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SPL must seize the mood for expansion

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Jim Spence | 19:23 UK time, Friday, 5 March 2010

The only thing that's clear about any change to the current Scottish Premier League structure is how unclear is the attempt to get a consensus among the clubs.

Rangers boss Walter Smith favours an 18-club league, while St Johnstone chairman Geoff Brown wants an SPL one and two. And others want all sorts of permutations in between.

Since my colleague, Chris McLaughlin, broke the story that SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster was mooting change, I've spent a chunk of my week talking to the league's movers and shakers.

There is definitely a mood for change and at least one of our two biggest clubs are in tune with that mood music.

They've recognised that simply looking after their own affairs will no longer do, that they owe a duty to the wider game.

It's a belated but welcome acceptance of the fact that, if Scottish football gets any sicker, and it is no exaggeration to suggest that it is very ill, then the biggest clubs in the land will contract the disease too - and it may prove fatal.

There is no ideal solution to how we organise our football, but we need more full-time clubs getting the chance to play in the top league.


Otherwise, one by one, they will first go part time and then perhaps just go altogether. And it could be your club next.

Relegation from the SPL is financial Armageddon, as St Johnstone's Brown described it.

In the financial climate facing clubs, there is no future in the current set up.

Fans are fed up playing each other too often and even Old Firm visits no longer see the house-full signs go up.

No-one will tell me that clubs like Dundee, Dunfermline, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Partick Thistle and Morton do not have as much potential as the bottom half of the SPL.

But, with these clubs not getting visits from the Old Firm, Hibs, Hearts and Aberdeen, it is only a matter of time before some succumb to the unequal struggle - and then watch the dominoes fall.

A bigger league, be it 16 or 18, is needed urgently.

Things like a regional sectional league cup, a regionalisation of the lower leagues and the possibility of four Scottish teams playing in an Atlantic League could make up any cash shortfall.

And don't laugh at the Atlantic League bit.

With one Champions League place lost, at least one half of the Old Firm has recognised that the later stages of that tournament are now exclusively for the uber-rich.

That excludes them, but it also excludes the Ajax's, the Benfica's and the Rosenborg's, who may be prepared to look afresh at a new competition featuring the best from outwith Europe's giant footballing nations.

One thing's for sure, whatever the change, it's needed soon and the sooner the better.


  • Comment number 1.

    Bit of a short Blog, but you've hit the nail on the head with that Spence. We need change in Scotland, no doubt about it. Celtic & Rangers are at their worst for years, funnily enough, it's got worse since Setanta collapsed and TV revenue went down. I blame the SPL for their greed in holding out for more money when they negotiated the TV deal. Scottish football was already on a decline, but to demand MORE money, ludicrous!

    Hopefully we'll see an 18-team SPL, 34 League games a year, making each OF Match much more important, and more of a special occasion. It's daft we can end up meeting Rangers 6 times a Season!

    Here's to the SPL, SFA & SFL coming together and using their heeds rather than thinking with their wallets!

    Good stuff Spence, keep it comin' . . .

  • Comment number 2.

    jim spence
    i don't want to be the bearer of bad news but to say that scottish football is a wee tad ill maybe underestimating it .. i would say it's in the hospice and the arrangements are being made and the ''kick the bucket, big fat cheque'' policy just seems to be too handy as you speak . creamation or burial , for the latter could i point to a few hole's around fir park , i doubt anybody would notice because the holes are that big .
    collectively though i hope all the clubs can get sort it with the powers that be , as a nation we seem to pull together when the chips are down and hopefully the line is drawn in the sand .. that wasn't a dig at motherwell by the way .. i will say well done to old jack and victor at fir park , they're doing a great wee job .
    hopefully scottish football can resurrect itself and claw it's way back to the top .
    just to finish , well done craig levein and the whole scottish team , great result on wednesday , when players give their all for the jersey it gives everybody a lift, we do have good international players , everybody excepts that we can't win everything but we have to give ourselves the best possible chance to win .. banning the booze should have happened two decades ago and is a small step in the right direction , drink has no part in football and it was just sad in this day that professional footballers think they can drink and play football at the very highest level .. if some of our footballers had a better attitude there is no reason we couldn't win a european championship, denmark managed it 18 years ago .
    roll on the weekend and sportsound .. open all mic's , the banter and the ooo's and the aaaa's , that be you jim ..... love it .

  • Comment number 3.

    18 team league sounds good to me. would be cool to see the old firm goin to firhill and vice versa but dundee n united would be a gd fixture too among others. your right too, all those teams from division one you mentioned are as good as falkirk, st mirren, kilmarnock etc

  • Comment number 4.

    Its great that they are thinking about this and its out in the open finally. Scottish football has been on a slippery slope for the best part of 15 years now and a change has been required for far too long, so its better late than never I suppose. Ok lets change the league set-up but also let Scottish football go further and cure a lot of the ills in the game.

    1) Training has to be totally overhauled, this strength v ability thing has to be ripped apart. For some reason coaches knock skill and flair out of youngsters in favour of bulking them up.

    2) We then have to look at the amount of youth players making it into the game after the age of 17-18, Why is there such an alarming drop-off of the numbers that make the grade??

    3)Indoor/all weather facilities. There is far too few facilities for people to train in. The weather is bad to say the least and the majority of grounds are waterlogged or used as shooting galleries. More facilities are needed and they have to be secure and safe for people to use.

    4) Governing bodies - Scotland aint the size of America, Russia, Canada etc so why the heck do we need so many governing bodies?? Oh thats right they all want whats best for their wallets and not whats best for the future of the game. Get one body where by it is focused on the game and its development than what jumkets they can go on and serving the over inflated egos of people who cant see the woods for the trees.

    the list can go on and on but getting back to the league changes, 18 teams is perfect for a top league and would get away from the repetitive game we are stuck in now. I firmly believe that some clubs have to be amalgamated so 1 league below the top division with say 14 teams. i believe in it because Scotland doesnt have the population to support these teams and far too many of them dont contribute that much to the bigger picture of the Scottish game. Yes it would a right knock to the die-hard local fans of these clubs but some sacrife might be better for things in the long run.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    Of course your right Spencey about the clubs in the lower part of the SPL and upper part of Div 1; you could also make the same comparison regarding many of Scotlands 'big' Junior clubs and clubs in Divisions 2 and 3; however, what cannot be avoided is that a country of Scotland's size simply cannot sustain the amount of 'professional' football clubs that it currently has. I'm not sure about an 18-team SPL being part of the answer (didn't we have something like that before, which didn't work?) but the game is Scotland is in need of a radical re-think and I'm just not sure that the huge amount of understandable 'self-interest' at the top of the current food chain can lead to reasoned decision-making for the good of ALL Scottish profesional football.

  • Comment number 7.

    Good blog again, Spencey.....can you imagine if Chico had been asked to comment on this. It would have been a mix of laboured metaphor, nostalgia for the days of third lanark, then right at the end, he might have went 'er... oh yeah, we need change.'

    The reason previously for resistance to change was the drop in revenue that not playing the Old Firm twice at home would have brought about. As you rightly point out, even the Old Firm can't guarantee a full house at these places, and in fact, even at home, they don't always get full attendances. Teams have stipped back so much now that it now looks more likely that they can now survive with the Old Firm visiting only once, and in fact are more likely to get a full house due to the novelty of it!

    The arguement for the introduction of the Premier League was to give more sustained competition, as Rangers or Celtic whipping some part-time side 6-0 every week wasn't good for out game. Unfortunately, and I say this as a Celtic Fan, that's no longer going to happen. Partly, it's because teams are full time and have become better organised, and partly because both Celtic and Rangers have regressed and teams stand a better chance of getting results against us. Whilst I don't like seeing my own team take a backwards step (especially this season), I do recognise that it's better for the Scottish game in general, and who knows, we may even see more teams try to play the sort of football that Hibs and Falkirk have played this season, knowing that one loss won't see them tumble straight into the relegation places......

