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Old Firm grip on title won't be broken

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Jim Spence | 09:34 UK time, Thursday, 12 August 2010

Can anyone outside of the Old Firm win the top league in Scotland this season for the first time since Aberdeen in 1984/85?

No chance.

Celtic and Rangers can - and will - buy success again.

The prospect of anyone outside of the Old Firm winning the title is neatly summed up by the bookie's odds.

One high street bookie offers Dundee United at 66/1, Hibernian at 80/1
Hearts at 150/1 and Motherwell at 250/1.

Just a pound on Aberdeen - who were the last winners of the top league 25 years ago -would net you £300.

Those odds are both a damning indictment of what's wrong with the Scottish game, and a realistic assessment of the chances of the Old Firm duopoly being broken.

Winning the Scottish Premier League is an even more difficult matter than when the New Firm were in their pomp in the 70s and 80s.

For one thing, there was no Bosman ruling back then and the Dons, United, Hearts and others could assemble and keep their squads to mount a decent challenge.

The current champions, Rangers, are hamstrung by their financial crisis, but everything is relative and they still have a budget far in excess of every other club - with the exception of Celtic.

Their £3.5m bid for Nikica Jelavic of Rapid Vienna is not far short of third-placed Dundee United's entire income for the season.

That puts into perspective the achievements of the Tannadice club last season and the unrealistic possibilities of improving upon them.

Neil Lennon looks like having around £10m from Aiden McGeady's sale - and that kind of money leaves all others in Celtic's wake.

So, with budgets that dwarf every other club, Celtic and Rangers will again carve up first and second places in the title race.

They may struggle to impose themselves in Europe but in the SPL they will be too strong in terms of quality and depth.

Despite the players Rangers have lost, they still have a very strong squad and are in my book are favourites to retain the title.

But now that Neil Lennon has substantial funds at his disposal he should be able to add the quality to wrest the title from Walter Smith.

That money will be both a blessing and a curse to him.

A blessing if he buys well and Celtic win the league.

A curse if expensive signings fail to land the top prize, and probably a fatal blow to his chances of continuing in the Celtic manager's job.

To the rest then.

United have kept their squad intact, albeit without Andy Webster and Lee Wilkie. The club needs another central defender, but the chairman is holding the purse strings tight. However, they are still good enough to retain third spot.

The incentive for some United players is that continued good performances may guarantee them the moves to England which some pundits felt were certain in the wake of last season's success, but which have failed to materialise.

Only six points separated Hibs, Motherwell and Hearts - in that order - last season.

I expect all three to be gunning for the top six again, but depending on how Mark McGhee's new purchases shape up, the Dons and St Johnstone seem to have strengthened considerably and could also challenge for the top half.

Relegation from the SPL is a financial killer. However, with the SPL due to announce changes to the league structure in the coming weeks, the very slim possibility of no relegation at all next season exists.

Someone has to finish bottom, but I find it easier to suggest who it won't - than who it will.

I don't think it will be Inverness, who will be firing on all cylinders on their return to the SPL and will have Mr Motivator AKA Terry Butcher to sustain them.

I also think Billy Reid has the management nous and ability to ensure continued survival and perhaps improvement on seventh spot, for Hamilton Accies.

That leaves Kilmarnock and St Mirren. Both clubs have new managers.

Mixu Paataleinen will have 50p to spend at cash-strapped Killie while Danny Lennon has dipped into the lower leagues for many of his new signings.

I've gazed into my crystal ball, but there are too many unknown factors at this stage to guess who will take the drop.

The best I can do is predict what all of you reading this already know.

That unless you're an Old Firm fan, then the season ahead is likely to be another long hard struggle.


  • Comment number 1.

