Elgin City (the strongest team in Scotland!)
    What exactly is the pull of Celtic and Rangers? Simple glory hunting? Family ties? Sectarian reasons - possibly a mix of all and many others. But surely if more people went to their local team, there would be a far more equitable share of the money to go round and perhaps allow some of the 'little' clubs to be more competitive and even pose a bigger challenge to the old firm.
    If it is disheartening for the likes of St. Mirren to see Paisley going en masse to Ibrox - think how it feels for the chairman of a club like, say East Stirling, to see so many potential customers going off glory hunting!

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  • 52. At 07:14am on 15 May 2009, kawayinet wrote:

    I apologise for forgetting the likes of Gascoigne etc as Rangers - they just didn't come to my mind at the time and I believe they were also good quality, but my point was not disproven by this, it was merely emphasised.

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  • 53. At 09:55am on 15 May 2009, Zootmac wrote:

    The notion that Celtic and Rangers would flop in the English Premier League is incorrect. These are two of the biggest football clubs in the world, by any reckoning. The current playing squads would clearly struggle against the current Premier League squads, but with access to Premier League television funding and sponsorship, Celtic and Rangers would be transformed into high quality sides which, within a few years, would be challenging for the highest honours in England and Europe. Top class players would be keen to sign, and the money would be in place to pay them.

    The English Premier League would also benefit from the addition of the two Scottish giants. The currentt monopoly of the Big Four would be broken, other English big teams would be allowed more into the equation (Spurs, Newcastle, Villa, Man City etc) in a more open and competitive league, huge extra interest would develop in the English game, and English teams and fans would look forward to massive sell-out crowds at great arenas, Parkhead and Ibrox, instead of visits to the remote corners of England to play agains minnow teams fighting for survival and the hope of another season in the big money.

    The English Premier bubble may soon collapse. Even Man U have got frightening debts. Maybe English football needs Celtic and Rangers more than is currently thought. Their inclusion in the Premier League would revitalise football all over Britain. In Scotland, the remaining Scottish clubs would be competing in events which they have a chance of winning.

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  • 54. At 10:18am on 15 May 2009, Matthew wrote:

    As stated last week Chic I wouldn't be reading your article again, I would however encourage others to read the article above, most enjoyable

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  • 55. At 3:20pm on 15 May 2009, paulmc_hfc wrote:

    Missionary Dave & Telemaster

    Thanks for the comments, as i mentioned it was just an idea.

    Dave - i think that perhaps a 22 team in the second division would have helped to save the bottom two in 2rd tie.

    Telemaster - 3 up 3 down is a good option, i think it is rather farcicle that a team could finish ten points clear of fourth and still not go up to a team that (hypothetically speaking finished 18 points behind them 6th

    Even if we did keep 12 teams in the SPL we need to make it TWO teams that go down, because teams like, Dunfermline, St Johnstone, Livingston, Dundee, Partick, who all were in the SPL of late, are aiming for ONE place in the league and again the thoughts of them playing 4 games against Rangers and Celtic rather than (no offence intended here) 4 games against Clyde and Queens is far more appealing both to thier fans and the men behind the doors looking at the big £ signs!!

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  • 56. At 09:15am on 16 May 2009, onecatcom wrote:

    everyone likes to watch their team winning

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  • 57. At 7:12pm on 16 May 2009, contraflow wrote:

    Hi Chick

    You're blogs are really awful. On the radio last week at the old firm game, you incorrectly called the Rangers starting eleven - remember. All you're radio colleagues laughed at you, as they do often.

    Please give it all up, I am fed up cringing.

    Best wishes

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  • 58. At 02:12am on 17 May 2009, Tim wrote:

    Re #57
    Well don't read them for goodness sake! And another thing, if you're going to take issue with the writing of someone else - at least get the apostrophes in your sentences right!

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  • 59. At 05:13am on 17 May 2009, noelsnovelty wrote:

    The current club structure of Scottish football emerged in the late 19th/early 20th century. Back then the bulk of the Scottish people were highly localised and Scotland had dozens of urban and semi-urban communities, whose communal force was strong enough to sustain meaningful local identities. Young men entered jobs similar to those held by their fathers, and so on. Society is changing. Scottish society is no longer highly localised. Most towns like Arbroath, Inverness, Dingwall, Stranraer, have a high proportion of residents born elsewhere, often not even in Scotland. Towns like Clydebank, Motherwell, Airdrie, Coatbridge, and even Paisley, Cumbernauld and Dumbarton, are no longer meaningful communities. They are suburbs of Glasgow. The same is true of places like Livingstone and Dunfermline with regards to Edinburgh.