  • Comment number 8.

    Let's have THREE divisions of 14 teams .. SPL, SFL 1 & 2.

    14 team SPL play each other twice (26 games) then the top 8 teams split and play each other twice more, to decide the SPL championship. (40 games, 20 home 20 away)

    SFL 1
    14 team SFL1 play each other twice (26 games) then the SFL1 top 4 teams split and join the SPL bottom 6 for a 10 team play-off for six promotion places to SPL.

    All teams drop to zero points and play each other twice (18 games) with the top 6 going into the SPL for the following season. (44 games, 22 home 22 away)

    * Four extra league games will help compensate the 10 teams financially.

    SFL 2
    14 team SFL2 play each other twice (26 games) to decide the SFL 2 champions.

    They are then joined by bottom 10 from SFL1 and the 24 teams play each other home & away in 4 groups of 6 teams (10 games) for ten promotion places.

    The top two teams in each group (eight) are promoted automatically to the SFL 1 next season.
    (36 games, 18 home 18 away)

    The four third place teams play each other for the two remaining promotion places.
    (add 2 games for each team)


    Look at it from the Cowdenbeath, Partick Thistle and Dundee points of view.

    'Beath would have a 50% chance to get promoted into SFL 1

    If Thistle get into SFL 1 top four after 26 games they would have a fair chance of getting one of the six promotion places into the SPL.

    If Dundee dropped out of the SPL top 8 after 26 games it's not the end of the world - they could secure one of six promotion place and go straight back up again.

    And the top 8 SPL teams have no fear of relegation.

    It could also fit perfectly into a Feb - Nov season with the Cup Final at the end of May and SPL Champions crowned at the end of November.

  • Comment number 9.

    Yes to reconstruction - watching SPL teams play each other possibly 4 times a season in the league is mogadon. But only if it meant reducing the overall number of league games (ideally 32) and introducing it alongside other measures such as starting the season earlier, a 'winter break' or summer footie, designed to give those sides competing in Europe a better chance.

    And a bigger yes to an Atlantic league - the more Scottish clubs play against European opposition the better the technical standards of players we will eventually produce.

  • Comment number 10.

    Here's what we need to do.
    Next season the Dutch are introducing a 3rd Division for amateur/junior teams but untill then there are only 2 professional divisions to play in.
    We should be following the example of the Dutch and have a 18 team Premier with a First and Second with 12 teams each. Playoffs for promotion from 2nd and possible 3rd place, and have it governed by one ruling body.
    Restructure the Cup formats and introduce a seeded Atlantic Cup instead of the Old Firm leaving Scottish Football. With the Dutch and Scandanavian teams it would produce more excitment than pre-season friendlies.

  • Comment number 11.


    It still results in 4 games against the same opponents, and that's part of the problem. It's very boring.
    I believe we have 18 teams strong enough to provide a decent league. The only problem is that relegation from the top division would be even more of a disaster than it is now. Perhaps teams might be better putting some clause in the contract of players that in the event of relegation, they get half their wages or less.

  • Comment number 12.

    There is more change needed in the top league than just a change to the number of teams in the league and the amount of times the teams play each other each season. Are fans going to come out in droves all of a sudden for Hamilton v Dunfermline when they don't turn out in big numbers for Hamilton v Dundee United at the moment. Competition in the top league has been hampered by the wrangles over money being settled in the old firm's favour. When gate receipts stopped getting split 50-50 and when most of the TV money went to the old firm the days of Aberdeen, Dundee United winning in the premier league (and doing well in Europe) came to an end and the days of teams like Hearts, St Mirren (check teh early 80s) putting in challenges for the title or splitting the old firm came to an end.

    No one has mentioned any schemes yet to get more fans through the gates when a lot ofthe stadiums at the minute are only at 3-50 capacity for most games, the price of watching football, the amount of money clubs spend on wages, or this year's late call-offs, TV coverage of Scottish football by BBC also differs markedly depending when its an EPL game, or the Championshiop and lower leagues down south still have more cameras and more technology deployed for highlights on the same days as the games compared with BBC Scotland's honking SPL coverage - most games shown 2 days later on TV and recorded on 2 or 3 cameras maximum and the most advanced it of technology used is a slow motion replay (sometimes wh even get it from the 2nd camera angle!).

    Income for clubs needs sorted out, better TV coverage needs sorted out, and the way fans are treated also needs sorted out too. Too many stewards at grounds are on fans back for leaping out a seat should anything exciting actually happen in an SPL game, but the same stewards are also slow to react to major flashpoints or deal with sectarian chanting etc.

  • Comment number 13.

    If you went to the Premier League and Football League down south and said, "Set up a league competition with Arsenal, Man City, Crystal Palace, Preston, Bradford, Swindon, Gillingham, Exeter, Colchester, Shrewsbury, Orient and Port Vale," they'd think you were utterly mad. But in terms of crowds and resources, that's a bit like trying to run a league with - for example - the Old Firm, Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen, Dundee Utd, Killie, Falkirk, Motherwell, St Johnstone, Dundee and St Mirren.
    The vast majority of Scottish clubs are tiny with the bottom two divisions attracting average gates of under 1,000 (more or less), a whole bunch more attract gates from just over 1,000 (Airdrie) to 5,000-odd (Killie, Falkirk).
    However you slice this, you're left with two mega-clubs, three 'big city' clubs in Scottish terms (Edinburgh x 2, Aberdeen), Dundee United and 'the rest'. In a country of 5 million, that's certainly no disgrace – and there is nothing wrong with having small community clubs in Montrose, Stranraer, Peterhead etc – but in terms of running a competitive top division it's next to impossible.
    England, with a much larger population, has around 48 senior sides who get crowds of over 10,000, and that makes for a more competitive top two divisions. Celtic get crowds more than ten times bigger than Killie but they are separated by only seven league places and Killie have to try and put out a side to compete meaningfully with Celtic three or four times a season. Manchester United (Premier) get around seven times more at the gate than MK Dons (League 1), but they're separated by 50 league places and an entire division.
    Whether we have 10, 12 or 18 sides in the SPL, this problem simply won't go away. Instead of tinkering with the league structure, trying to make it more like England/Spain/Italy/Germany, we perhaps should put our thinking caps on and try to make a virtue out of our quirkiness?

  • Comment number 14.

    The Scottish media's coverage of team's outwith the old firm also needs addressed. In an average week St Mirren get a mention in the printed press about 3 times a week - the day before a Saturday game, match reports of a game and if you are lucky 1 press conference /interview with Gus McPherson during the week. Very few players get interviewed. There has been almost no coverage of our club being up for sale or likely new owners since the day after SG announced we were for sale - compare with the coerage of Murray putting Rangers up for sale and profiles of David King etc and regular updates from Bain and Johnson on the status of teh Rangers sale.

    Refereeing standards and introducing video evidence during a match to reduce the number of wrong decisions which influence the outcome of a game. The appeals process is a joke, it is nice that Celtic and the media are now flagging this up... St Mirren and Will Haining got no support when Eddie Smith decided his original decision to send off Haining and award Celtic a penalty when JVH fell over and sclaffed his shot wide at Parkhead.

    How about introducing bonus points at the end of the year for the 3 top scoring teams in the league - which would reward entertaining teams like St Johnstone, or teams who have consistently brought through good young home-grown players (Hibs, Motherwell, Hamilton)?

  • Comment number 15.