    If we changed to 16 team league with 30 games a season, on the condition we can have another European tournament to play for our top 6 sides that could build sides to challenge the old firm.
    Put our top 6 teams into a group stage trophy with 6 teams from another country. Such as the top 6 teams from Germany or France who did not qualify for Europe, or the top 6 teams from the Netherlands. Then teams could have something to compete for and bigger teams to play against.
    Until then, even Hibs and Hearts will never grow, whatever league format we use. They need more big teams to play against.

  • Comment number 2.

    A somewhat depressing if realistic post.

    I have argued for some time in favour of an expanded SPL. I don't think a 16-team league will work, however, there aren't enough games to satisfy the clubs' needs with the basic format. Another split would be unwieldy and continue to make us a laughing stock.

    While it is by no means a perfect solution, I would be in favour of an 18-team league. One of the main benefits of having more teams means that if a club outwith the Old Firm does manage to assemble a strong squad, like Hearts in 2006, they theoretically have a better chance of winning the league if they can maintain a high level of consistency against the other clubs, with them only having to play the Old Firm four times in total.

    Celtic and Rangers, while still being a long ahead of the other teams financially, might just be overthrown once or twice under such a setup. Here's hoping, because this duopoly is slowly killing Scottish football.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think we need a system which can allow clubs too bring in money which can lead them to challenge the old firm for real and not just beat them by being lucky.
    If we have a 16 team league with, the top 6 going off and playing a group stage trophy with mid table German, mid table French, or top 6 Dutch sides or all three. Then 6 matches in the group stage is enough matches for the top 6 on top of the 30 in the league.
    Then for all other sides the group stages of the league cup can be reintroduced then that would provide enough games. 36 games a season guaranteed for everyone.
    Also in Portugal they play 30 games, and have a top quality league.

    As a fan of a club that did not finish in the top 6 I would be happy with that system. It would reward clubs for building good sides give our clubs something to aim for.
    I do not think an 18 team league would make any difference. Surely if Celtic and Rangers are better than everyone else it does not make any difference if we have a 10, 12, 16, 18, 0r 20 team league. Relying on luck will not work. Look at Chelsea and Man Utd, dominating the English league which has 20 teams. Mid table teams do not challenge for their league, just because they only play the big two sides a few times a year.
    Aberdeen won titles when we had 10 teams in the league because they were better.
    It makes no difference the best teams win the league, regardless of the format.
    If top 6 clubs were guaranteed to play big sides every year they would get more season ticket holders, more sponsorship and would fill their stadiums for big games, more often and would then have the money to the challenge the old firm for real.

    If my club Aberdeen had been drawn in a group stage tournament with 2 or 3 german and French league sides it would get more fans buying season tickets, no question. Then the club would have more money to challenge the old firm. At present all we have in terms of big sides is the old firm.

  • Comment number 4.

    At the moment the SPL ( affectionately known as the Scottish Pub League) will always be dominated by the Old Firm.

    The SPL is ranked 13th in Europe and Celtic and Rangers ranked 53rd and 36th by UEFA.

    Playing mickey mouse teams 4 times a year (St Johnstone, Inverness CT ...etc) at present will only put the Old Firm in ever decreasing downward spiral.

    We will never qualify for another World Cup again !!!!!

  • Comment number 5.

    i wouldn't disagree with you but as the old firms monies start to dwindle it surely must leave the door open for other teams to have a go for the title. granted it may take 4 or 5 seasons but the chance will be there. rangers and celtic have always been able to attract quality because of their stature and promise of champions league football but that elite competition will be very difficult for the old firm to play in after this season.
    it wasn't that long ago that hearts gave it a go and although the bubble burst somewhat they did push rangers into third place, it was just a pity they couldn't keep the run going, it so refreshing for the game up here.
    it won't be impossible to break the old firm's grip, it will take time though, the signs are already there. look at the rangers team from ten years ago and look at the rangers team now, i don't have to show you the difference jim, it's plain to see.

  • Comment number 6.

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

  • Comment number 7.