    Young people are not what they used to be either, and live differently. They have more choices and much more mobility. They don't stay in their little town and get trapped and crushed by the small job market; they go to university, they move to England, Glasgow, wherever. Extra mobility and the mushrooming of national and international mass media output has broadened their perspectives. Those that don't leave their towns, and some of those who stay ... well, they probably don't want to pay 20 pounds to stand in the freezing cold among uncouth old men, only able to relieve themselves from the watery hot drink they've consumed to stay alive by soaking their shoes in urine in the stadium toilets. Instead, they can sit in the warmth of home, or go spend money on the high street and then sit in the warmth of their home, taking in the high-quality English, Spanish or Italian match being beamed straight to them on TV. No wonder crowds have fallen so badly for the non-Old Firm, and people from the Rhins of Galloway to the muir of Caithness are using their cat's friend's cousin as an excuse to ditch their local team in favour of the Old Firm.

    Changes in European football over the past few decades have spread the production of football talent more broadly (though not more thinly) across the continental while the fruits have been concentrated in the hands of fewer clubs from fewer countries. This makes our game look like it has declined when in reality it hasn't really changed that much. This however feeds negativity, and is probably the reason why I've been hearing guys like yourself and Gerry McNee bash our game since I was a child. I'm in my mid-to-late 20s; I've only seen Scottish football in a state similar to the way it is now: a league about as good as Austria's and Belgium's (two countries twice our size), similar to Norway's, Denmark's and Croatia's (countries our size), leagues which share the SPLs imbalance at the top. This should be fair enough level to satisfy any expectations reasonably derived from our population level, pool of football talent, economic structure, etc. But, apparently theyre not. People want something better apparently.

    These are the most important reasons why attendances are falling. It's not reversible. Even the government couldn't reverse it if it wanted to. So do we really need this negativity? Journalists tend to act like they are nothing but outside players, analysts gazing from afar and commenting safely on what they observe. In reality, journalists are players. Continually posting negativity like this contributes to the problem. Many small clubs have to go, but many that don't may go anyway if the population is convinced Scottish football is worse than it really is.

    Changes that are needed? We need to adapt to wider social change, and the solution is not a Scottish one, but a European one. The USA is a society you can look at to see how Europe for many things will be in the future. Its size is comparable to Europe's, and it doesn't have the national-international (which for it would be state-national) tension you get in Europe. It costs the average person in the 21st century a lower proportion of their salary, and takes about the same amount of their time, to travel from Glasgow to Berlin as for someone in the early 20th to travel between Glasgow and Dundee. If you were setting up a football structure for 21st century Europe, where the city/conurbation is the unit, you'd set up like in the USA. You'd have parallel non-competing national and pan-European structures. We'd have a national Scottish league system incorporating junior levels (we're small enough today for this), while a team from Glasgow and probably one from Edinburgh would compete in a Europe-wide league system like the NFL (if the league system had more teams, perhaps Aberdeen and Dundee could have a team too). European league games on Sunday, national ones on Saturday. This, or something close, will come eventually. At the moment, Rangers and Celtic, and Anderlecht, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Prague, Porto, and Ajax, are caught in a structural anachronism. Milan, Madrid, Manchester, Arsenal, and so on, are caught in it too, but for them it is less concerning because their league/country size ratio is more favorable.

    Restoring and maintaining competitiveness is however a different issue. In the NFL, the lower you achieve in any given season the better your choice of recruits in the following season. For us, a similar goal could be attained by curbing transfer fees, but we can't do this because making national clubs more competitive with each other makes them all less competitive with foreign clubs that don't do that. You could however do it is a Europe-wide league.

    For Scotland as things stand at the moment, the best thing to restore competitiveness amongst ourselves without damaging our teams' ability in Europe would be to have SPL play-off league. The league has sixteen teams. The top eight break off, and play seven more games against each other. The points tally is wiped clean, but the team that finishes top plays all their remaining games at home, the team second plays all their remaining games except against top at home, as so on, until the eighth placed team plays no games at home. This system gives all teams an incentive for the first 30 games, while the Old Firm have less time to stack their economic advantage in favour of winning the title. Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen, have more chance of winning the league. This is important, because for Hearts and Hibs, they do actually have the geo-demographic potential to compete with the Old Firm (like PSV with Ajax), they just need some success to realise their true fan-base.

    Alternatively, to make it more competitive, 16 teams play 30 league games. The top eight go into a cup-style single-elimination tournament, drawn by seeding teams according to league position. The winner of the final wins the league. This is actually how the winner of Europe's greatest prize, the Champions League, is determined. How exciting would that be? Won't happen of course, but it would restore some competitively.

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  • 60. At 12:33pm on 17 May 2009, Zootmac wrote:

    57 and 58:

    "You're" and "your" are different words.

    "Your blogs"... " All your radio colleagues...".

    An apostrophe cannot be righted when it shouldn't be there in the first place.

    "- remember" should be followed by a question mark.

    Kyle Lafferty is an amoral, risible embarrassment. He should be an MP.

    That's about it, really.

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  • 61. At 2:34pm on 18 May 2009, U13967209 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 62. At 4:23pm on 18 May 2009, Zootmac wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

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