    I believe most fans are in favour of expansion. The most important thing is generating more cash, and if that means going back on tradition then so be it. How do we generate more cash, seed the Scottish cup, So no SPL clubs meet until last 16 (if 16 club league) if 18 club league bottom 2 would be drawn with others. 16 SPL clubs join cup at last 64. At present a lower division side can get relatively easy ties, yet 2 premier league sides meet and with one going out it means less gate money for the club and potential opponents. Rangers meeting Celtic in first round involving SPL clubs, look at the money lost when one of these clubs knocked out. The home club have the right to ask away club to play tie at their ground. On agreement they accept 40% of receipts. 40% of receipts at Ibrox or Parkhead and other grounds is worth a lot more than 50% at Stranraer.

    Play offs the question what is played off for. Perhaps a place in Europe. Next season we are losing a place. So first Europa League place go to SPL runners up, second spot goes to third placed SPL and cup winners have final spot. So no play off, unless cup winners already qualified. Then have play offs involving beaten
    Scottish Cup Finalists, CIS cup winers. 4th and 5th in league. If CIS cup winners already qualified their place goes to 6th in SPL. Increasing the stature of CIS cup would make it more interesting for clubs and fans knowing winning it gives them a chance of Europe.

    Revamp CIS Cup, partly by going back to old system. 8 groups of 4, with 16 SPL clubs guaranteed to be in group stages, while other leagues go into knockout, the last 16 joining SPL clubs. The top 8 SPL clubs from previous season kept in separate groups, the next 8 in separate groups, the remainder go into any group. top 8 go through to knockout stage.

    If a man is convicted of a crime of which he is innocent, and he appeals he doesn't have his conviction examined by the same jurors, and same judge, yet when player is red carded it is same judge who decides. Four out of ten may say he was right, and 6 out of ten say he was wrong. Three club managers outside SPL should judge and make a majority decision on appeal. A team should not be reduced to 10 men when a player is red carded, he should be substituted. A player is red carded sent off after 20 minutes then misses next game too that is unfair. A player is red carded goes off after 20 minutes and is later found to be innocent. All cards are given in the opinion of referee. six SPL games can be played and there is no consistency whatsoever.

  • Comment number 16.


    I agree with your comments, the only way we can get round this is is to amalgamate, but if you ask fans of the two Dundee sides and St Johnstone to amalgamate they would say no. Same with Ayr United and Killie. Motherwell and Ayr United, amalgamate all the Fife clubs. Even if we ended up with one league of 18 tp 20 clubs it would be more interesting. It would cut down running costs , selling some of the grounds for redevelopment. Thus generating more cash. I know it would mean less players but clubs would be much better off.

  • Comment number 17.

    I don't know if it was the "Chick Young", but what a convoluted system he proposed. We don't need a system that no one understands, we need a bigger league with less games and no end of season split. We also need a radical think about such things as cost, seating/terraces, summer football and stewarding to be addressed properly. Amalagamation only works where there is agreement, it would be more constructive to look at ground share to free up revenue. Look how difficult the ICT saga proved with Caley and Thistle agreeing reluctantly but Clach walking away from the discussions.

  • Comment number 18.

    Sorry I don't agree at all. And I'll give you some facts to back up what I'm saying, rather than just an emotive opinion. History is often important when we wish to avoid repeating mistakes, and it's a good idea to look at history again on the subject of expansion of the top league.

    Scottish football was suffering from a similar malaise in the mid 70s, and the decision then was to reduce the size of the league to 10 teams. The result was that the top division became the most competitive it has ever been, with proper competition meaning that sides outside the Old Firm had a real chance of winning honours, which of course they did. Scottish teams also achieved excellent results in Europe, and the top half of the league all qualified for European competition.

    The expansion to 12 teams and the ludicrous end of season split is where the problems really began, coupled with the unfair split of TV money which has seen the OF getting an unjustifiable advantage that effectively means only they can seriously challenge for honours. England has an 18 team top division, but the population of England is 10 times greater than that of Scotland. Old Firm supporters aren't stupid. If their teams have to play the likes of Ross County or Brechin City (no offence meant to those clubs but...), you'll find they'll stop turning up, and the malaise will become terminal.

    The top flight in any country should be a stage for its best teams, not some kind of mechanism for sharing out the supporters' money. I'd ask everyone involved in the decision process to take a look at what happened in years gone by before repeating those mistakes. If they don't the current SPL offerings might look like the good old days in a few years time. What do you think Spencer?

  • Comment number 19.

    I'd also scrap the SPL as a body. What rules have they introduced which have made the top league better? I can't think of any! How many SPL games have been postponed this season despite all the clubs being required to have under-soil heating? How much have SPL (and 1st division) clubs spent on upgrading their grounds to SPL requirements? No one in the SPL exec seems to appreciate fans might not like being squashed into small seats and made to sit down in winter games. Scrapping the reserve league looks like a bad move, the U-21 rule hasn't aided the development of U-21 players at many SPL clubs.

    There are about 20 changes to the top league that need to be considered if they want to see the top clubs recover financially, and be an exciting and attractive and competitive league again... adding a few more so-so teams will not automatically make the league more exciting or attractive!

  • Comment number 20.

    I absolutely agree something needs to be done. For a start, scrap the league cup. I would also change the scottish cup so games are in midweek and finished on the night, so no replays giving the league more exposure, i would also change kick off times at the weekend so we are not competing with the premiership in england. Make the kick off time Sunday at 2.00 and have the live game on a saturday at 4.00. But Walter Smith is right it has to be an 18 team league to create a bit more interest as the current format is dull and repetitive.

  • Comment number 21.

    Three leagues if 18 teams sounds all right to me. I can't stand this idea of splitting up the table after so many games.

    It'll involve getting a few new teams in from outside the present leagues and as Chris Jardine will say, there's a few candidates out there who are equal or better than Annan Athletic playing in the wilderness and could hold their own against the teams in the lower leagues.

    I'd also have promotion to and relegation from the basement division to give teams an incentive to play rather than bumble about, propping up the league year on year knowing they only have to finish better than bottom once every couple of years to avoid being booted out in favour of inviting another team in to take their place as per the present set up.

    Works a treat in England, look how competitive the Blue Square premier is these days.

  • Comment number 22.

    Jim ……

    Good Blog Jim, but just look at the responses – even better.

    There is shortage of good ideas around and there isn’t any point in me repeating what others have said but when you are talking to the “movers” and “shakers” Jim, you might want to point out to them not to confuse Change with reorganisation.

    What has been proposed, so far is simply reorganisation which without real change we will end up with more ore less the same teams, same players and managers, same failing trend in attendance levels, the same Board Room thinking and the same representation at the top level.

    Top of the list of change is the scrapping of the present Governing Body set up. If we have to have an SPL why can’t it exist within the overall SFA structure as a business unit. Absolutely no reason at all. And, just think of the cost savings from shared synergies.

    Secondly we need to get people back on the terraces. I recently spoke with Arbroath FC on what they are trying to do and have to commend them on their efforts to get youngsters to come along to Gayfield. It was no surprise however to discover that an appeal to all schools in Arbroath to take up an offer of ground visits failed to generate any real response which was dissapointing to say the least.

    This is hardly surprising given the SFA’s failed strategy for Developing Youngsters. Neil MacKintosh at the SFA told me that they hadn’t even considered match attendance as part of their developing Talent Plan either as a coaching/learning aide or for strengthening the social links between clubs. All we can hope to achieve in the future is more talented youngsters, the cream of which will be snapped up by the Premiership.

    We are completely failing to strengthen the community ties that forms the healthy nucleus of supporters at each club but to solve this problem, clubs cannot be expected to shoulder this burden. It requires closer links between schools and senior clubs based on jointly agreed aims between the Governing Bodies and Educational Authorities so that teachers have an incentive to be more participative.