    The only way to fix this is to have a salary cap . NBA , NHL , MLB have a max and minimum you can spend . If you over spend you are fined and the money goes to the other teams . Knowing the league champions at the start must be a drag . The only other way to build excitement is to have playoffs , like every North American sports have . This way upsets could occur and the fans love the underdog . Anyway , just some common sense ( this is why it will never change )

  • Comment number 8.

    Canadiansplfan But if we imposed salary caps all that would happen is Celtic and Rangers would do worse in Europe. We need to do something that increases the quality of all our teams not decreases any of them. We need to improve the other big teams. Have an extra trophy with big sides from other countries.

    tomslaford I found a previous post by you on
    where you say as an England fan.
    "We lost to Germany instead, but if you look at the clear chances we could have won the match. "
    "We do not have to panic as we are not in the position of a team like Scotland for example who are a shadow of the team they were in in the 90's."
    If England are so good. Then why do you need to goad fans of some smaller country a tenth of your country's size?
    I expect you are Leeds fan.

  • Comment number 9.

    Real Isle
    Never thought about that ! I guess all European leagues would have to follow suit . Would help their leagues as well . Most of the top leagues have only 3 -4 teams that have a chance to win the league .

    What about the playoff system ? 1 plays 12 2 plays 11 so on ... if the old firm don't win too bad . Would be interesting . This happened in the NHL this past season with a last place playoff team making it to the finals ( Philadelphia Flyers ) this created great interest .

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Jim,
    Unfortunately, you are correct to a point. The last time non old firm teams had any creditable challenge to the title was in the 80's why? Champions league, increasing TV money and their much larger fan base meant the gap in budget between the Old Firm and the rest has grown.

    This will all change as budgets will be slashed to the core and the fans base dries up why? It is far easier for our kids to see English league one football games than the SPL. Why does our so called "national" broadcaster give more TV time to English League one than the SPL? They show match of the day full of EPL games and the league one show where are the SPL highlights never mind live matches?

    OK I see it with my own son. He can at the age of three recognise Liverpool and name some of their players. Our kids will end up watching and supporting English teams on TV because unless their parents take them to matches (at three I think he's a bit young yet) or pay extra to get ESPN they will hardly ever see the games.

  • Comment number 11.

    As usuall when this topic comes up every year we talk about changing systems and league set ups, or having splits or play offs. Now whilst some of these things will no doubt help a little bit they are not the answer to the problem.

    Scottish football is at its worst ever level in its entire History. Rangers are still in financial turmoil, Celtic go from one blunder to another at the moment, yet none of the other teams can take advantage of that.

    There is a simple saying "you can full some of the people some of the time but you cant full all of the people all of the time".

    Quite simply there are no footballers anywhere in Scotland that can play football. The level of technique is at an all time low no one wants to watch it so stadiums are virtually empty and TV pays a pittance because thats all its worth.

    Dundee Utd and Aberdeen won leagues because they had the best players and they had probably the last batch of footballers in this country who were any good at the game> they had skillful players who could pass and head and control a football as well as having top class defenders, it had nothing to do with systems , leagues or splits or any other nonsense it was a simple fact they had real footballers who people would gladly pay money to watch.

    I had a good laugh at the SPL = Scottish Pub League, then realised it wasnt funny as it was actually spot on, in fact there are gus down the pub who copuld easilly play in our league as the leagues are full of dross.

  • Comment number 12.

    Fife_Ger, you can fool some of the people into wrongly spelling 'fool' as 'full' some of the time, it appears one can fool you into getting it wrong all of the time.

    Actually your screen name is a symptom of one of the fundamental problems in Scottish footballl, one exemplified by Celtic running shops in places like Dundee. It's a free country, so anyone can support who they like, but it simply isn't healthy having Old Firm outposts all over the country, financially strangling the other clubs.

    The Old Firm hold the key - if they can be persuaded to help even out the financial playing field, Scottish domestic football has some sort of future, if they can't, then it's on an inexorable slide towards League of Ireland status. And if that happens, the Old Firm suffer like every one - they really must not fool themselves.

    Can the Old Firm see beyond the end of their noses? Superficial logic would suggest that if they help bolster the other teams in the SPL then they themselves will suffer by facing tougher competition. But actually it's the poor quality of SPL football which is failing to prepare the Old Firm for European competition, and having to fight harder in the SPL every week would over time greatly benefit them.

    So will Rangers and Celtic rise to the challenge? - don't hold your breath.

  • Comment number 13.

    " That unless you're an Old Firm fan, then the season ahead is likely to be another long hard struggle."

    Actually I think the opposite is true. Non-Old Firm fans are the true fans. We follow our teams in the full knowledge that we will not win the league or, apart from a couple of good challenges from Hearts in the last 20 years or so, finish second. Therefore we are reasonably happy with our lot, having mostly low expectations (aprt from Aberdeen fans of a certain vintage).

    Old Firm fans on the other hand always strike me as unremittingly miserable. It's impossible to talk football with them as they simply can't relate to fans of the other Scottish clubs and they take themselves ever so seriously.

    For me, Celtic and Rangers fans never seem to enjoy their football and when things go badly (eg Celtic last season, they disappear until lured back by big money signings). The fear of losing to their other half seems to dominate their emotions and they never, ever seem happy.

    I think if they did move to the EPL, the average glory-hunting OF fan would have great difficulty adapting to mid-table life.

  • Comment number 14.

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

  • Comment number 15.

    Gimble you are typical of the rest of Scottish football allways believing that it is the old firm to blame for everything. If only we gave all our money to the rest of Scottish football everything would be ok.

    A niaive and frankly outdated opionion. Scottish footballs future is dependant on teams all our leagues reallising that the rest of the world has moved on and we have stagnated.

    "you can FOOL some of the people some of the time, but you cant FOOL all of the people all of the time"
    ( that better)

    Scottish football serves up dross because no one in this country of ours has the ability to pass,control,or head a ball correctly. The very basics of the game. When we put talent before strength and technique ahead of bully boy tactics and we cherish all that used to be good about our game then we will win back the public and then win back the TV people.

    And just for the record I was born and raised in Renfrew my home team was Rangers, I moved to Fife for job reasons. But as usuall efey one outside of the old firm has fixed views on us and nothing can shift their outdated ideas, we are not all glory humters I have supported my team threough thick and thin ( sometinmes very thin). I wonder ewhere all the Dundee UTd , Aberdeen, Kilmarnock , Motherwell supporters have gone to name but a few who get pathetic support.

  • Comment number 16.

    The post about salary caps is correct. The salary cap needs to be a %age of all the teams present wage spending as a whole. The total amount spent on salary, divided by 12. That gives us an average, now make it 65% of this. You can pay any individual player any amount that you want but your whole squad of 25 needs to fit under that 65% total. Us 'little' teams aren't hindered, RanTic need to find a way to fit under that level. Players under 19 aren't counted to total provided they are home grown. The old firm would surely be happy, they moan about wage costs every time the company accounts come out. Fine of salary cap breach times eleven, other teams recieve this money. Winner winner. Doing it like this is the only way forward. We need to abandon the idea that there will be any european interest for a while. Adopt this idea and i reckon that Blatter, Platini and the rest of the blazers would be shouting out our league as a model for football.

  • Comment number 17.

    ally9 wrote:
    i wouldn't disagree with you but as the old firms monies start to dwindle it surely must leave the door open for other teams to have a go for the title.

    Ally, I'd like to think that would be the case. I wonder though with everything being relative, that as the OF find their income lessening, others will find the same with their income, meaning that releative to the OF they are no better off.

    Various posters have mentioned salary caps, some might even fancy the draft syatem they have in the NFL.

    The fact is the Old Firm have an inbuilt advantage with their financial clout.