    The SFA are lobbying the Scottish Government and Sport Scotland for more funding to build more Tory Glens. All well and good but they have taken their eye off the ball again.

    Chic Young ……

    Sorry, but I disagree with your proposed structure. Too complicated, too many games and as you pointed out it needs 4 extra matches to help financially.

    For me the only sums that add up is an 18 team SPL. How did you work out your figures?

    Final point Jim. As ally9 pointed out, and I think Chic Young agrees with this, the situation is far worse that people are prepared to admit. I think your suggestion that clubs will go part time before going out of existence is unrealistic.

    Clubs are on the verge of total collapse. When they go, they will go completely. No Receiver would countenance the increased risk of less income as a part time club if that risk could not be covered. I think the loss of 6 to 8 clubs is on the cards and the only way to allow this to go ahead without affecting the top flight is and 18 team SPL.

  • Comment number 23.


    Why would we want the SPL as a unit in the SFA? The latter have failed to do much of anything they set out to do in terms of either reorganisation or change in the Scottish game over the past two decades or so. Its also a structure that tends to be dominated by the chairmen and officers of the smaller clubs. A return to the days of a career adminstrator on an ego-trip like Jim Farry, handing out stupid punishments to players he was at war with (i.e. Duncan Ferguson) or being forced to resign because of his less than honest approach (i.e. the cadette transfer), no thanks.

    Agree that you have to reduce the overall number of games but a 16 team top league would be better for this to bring it down to 32 a season. There are too many pro teams in Scotland anyway many just treading water. If 6 to 8 go to the wall then they go. Change may force amalgamation between clubs and bringing the big junior sides into the national picture may address the need for fresh blood at the bottom end.

  • Comment number 24.

    If you looking for expansion, I's expect the following format: a 16 team SPL, giving 30 games with a winter break. An 'SPL Cup' with a group stage (4 groups of 4 teams) to bring the game count to 39 with a run to the final. A rule that if the Scottish Cup winner is already in Europe that the Scot Cup runner-up and the SPL Cup winner/runner-up have a play-off match opening the following season for the Europa League place - a bit like the Community Shield in England. And start the league at the end of July.

    However. As has been pointed out, Scotland just does not have the population of economy to support the ambitions of clubs the size of Celtic and Rangers. In my opinion, the only way this could be bridged is to expand the league BEYOND Scotland - to have a Celtic League (pardon the name).

    Imagine a league with the following clubs:

    Dundee United
    St Mirren
    Dublin United (Merged 'super club' to play at Aviva Stadium)
    Derry City
    Cork City (FORAS)

    After a number of years, surely the combined economies and potential supporter bases would lead to a competitive, and more importantly quality league.

  • Comment number 25.

    League re-construction would be welcomed by most I feel, but the worry is over how to size the new Premier League. Whilst 18 neatly fits the European model and would give all 34 league games, the danger is that outside of 5 or 6 clubs at the top (only need to look at the current SPL to see the GAP which has emerged), and a couple locked in relegation battle, too many games (towards the latter part of the season) would to all intents and purposes be meaningless. No European places and no relegation, lets be fair fan will not flock to see the matches outwith that.
    So we must find a way to encourage AS MANY meaningful matches as possible for as long as possible. To that end a 14 team top league (playing each other twice). Top 10 split and play once more (would mean 35 matches and allow all these sides to compete for European places, even more important now the runner-up in the cup fiasco getting a place is ended). The bottom four then play the top 4 in the 1st division, with 2 places up for grabs (up to 7 more meaningful games). maybe find a way to throw in a grand final and we would get more juices flowing. Like it or loathe it the English play-of systems generates big crowds and revenues for each participant.
    lets face it we need Sky and ESPN (and add BBC/STV) to be interested enough to stump up more money for our fare, so lets find a way to keep things going as long as possible

  • Comment number 26.

    The above may sound like a feasible version of the Magners Celtic League (for rugby), but the implications for European slots would mean most of the Welsh/Irish sides would not be interested. As all 4 'Celtic'sides Leagues currently get entrants into the Champions League (remember Ni as well!), that would not be the case in a new league. We'd be lucky to get more than was available to Scotland now. Romantic Idea, but unfeasible (unless you wanted a one off 'Celtic' cup to try act as a revenue generator)

  • Comment number 27.

    Rob04 - Why?

    For precisely the reasons you've outlined. You are quite right about the past failings and the effect of the lower clubs but SPL clubs need a more direct voice within the SFA. They need far better representation and opportunity to influence the decisions that affect them.

    It's time to drive a coach and horses through the layers of administration and committees. This is what I mean about real change. Something radical.

    I think the SFA are turning a corner in terms of what they are doing to address future needs but my fear is that it might turn out to be too little too late.

    Let's get ditch the blame culture for a start.

  • Comment number 28.

    re donpittodrie, SPL introduced to "increase competition" that's why the league has been won by teams outside the Old Firm 4 times (Aberdeen 3/Dundee Utd 1) the League Cup (11 times) and the Scottish Cup (10 times) in 35 years! Not what I call competition!
    re hard_to_beat, why not include Lorient, Nantes, Rennes, Guingamp, etc? But then again, what happens to the nations of the "Celtic League" when FIFA look at rankings, Scotland, Wales, N.I. and the Republic all disappear into obscurity as national entities if their teams appear in a unified league!
    Wake up and smell the coffee before hitting you keyboards.
    We need to get back to "real time" with competitive pricing, comfortable venues (both seated and terraced) and realistic expectations to get larger crowds at the stadia that we had in the 50s & 60s.

  • Comment number 29.

    26. At 12:37pm on 07 Mar 2010, macnaughten wrote:
    The above may sound like a feasible version of the Magners Celtic League (for rugby), but the implications for European slots would mean most of the Welsh/Irish sides would not be interested. As all 4 'Celtic'sides Leagues currently get entrants into the Champions League (remember Ni as well!), that would not be the case in a new league. We'd be lucky to get more than was available to Scotland now. Romantic Idea, but unfeasible (unless you wanted a one off 'Celtic' cup to try act as a revenue generator)


    Well, this is where things would get interesting. Firstly, UEFA DO allow regional leagues - the Austrians and Swiss talked about one some years back and UEFA said at the time they would allow such a thing.

    Also, how would it work co-efficient wise? I suspect that 2 Champions League places would be given, with one more EL place as well. Factor in that Cardiff and Swansea would probably be able after a few season get past the group stage of the EL and that would make things look very rosy.

    And the idea of a Dublin superclub is not to be sniffed at - Dublin must surely be the biggest city in Europe without a club in a league of some standing.

  • Comment number 30.

    3 points to Monty_dxb
    I have been banging on about the need for clubs to merge for years. Not just lower league clubs but even a few at the top. eg. Hamilton and Motherwell, Dundee and Dundee Utd. Before they go into administration and lose all their assets and 40+ players and staff lose their jobs, better to save at least half that number and sell one ground to provide additional funds. If Milan/Inter or Roma/Lazio can share the same ground then why not our league? History is history and therefore old names will never die but surely it's better to support Motherwell Accademicals than have neither to support. Combine the crowds, cut costs, increase profitability and maybe, just maybe, challenge the OF for a place at the top of the league.

  • Comment number 31.

    1974 - The top league of 18 is too boring and has too many meaningless games. We have to change to a top league of ten or Scottish football will die!!

    1998 - The top clubs need to break away from the others. We need to have everyone with a 10,000 seat stadium or Scottish football will die!!

    2003 - The requirement for a 10,000 seat stadium is ridiculous. We need to change it or Scottish football will die!!

    2010 - The top league of 12 is too boring and has too many meaningless games. We have to move to a top league of 18 or Scottish football will die!!

    Sorry while those of us who support teams in the lower half of Scottish football laugh out loud at all of this. The so-called top clubs have been kidding themselves on for years and several have ended up in administration for their vanity. For example what is Kilmarnock's average home gate? and what is their debt? and what possible strategy is there for them to trade out of that debt?

    Sorry to single out Killie I could have named any one of ten clubs in the top two divisions.

    Aye we need to go back to 18 teams and have automatic promotion/relegation for the top/bottom two and play-offs between the 15th and 16th and third and fourth teams. No criterea other than your ground has a safety certificate and your team is good enough and no more than 50% of turnover to be spent on wages.

  • Comment number 32.

    Rob04 - Why?

    For precisely the reasons you've outlined. You are quite right about the past failings and the effect of the lower clubs but SPL clubs need a more direct voice within the SFA. They need far better representation and opportunity to influence the decisions that affect them.
    Like you Iain I would favour an approach based on change and not simple reorganisation but I'm just not convinced that the SFA in its present (and certainly only very rarely in its previous) format is up to the job. Smith is a breath of fresh air for them I must admit but I would just hate to see a return to the 'tail wags dog' days of before and the small club chairmen (and their voting) determining the direction of the bigger clubs. Not sure you would even get clubs like Hibs or Hearts wanting that never mind the OF. There are surely other ways of getting better representation for the bigger clubs without a return to that scenario, which I don't believe the bigger clubs would want anyway.

    On the other posts:

    Liked the idea of a 'Celtic' league but not sure it is practical. Scottish clubs would be better taking an Atlantic league route I think but a 'Celtic' cup would be very interesting and you could replace the League Cup which is as dull as dishwater.

  • Comment number 33.

    The poster who reflected on the success of the 10 team SPL had a point which sadly didn't get the examination it deserved. I agree with most of the analysis of Scotland's problems - population, weather, over administration, too many community clubs posing as professionals etc etc. I would propose recognition of the facts of how the (dwindling) support is, and generally always has been, distributed, and therefore stop trying to reconcile the big clubs with the smaller town and community clubs. What do I suggest? You could say more tinkering! :

    Take the top six out of the Scottish league and negotiate their participation in the English Championship (not easy to do but not impossible). Have one body reorganise the remainder in Scotland, allowing participation from the other "senior" leagues and the juniors on a pyramid basis, probably regionally beneath the top division. If that means part-time then so be it - that will probably happen anyway as things are. Clubs and their small loyal supports will have to decide whether amalgamations will be of help to them and their league. Maybe this league could run with a big winter break finishing in August. The Scottish league champions to play off against the lowest ranking of the six in the English Championship for possible promotion - it should be optional for the champions.

    The points made earlier about community clubs engaging their communities and their schools is spot on, as is the improvement required in media coverage, especially TV, of the wider spread of clubs. Perhaps when the OF get regularly duffed up by Doncaster Rovers, QPR and Leicester City the Scottish media will start to get a more balanced perspective.

    The highest placed of the blessed six could be the Scottish qualifiers for Europe - maybe UEFA and the successor to the SFA/SFL/SPL would want that club to play off for Europe with the Scottish League champions. The six would be eligible for promotion and relegation within the English league and a Club promoted to Premiershipwould have to play off against the highest placed of the 5 for the right to play off against the Scottish league champions. If two were in Premiership then the higher should still have to play the top one of the four others to qualify for the playoff with the SL Champions.

    In some quarters in England there is the opinion that seeking promotion to the Premiership is a waste of time - you struggle, have to pay over inflated wages and gain no long term benefit from the apparently lucrative sky money, and your team has for most games to put 9 men behind the ball and still struggle - entertainment value next to zero. And you'll be relegated if not immediately then within the next couple of years. That's why I suggest the SL Champions should have the option to refuse promotion if they win the play-off if they think that the Championship would push them into the same situation - one would hope that they would take up the challenge,

    It ain't simple, it ain't perfect and it still leaves a huge financial and support challenge to the remainder Scottish clubs - but it probably gives the top clubs better competition and finances, and creates a more interesting and competitive Scottish League. And it's new and different!

  • Comment number 34.

    The expansion to 12 teams and the ludicrous end of season split is where the problems really began, coupled with the unfair split of TV money which has seen the OF getting an unjustifiable advantage that effectively means only they can seriously challenge for honours.
    The 10 team set up coincided with the rise of Alex Ferguson and Jim McClean and for a brief (very) period the OF domination was stalled only for this to re-surface again with or without the 12 team league. The OF have capured the bulk of honours in the past century never mind since the SPL was set up.

    I'm not sure the OF TV share is as unjustifiable as you think: they provide the vast, vast and overwhelming majority of the fans who attend matches, and attract a UK and international audience for Scottish football. Really what do you think the TV audience would be for matches not involving the OF? The TV companies generally only show the Edinburgh derby. So you can justify their share quite comfortably.

  • Comment number 35.


    I think I see the concern you have when you talk of a return to the previous regime.

    What I am suggesting is an autonomus SPL business unit but within the overall framework of the SFA whose Chief Exec would also be on the SFA senior management team. It's no different to commercial models in countless businesses.

    But I think you are right when you say that the present SFA isn't up to it. Gordon Smith has changed people's view of the SFA but it is minimal. He lacks the business experience to carve up the present structure and if my correspondence with him has been anything to go by, I don't really see him taking the Bull by the Horns. He gets far too involved with day to day issues like the Scott Brown red card issue when he should be concentrating on more important matters.

    I hope I am wrong because we have to get away from this constant search for a footballing solution to what is a people management problem. No matter how community minded the clubs are, they are really not up to it and need support from the top in order to re-develop their fan base.

    #12 is right to be concerned. Nobody is addressing this. Scottish football, right accross the divisions have their heads in the sand if they think that somehow the fans will come flocking back. They won't unless there is a concerted campaign to get them back.

  • Comment number 36.

    I would love to see a pyramid system imposed. I follow the Scottish Highland League and for anyone who hasn't taken the time to have a look at it, it is very competitive and enjoyable for all teams. however, with no promotion and relegation, a pyramid system would be such an added bonus

  • Comment number 37.

    the thought of six Scottish teams been allowed into the English league is the best football related joke I've heard for a while,our leagues are doing fine thank you very much without any interference from north of the border.
    the problem with scottish football has always been the same,rangers & celtic,while ever the rest of the attendences in the league dont add upto 1/2 the crowd either of these two giants get then its impossible for other clubs to compete on a regular only have to look at the pityfull crowds hearts & hibs attract,hibs might put on a show this season but but then rangers or celtic will take a couple of players and you are back to square one.

  • Comment number 38.

    The thought of six Scottish teams been allowed into the English league is the best football related joke I've heard for a while,our leagues are doing fine thank you very much without any interference from north of the border.
    I'm not sure there really is any great serious desire for Scottish teams to want to play in England's leagues anyway. An Atlantic league would offer a better format for our teams because its offers better technical standards, and I think that would be a better long-term approach for clubs here. Btw: you mention the OF but the EPL is dominated by just four clubs, and you can't see that changing anytime soon.

    But English football doing fine? I think that you have enough problems of your own to deal with: a game run by TV companies and their cash; the mountains of accumulated club debt which already dwarf all the rest of European football put together; the ever diminishing role of English managers and players in the EPL; the trend towards your top clubs being foreign-owned, and the problems created by carpetbaggers at Portsmouth, Liverpool who can spend £300m and still not win a trophy, or the Glazers at Man Utd who can buy a club on tic and use the profits to pay the debt (on that model I could buy Liverpool if only the bank could lend me it!). No thanks to any of it honestly.

  • Comment number 39.