    I doubt even with his managerial abilities that Walter Smith could win the title with a non OF side, so great is the gulf in wages between Celtic/Rangers and the rest of the SPL.

    They can undeniably afford a better quality of player, and until that system changes the SPL will be won by one or other of them.

    And to grimble at 12, I sympathise with your argument about the impact and influence that both sides have throughout the country, but it's really no different from the Angus Arabs from Montrose etc following Dundee United.

    My good mate originally from Lochee is a Hibs fan, so he certainly isn't a glory hunter. But you can't change affairs of the heart which is what supporting your team is all about.

    The only way to make an impact on Old Firm support in areas outside of the Glasgow conurbation is to make the other teams more attractive and get people following them from a young age.

    That usually involves winning things, and that takes us right back to square one.

  • Comment number 18.

    Fife_ger you should be a Buddie instead of a ger if you were raised in Renfrew! The Old Firm ARE to blame for MOST of the problems in the SPL as it happens. Were they not the ones who led the breakaway and threatened to leave the SFL if they couldn't get things their own way: i.e greater voting rights on decision making for the Scottish top flight and a greater share of the prize money and gate money and TV money. Under their leadership the SPL has made bad decision after bad decision. How many clubs spent millions doing up their grounds to have all seater 10k+ grounds and went into debt financing this? And then the SPL do away with the rule! Most grounds now lack atmosphere as a result of being all seated! How many SPL clubs followed the OF lead in ceasing to rear and develop your own young players and to sign foreign stars on Bosmans and pay out big signing on fees and high wages? Celtic nearly went bust trying to compete with Rangers and spending, and now it seems Rangers have been practically bankrupt all along. Half the SPL at least are crippled with debts that they would struggle to pay back in 5-10 years.

    In the 80's before the SPL was set up you had a 10 team top division where 2 sides could get relegated. Gate money was shared more evenly. OF attendances were dropping. Aberdeen won the PL the most that decade, Dundee United won the title that decade, Hearts almost won the title in 1986 and even St Mirren could put in a title challenge (1980) which saw them in with a chance of winning the league until the 2nd last game of the season. Most of these sides were full of young Scottish players... sticking with St Mirren in the 80's we reared guys like Billy Thomson, Campbell Money, Steve Clarke, Frank McGarvey, Billy Stark, Peter Weir, Paul Lambert, Frank McAvennie, and due to being able to hang on to them for a few years before selling them on for a decent transfer fee we had a team who qualified for Europe 5 years in a row and finished 3rd twice and were able to sign Frank McDougall and Doug Summner and break the Scottish transfer fee (using our profits from transferring guys like McGarvey and Fitzpatrick). Aberdeen also broke the transfer record in Scotland a few times that decade and there wasn't the same differential in what clubs were paying in wages... in some cases in the 80's St Mirren and Aberdeen were able to offer higher wages to signing targets than the Old Firm were offering. There was competition for the league title, competition for European spots (and hope our teams would do well), and competition to avoid the 2 relegation spots. Teams competed on a much more even financial playing field as well.

    In the 80's provincial clubs like Dundee United and Aberdeen EXCELLED in Europe with teams of home-grown players: I think Dundee United were in 2 UEFA semi finals and a a UEFA final that decade, Aberdeen won the Cup Winners Cup and Super Cup.

    As teams like St Mirren, Aberdeen and Dundee United brought through their own young players it benefited the Scottish national team, who qualified for world cup finals in 82, 86 and 1990.

    Things changed with the 'Murray revolution' where success could all of a sudden be bought on the back of a big overdraft, higher OF crowds and a biggger share of TV money. Shortly after the Murray revolution began the Old Firm began to feel they had outgrown the Premier League and threatened to leave Scottish football altogether if they couldn't get a bigger say in how the top league was run... they instigated a breakaway league - the SPL. Rangers began buying in players from the EPL who were banned at the time from fielding teams in European competition, and then when UEFA introduced quotas for home-grown players they began signing up the best young players from their Scottish rivals (St Mirren had Ian Ferguson on their books for just over 1 years before he was tapped up by Rangers). With Rangers suddenly becoming more successful their crowds doubled from an average 20k at games in the 80s to 40k under Souness. Celtic crowds rose from 30k in the 80s to 60k in the 90s. Crowds at provincial clubs began to fall.