    Hi Jim, I thought there was 2 football games in Scotland today, But all we get is the same old story, Robbie Keane, Well for me, all I can say is I dont care about Robbie Keane. A wee bit more about the East Coast football would be nice. Dundee United v Hearts was played today, United went back into 3rd place and there is not one picture about that. Come on Jim, Tell your boss a wee bit more about the other teams would be nice........ Cheers. Bob Mcartney, Dundee......

  • Comment number 40.

    Where it is evident to all that scots football does need a radical overhaul I don't see expansion to 16/18 as the answer - there are actually too Many professional clubs for the population of the country England has approx 10X the population of Scotland but just over double the teams in the league(and many say 92 is too many for the population down here, and there are plenty of teams that struggle)so an average scots clubs can only attract 20% market share of what an English club can and that's before you consider the global appeal that the EPL has

    so instead of mirorring the English model of a prem league and 3 lower divisions - the second tier in scots footy should be the equivelent of the conference and the highland, junior leagues should be integrated into a proper pyramid system

    and if it meant mergers to some of the other clubs then bite the bullet, pool resources and fanbases and who knows a superclub could knock the OF off the top one day

  • Comment number 41.

    Was there a secret ingredient in the 1950s when Hibs, Aberdeen, Hearts and Killie totalled more league titles than the OF?

  • Comment number 42.

    I wrote a blog about the state of Scottish football, including this topic back in November. I've copied the relevant parts of that below.

    (Oh and if you want to read some more, here's the link to the pieces I've written...

    But there are other issues we should consider here. This should be the time we bang the heads of the SFA, the SPL and the SFL together. Why are there three governing bodies anyway? And why do they not work together? Indeed, the SPL did the SFA no favours with its fixture list, with a game coming just before an international qualifier earlier in the season. Surely the priority here should be Scotland qualifying for a major tournament, so every aid should be given to this end.

    As a result, it is time to strip the three bodies down and ensure they are all pulling in the same direction.

    Then there is the league structure. Quite simply, with a total of 42 teams, having 4 divisions makes no sense at all, and it is further compounded by the lack of a pyramid structure. I’ll start with the SPL.

    It is now time to end the experiment of 12 teams, and that’s before I even start on the ’split’. Instead, I think we should expand the league up to 16 teams, playing each other twice with two relegation spots. I think it is noticeable that the intensity of Scottish derby matches has slipped over the last few years. One of the reasons I’d suggest for this is that the games are now so regular that they are no longer special. Indeed, even the Old Firm derby has lost it’s edge. The same would happen in England if Liverpool and Manchester United had to play each other at least 4 times a year too.

    This would once again make every match an event, and would also allow for a winter break as there would only be 30 matches a season. Not only this, but the debacle Rangers suffered when they were going for the UEFA Cup would never be repeated. On top of this, the new Scotland manager would be able to call more training sessions with his players as they’d have less matches to play.

    I’d also suggest this would increase both attendances and TV interest as matches would be rarer. Indeed, a friend of mine doesn’t mind missing Old Firm matches quite simply because ‘there’s another one in a few weeks’, and there will be many others who feel the same way. At the other end of the scale, having two relegation spots will boost interest as clubs fight to survive. After all, now if the bottom club get marooned by Christmas, the bottom of the table becomes irrelevant. Having two clubs go down at least promotes interest.

    That then leaves us with the football league, and the 26 other teams. Now I’m not going to pretend I have the perfect solution here, but at least one of the divisions needs to be clipped. I’d probably suggest another league of 16 and a third division of 10, but then also open a relegation spot in the third division to allow the Junior sides entry into the league.

    Then of course there are the lack of youth academies in the country. I think it is time for the SFA to build regional football academies, much like the one currently being built in Burton by the English Football Association. Whether these are built without affiliation to clubs is open to debate, but without these academies there is little chance of further progression for the Scotland team.

    I think we all want to see Scotland qualifying for tournaments again, but we need to demand action from the powers-that-be.

    Following these changes at least provides Scotland with a fighting chance, and really that’s all we ask for.

    Viva La Revolution!

  • Comment number 43.

    #42 - if you want a revolution you need to get involved and get active.

    Doesn't really matter how as long as you do something. might give you a few pointers.

    It always seems that when we Scots have to fight a few battles we rise to the occasion but when we have to fight a war we are hopless because we end up battling with one another.

    Jim - not getting at you personally here but the BBC could do a lot more to promote change in Scottish football starting with better coverage.

    If it is not too much of a Rugby pun, I hope you media lot don't drop the ball on this one. Pressure has to be kept up on the SFA and SPL. What, when and where are talks taking place? Who will be attending. How will the decisions be taken? Who can fans lobby? How can some of the great ideas that this bolg has unearthed, find their way onto the change agenda?

    This one has to made to run and run, otherwise the promise of talks and change will simply evapourate.

    I just have the feeling that we have heard it all before. Hot air and promises from the SPL with the SFA in abstention and the SFL forming a defensive wall.

  • Comment number 44.

    We all want change well nearly all.But lets face it is it ever going to hapen to meny pepole in scotish football only think of there self and to hell with the rest.If the powers at be dont get itchanged soon under one body then the fans should sart or continue tovote with there feet.We need to start the season alot earlyer than we do to help out with euro football bring back winter break play each team home and away once, there should only be 2 pro leages with the rest going reganal.the leages should be 16 teams in each.

  • Comment number 45.

    One thing about the current SPL set-up I always thought was very dull and offers no competitiveness to the game is the fact right now only 1 team gets relegated per year. That alone needs changing (especially when you have smaller leagues lower down with MORE teams getting promoted and relegated each year aswell.

    I think increasing the SPL team membership would be a great idea and increase competition lower down. There would be more to play for in the league directly below the SPL (increased chance of promotion) and there would be more unpredictability with the fact teams would play each other twice instead of up to four/five times.

    One question though....what would happen to the leagues below? Do you move 6 teams from Div.1 into the SPL and split the rest of Scottish division 1, and all of Div. 2 and 3 into two leagues, so the four leagues in total become 3?

  • Comment number 46.

    I've got an idea - how about we just accept that we're a small nation, and accept that our football will be on a par with Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland etc. Once we actually accept our place in world football, and not worry about comparing our league to down south or wherever, then we'd be in a better position to move forward, and not see even modestly sized clubs bankrupt themselves trying to attain some goal that was always impossible in the first place?

    Let's not kid ourselves - we talk about encouraging crowds to come back, and hope to achieve attendances like we did in the 50's. That's never going to happen. Society has changed so much that it never could. Why would someone spend £10 - £15 to go and watch substandard football in the first division, when they can stay at home and watch quality football on the saturated coverage on SKY or ESPN? What incentive is there to actually go along and watch their local team, other than 'You should'?

    Fergus McCann got this right when, in reference to the small clubs, he asked 'What do you actually contribute?'. He was blasted for this in the press, but he has a point. A lot clubs seem to exist for existence sake, and nothing else. They don't actually contribute anything to their local community, nevermind Scottish football in general.

    The question is how do you change this, how can you cut through the malaise in society for football, or even the desire to get off their couches to goto football? The only think I can think of is to give away free tickets, and hopefully make up the shortfall in the snackbars etc. in the grounds. At least you'd get some punters through the door, give the grounds some atmosphere, and at least plant the idea that a football ground on a saturday afternoon is an enjoyable place to be, but that's about all I can suggest.

    While I can't offer any answers, I would advise that a visit to the lower reaches of the English league would be a good starting point, to try and work out how Gillingham, say, can be so consistently useless but still have hardcore following or 4 - 5000 a week.

  • Comment number 47.

    Jim - I recently posted this suggestion on one or 2 sites as an attempt to awaken interest. My e- mail to Sportsound received no mention. As a regular listener to "Open all Mics" and a defender of your goodself to fellow Dee fans who suspect you of suffering from "Tangerenitis" I would ask you to comment on my somewhat drastic proposal.