    When you look at the SPL's achievements and compare them to the competitive league we had in the 80's, most people who watched the game in the 80's would I am sure like to return to that set up and rules for the league. The SPL has given us compulsory all seated grounds which are by and large soulless and uncomfortable, compulsory under soil heating yet our pitches and postponements are as bad as they were in the 80s, all clubs have youth academies but with the exception of Hibs and Hamilton very few clubs have brought through any top quality young players. The SPL has become a 2 horse race, where the remaining 10 teams have ambitions of finishing 3rd, or top 6, or when you get down to the dregs of the league settling for 11th but hoping for a respectable showing in the bottom 6. The skill level has fallen. No clubs can afford to buy players because TV revenue has fallen. No clubs are attracting fans in numbers comparable with their fanbase in the 80s because they homed in so much on TV money they forgot all about looking after the fans who attended games. The OF and the rest of the SPL are now reduced to trying to English reserve players on loan or players from the English conference. The SPL also took the great decisions to dispense with having a reserve league and introduce a quota for U21 players in squads and it looks like these rules will mean many of the players coming through all the youth academies with be released when they are too old to play for the U19 teams at their club if they are not judged to be ready to step up to the first team squad, as there is no bridge of halfway house between U19 and SPL first team unless they get experience elsewhere on loan.

    If the OF moan about being in an uncompetitive league where standards are on the decline and money is drying up... congratulations boys, you've reaped what you have sown. When you bully the rest of the league into giving you a greater share of gate receipts, prize money, TV revenue etc we can no longer compete in the way we did in the 80s... however it will bite the OF on the bum as the SPL's 2 horse race and lack of quality has driven fans away from the other 10 clubs and the OF now see games against the minnows as worthless spectacles. As the quality of the provincial clubs drops the OF will be poaching more mediocre players from us than they did in the past (as they still won't develop enough of their own young players in their own first teams) and as their own fans become bored with winning 4 in a row or 5 in a row their own attendances will drop even if they are winning.

    The only thing i agree with in fife-ger's assessment is that you can't fool people all of the time: the SPL game will soon be a-bogey. The worst thing the clubs in the SPL can do for the future of Scottish football will be to let the OF bully them in to the next way forward - following their lead for the last 20 years has brought us to where we are now!

    If we are only going to get crap TV money for the SPL product, let's go back to having 1 game a week on the telly and maybe 1 set of highlights. In the 80's if you wanted to see your team you went to the match instead of waiting for 5 mins on 'highlight' appearing on the BBC website after 6pm the day after the game or waiting until Monday evening Sportscene!

  • Comment number 19.

    CanadianSPLfan I disagree with a play off. The best team should win the title. We have the cup trophies too which should provide all the thrills of the play offs.

    Tangerine Scott Why do you care more about the league being competitive than our teams doing well in Europe?
    I do not support the old firm. But I would rather the old firm won every title in a row if it meant we still had a good league, than end up with a medicore league that is "competitive".
    Jock stein used to say a race between old aged pensioners can be competitive, does not make it a good race.
    We need to increase the standards of other clubs not cut the top sides chances. Platini might congratulate us but who cares, he has no real power compared to the big clubs, so we would just be messing around.
    I would not be able to stand watching our top clubs get walloped even more often in Europe. We would see even more fans desert the game. So what if the old firm got challenged it would be for a league, where they were being deliberately handicapped

    Why not support others ideas of SPL sides playing other European sides and building themselves without cutting anyone up.
    I do not understand people who don't care how well our clubs do in Europe. That is the be all not who wins our domestic titles and cups.