    2009 - 2010

    PREMIER LEAGUE No relegation this season

    DIVISION ONE Top Four Clubs promoted
    Next 6 Clubs remain

    DIVISION TWO All Ten Teams Join with 6 Clubs from Division 1
    to make 16 Team League as Scottish Championship.

    DIVISION THREE 10 Team League remains.

    NB. If desired Promotion and relegation could be continued this season between Divisions 2 & 3

    2010 - 2011

    SCOTTISH PREMIER LEAGUE 16 Teams playing H & A fixtures

    SCOTTISH CHAMPIONSHIP 16 Teams playing H & A fixtures

    SCOTTISH DIVISION ONE 10 Teams playing 2H & 2A fixtures as at present.

    Promotion & Relegation between all Leagues 2 up & 2 down.

    Above prognosis would hopefully improve the standard of our product. However it is highly debateable that the powers that
    be would have the “cochones” to implement the changes with immediate effect.

    Ray Stern - ( OAP who cares about our game.)

  • Comment number 48.

    I just can't see how increasing the league to 16 teams is going to solve anything.

    Playing 4 games against Hibs, Hearts, Aberdeen and the Old Firm doesn't bother me. Its the games against the St Mirrens, Hamiltons and Kilmarnocks that depress me. If you reduce the games against the big teams to 2 each and exchange them with teams like Queen of the South, Dunfermline and Partick, etc, then we really do have a problem.

    A game I like to play when watching BBC's post match reports is to count the number of SPL reports that include the journalist saying things like "a dour game" or "this really was a match lacking in quality".

    Im sure SKY and ESPN would love to see more boring matches in front of empty stadiums.

  • Comment number 49.

    Cloud cuckoo land.
    It'd be lovely to have an 18-team top league, and it will make no real financial difference to the Old Firm, however, spreading the media rights money between 18 clubs rather than 12, advertisers/sponsors of clubs outwith the OF getting tv exposure twice per season, rather than four times, fewer OF visits, many, many, many meaningless games, will not mean that first division clubs will go part-time, it means that SPL CLUBS will be forced down that line.

    Remember the financial wisdom of Partick Thistle paying no more than £500 per week in wages per player? Well that'll be top end outside Glasgow and perhaps also Edinburgh if we go down that route.

    Utter stupidity and footballing suicide.
    Get a grip, man.

    Love, Therrawbuzzin.

  • Comment number 50.

    Worth pointing out that the first division games last week had better attendances than the Hamilton Aberdeen game. This is because in the first division is very competitive.

    Would the crowds be the same in an expanded SPL? We would be back to many meaningless games at this time of year. I am not so sure it would add the benefits claimed.

    However I do think the Champions league has lost its shine. Football is very boring when the same teams compete against each other and the same teams win. TV audiences will drop. The underdog occasionally winning is what makes football the worlds best game. Take that chance away and you devalue the product.

    The Scottish game needs better quality. How can good young players be honed on the pitches at Fir park or Falkirk? The weather in Scotland is suited to Summer football. We need to accept that and get on with it.

    We also need some kind of reserve league. We need second string football as part of young players development. Perhaps this could be in the lower leagues.

  • Comment number 51.

    well said Jim, I agree that there has to be change in our game before it's too late. A great many people say that an 18 team league didn't work before and therefore will not work now. In what way did it not work? During the 16/18 team spell, Rangers and Celtic both won European trophies, Dundee, Hibs Kilmarnock, and even Dunfermline had fairly succesful runs in Europe. Hibs, Kilmarnock, Hearts and Aberdeen all won the league at least once. Scotland produced world class players like Baxter, Bremner, Johnstone, Law and Dalgleish. We started to qualify for major international tournaments. Looks like it was working fine, as usual the money men were not getting enough, the change to a 10 team league was based soley on cash, it hasn't worked, we no longer produce the quality of player we used to, our teams are a joke in Europe and we can't get near an international tournament. I know which one i'd prefer.

  • Comment number 52.


    If you want to introduce a semblance of competition for the title in the SPL (whatever the numbers of teams involved) the only way that will happen is when or if the OF go and play in an Atlantic or European league. That way the other clubs can at least play for something other than a Europa league spot and the OF can go and get a better standard of regular competition.

  • Comment number 53.

    A good discussion. How about this is a solution.

    1. A national pyramid system which means one national body
    2. A top league of 16 teams giving 30 games per year
    3. Regional leagues below the top 16 (Scotland East, Scotland West, Scotland North) - would mean loads of local derbies in the lower leagues. Further regional divisions below i.e. Scotland East Division 1, Scotland East Division 2 etc)
    4. Clubs in the regional leagues are affiliated to clubs in the top 16 so young players with top 16 teams play in the regional leagues if they are learning their trade. (This would get rid of the need for reserve teams and raise standards in the regional leagues).
    5. Mini league of home and away play offs between the top teams in the regional leagues at the end of the season to see who goes up to top 16
    6. Bottom club in top league automatically goes into their regional league
    7. Scottish Cup to include all teams in national pyramid and remain pure knockout (all revenues split 50/50) with one game only resolved by penalties if need be. Top 16 teams join in 3rd round as at present. Probably means 5 games required for the winners.
    8. League cup - teams in Europe do not participate at all. This gives all the smaller teams a chance to win something. Latter stages should be done via a champions league format to keep all teams still in a shot at glory. Group winners go into a knockout until there is a winner. Would take over from things like the Alba Challenge cup etc - revenues split 50/50. Winning it doesn't qualify you for Europe now so might as well make it more fun for the smaller clubs.
    9. Finally all season tickets to cover all games including cups to keep attendances up when cup games are played.

  • Comment number 54.

    Great Blog Jim. So many good ideas.

    Not wanting to knock any of them but if any you people who have put forward your suggestions on this blog really think that your ideas or anybody elses ideas will become a reality, then you'd better not hold their breath.

    You are going to have to find a way of getting your ideas accross to the chairmen who run your clubs if you want to stop the stagnation of our game.

    Have the courage of your convictions and start fighting for what you believe in and maybe just some of your ideas will get through.

    On the other hand you could do nothing and just hope for a miracle - cos' that's what it will take.

  • Comment number 55.

    Jim Spence...... I totally agree with the idea of a 16 or 18 league but when you think about it, the old firm end up first and second, but that can all change because alot of games teams get cheated and mostly against the old firm! i was watching united draw against rangers today 3 a piece, but rangers got two goals off of two soft tackles one of them touching the ball first, now fair to say united should of went through to the semi finals by winning 3-1 but thats our luck, too have a fair game, i say we have televised cameras, so we can decide fairly, you see that on the tennis and rugby to be fair, why not do football, that is clearly the main sport and i want to see a fair game without losing goals to soft penalties, if we manage to beat the gers stronghold in the replay, i can see united walking up to lift the cup. Im sure there is another two debates, one being the under 21s rule which i agree to drop that so all teams can i have any player of any age on the park and the other was taking away the offside rule which i dont entirely agree when you can see boyd or stokes or goodwillie just standing up the park waiting to score a goal, if i was the sfa i would start to show a sign that they will make a few changes, but my main issues is to get televised decisions and giving bookings to players far too easy.....
    but jim here is my favourite man, bbc hero!!

  • Comment number 56.

    Who would have thought rugby would have a European league for the small nations with teams from Scotland, Wales Ireland and italy before football. If they can have a European league in rugby why can't they have one in football, which is bigger. I think we football fans are dumber compared to rugby fans. In rugby they try out news ideas and are dynamic, and better educated. If you put forward a European league in football you get called a lunatic and an idiot. Even though they can do it in far far smaller sports such as rugby.

    What we should do is keep the 12 team structure but make the SPL 22 games a year. Then use the extra weeks freed up, to have a West European Super league. With the biggest teams from the small West European nations such as Scotland, Holland, Portugal, Scandinavia. Belgium etc playing eachother. I would have 3 divisions. Play 20 games a year A league with the likes of Celtic, Rangers, Ajax, Porto, Sporting Lisbon, Anderlecht would be massive with massive tv crowds and sponsorship. Plus every Scottish team would be able to be promoted into this league.
    The extra weeks for teams not in the European league could be made up with games again sides in a new Anglo Scottish cup which did get big big crowds in the past.
    No doubt football fans will insult me for these ideas. Football fans need to welcome NEW ideas like Scottish rugby fans do. No wonder rugby outperforms its resources and football under performs in Scotland.
    An 18 team league will just lower the standard of the SPL and dilute the money the big clubs have to compete in Europe.

  • Comment number 57.

    Now I'm actually in favour of the 18 team league but this would need to go along with two 12 team leagues and 2 up and 2 down automatically and play-offs involved for the 3rd relegation place.

    Has anyone done a financial costing of how this would break down and would it actually generate increased incomes?

    Or is all this based on getting the Old Firm twice a season?

  • Comment number 58.

    An 18 club SPL may well be a novelty for a time but it's not the answer to Scotlands's football ills. I'm old enough to remember when an 18 club league was rejected as out of date with too many meaningless mid table games from New Year onwards. In my opinion the best postings on this blog come from Paisley Saint Doug who highlights several of the umpteen areas where we need to improve what we have already got. Take SPL TV coverage as an example. The highlights programme should be a real advert for the game yet it goes out late on Monday night and finishes early on Tuesday morning. Kids can't watch it as they will have school the next day. Working adults will also find it too late. Surely the SPL can influence the BBC to broadcast at a more appropriate time?
    There are so many basics that need improving and I can see little sign of any real activity. Scottish football has to be run on a sound business foundation of course but football must come first; we don't go along on a Saturday afternoon to view a balance sheet.
    The first and biggest problem is convincing the auld firm to relinquish their financial stranglehold on the game. This would in time improve the others and offer up greater competition. The big two would then find European football less of a step up and would improve the chances for our other clubs in Europe.
    An 18 club league may be worth trying but not for the obvious reasons. If its perceived as a new start, it might bring to an end the habitual critisism of the standard of our football which seems relentless and not always justified.

  • Comment number 59.

    Its a good blog but it again misses the point. How can we justify 40 teams in Scotland. How many teams have a right to charge money as a product.
    As a St Mirren fan we have dodged the bullet for 3 years, and it is a bullet. 2000 fans at Hamilton Game says it all. Our game needs seriously stream lined to compete. There is no money for competition for places in most SPL teams so why are we talking about lower levels. Money cant buy sustained success. Livi, Dundee, Gretna step forward. Saints were 3 months away from closure. Motherwell have a "pitch" that if it was in any other league would be unplayable. So who has a right to be even considered for any shake up. Who has invested back into the game?
    Well Old Firm, Saints(both) Hibs, Aberdeen, Thistle, Falkirk, Killie, United, Hamilton, Callie and now I am struggling. The rest are under supported, and quite frankly unneccessary.

    If we want a tier rather than a top tier that would make more sense. 12 clubs with all neccessary support and franchises. Making sure clubs become what they used to be and centre of communities. The rest are beggars and blothces. Teams like Hearts make me laugh. Hardly any Scots, debt up to eyes and no end product. What do they bring to the table? If it truely is time for change then lets do it. Lets be realistic. Lets play summer football. so our teams have evey chance on a European stage. Lets develop talent from amateur feeder clubs. So scrap relegation and let all compete without fear.

  • Comment number 60.

    douglas mackenzie, I'm not sure where you think I've missed the point.Why can't we sustain 40 clubs exactly?

    Which clubs do you intend to cull, what would be your criteria for ensuring their end and in what way do you think that by other club's going out of business that other clubs would be helped. Are you suggesting that if your own Buddies went bust you'd rush off to watch a revitalised Morton or head up the road to Ibrox ?

    You surely know there is no logic to the reason any of us support a club and that loyalty is non transferable.

    More realistically clubs need to find their own level. That will be done by the introduction of a pyramid system which will see those who's communities have fallen out off love with them to regalvanise themselves or fall down to a lower level.

    The amount of money the smaller clubs take out of the game is peanuts in the greater scheme of things so kiling them off and creating some super American style franchies which has everything to do with marketing and nothing to do with sporting integrity would be a turn off for many off us.

  • Comment number 61.

    Jim, thanks for getting back. But if you feel that loyalities are the way forward then where does that leave us. Would I support Morton, no. Why because they should be under already, no investment in their ground and they are teh majority. You say small clubs take peanuts but supporting a larger league will mean they get more. So East Fife versus Rangers will do what for how many exactly. And with most clubs getting 300 thru the turnstiles does what for our game. We are very sick. Our top two are poor UK cousins and poor European teams. We have got stuck with a typical Scottish attitude that it depends on what side of the street your on. We cant support more for less. Sky dont want us, neither does England, who incidently are in a bigger mess than us. Football is surely the debate and the fact is our end product is appalling. 25 years ago Saints used to attract 10000 against Clydebank, so whats changed. Prices and avalable talent.We are not attractive to investors, TV or supporters so we need more than a league reshuffle to move forward.

  • Comment number 62.

    Jim - I think there is an issue about where football clubs are located and the potential market provided by those communites where they are based. The locality of the fan base in Scotland has changed within the past 60 years. A typical moan (mainly from non-OF fans with 'locality' chips on their shoulders) is that people should support their local team. But if you live in the New Towns you would be largely served by Junior football teams - East Kilbride, Irvine and Glenrothes. The exceptions being Livingston and Cumbernauld (although I'm not sure you could really associate Clyde with this town). Nothing against Junior football, I've followed it for years but I've always thought it odd that the New Towns are major population centres and yet largely untouched by pro football.

    I think also that new fan loyalties can be built: MK Dons, ICT, Livingston. Its not a case that they are as non-transferable or set in stone as you suggest. After all I'm sure Killie fans would have little trouble shifting their season tickets to Ibrox!!

  • Comment number 63.

    Let's have 20 leagues of two teams!


    Both teams in each league play each other 38 times, and finish each league with a play-off final.

  • Comment number 64.

    #60 – Jim,

    “You surely know there is no logic to the reason any of us support a club ….”
    Not really the subject of this Blog as everyone seems to want to focus on the league structure, but there is a lot of logic as to why people support clubs. As always, Scottish football just seems to bury it’s head in the sand on this one.
    If your Blog really is about change and not just reorganisation of the divisions, then let’s hope this topic is given some serious thought. It’s high time the game takes a much more analytical and calculated look the causal factors affecting attendances – in particular those that drive people away.
    If it’s logic you are on about then there is no logic to why an entertainment industry (and I’m including the media in this) continues to be hell bent on alienating those that they depend on most.

  • Comment number 65.

    I hope football does not expand into new towns we have already enough pro football sides. I used to support having more pro sides but it just means spreading our limited resources more thinly.
    More semi pro and part teams, yes but more pro teams no.
    We would better off with these new towns set up or sides in other sports.
    An 18 team league means more pro sides more resources spread thinly.
    What we need is Scotland to do what Scottish rugby has done and try and set up a European league, but one that ALL Scottish sides can gain promotion to if good enough.
    Also why can we not bring back the Anglo Scottish cup or a Great British cup for teams that have not qualified for Europe. Scottish first division teams and SPL sides versus league one and league two teams would offer something different.


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