  • Comment number 20.

    Also I cannot understand people who say the SPL is a pub league but that English league championship is a world class league. England lost 4-1 to Germany they are not world class. Plus anyone can buy success, with money from arabian tyrants. Where is the pride and decency in that. It is an empty achievement.

  • Comment number 21.

    You are right on this one Jim. One of them will win and the rest of us will be scrabbling under the table for the scraps. We cannot compete as there is no level playing field financially.

    The solution is simple. Get rid of them. At the time when there appeared to be a reasonable chance of them being accepted into the English Championship several respected commentators on Scottish football made the case for an Old Firm free Scotland. I do not refer to the odious sectarian baggage still peddled by a diminishing minority of their fans, but to the long term expectations for the rest of us.

    Initially our clubs would have to take a financial hit. The money from TV would reduce even more from it's current low level and the corporate attractions of home games against the OF would disappear. This would have our chairmen choking over their canapes.

    As for their travelling fans. Of course they make money for host clubs but not as much as in the past. It is only Hearts that fill the away end of Easter Road these days. I well remember the last time Hibs were relegated and the crowds that turned up when we were going for the First Division flag. Why ?. We were going to win something.

    Can you imagine the atmosphere if Dundee United were at Easter Road on the last day of the season needing a point for the title with Hibs needing a win ? What about Hearts at Pittodrie in a similar situation ? The grounds would be rocking !

    Of course the Old Firm apologists will throw their hands up in horror. Our chairmen will cringe, they need to see past the end of their respective noses. Others will say how would Scottish teams compete in Europe ? I would say no worse than at present. For the long term good of the Scottish game the OF must go.

    This may be a pipe dream. It probably is. The next time that an OF exit from Scottish football is mooted, as it surely will be, it must be supported be everyone in the Scottish game.

  • Comment number 22.

    Every idea here is about chucking the old firm out, handicapping them, begging for people to support local sides as if it is a charity.
    Why not ask for celtic and rangers players to be blindfolded, then give every other team 20 players. This is ridiculous.
    We have two of the biggest clubs in the world turn them into an asset for the scottish league don't just give them to England as a present.
    It is the Scottish title it should go to the best team in Scotland.
    Not the teams that were not good enough for England, or a handicap trophy for teams who want to be cheated to winning the title.
    Why not a have a trophy with other teams from Europe so our other big sides can get more games. Why is it all the ideas involve making out teams smaller. I do not understand this stuff about salary caps, and expelling teams it just makes our league poorer instead of bigger.

  • Comment number 23.

    The Old Firm teams maybe famous world wide (with exile Scots only who have very good memories !!!),but playing in the Scottish Pub League only makes them perform poorer each year.The Old Firm rankings bear this out. Last time any Scottish team won anything in Europe was 30 years ago (a generation).

    Every year the Old Firm try and leave the SPL for the Premier League why ?? because it is now mickey mouse because it is full of rubbish teams.Why should the Premier League want them also ...they are Scottish.

    My suggestion : the SPL should allow the top Irish and Welsh teams to join in a 'Celtic' league similar to the Rugby Union, so that the smaller weaker nations can develop. Scotland , Wales (who beat Scotland 3 - 0 recently) and Ireland are of a similar standard (ranked in the 40's by FIFA)

  • Comment number 24.

    Real Isle of Man: wage caps have become attractive in recent times due to a) the financial climate in the SPL where with falling attendances, falling sponsorship and falling TV revenues clubs can't afford to go further into debt and keep increasing how much they pay (average) players and b) the differential between the Old Firm and the rest in what they can afford to pay in terms of wages means that as soon as a bottom 6 club develop a promising youngster the Ugly Sisters will within months beginning tapping the player up and wanting to unsettle them at their current club and mention they could pay them 5 - 10 times as much if they switched from being a St Mirren player to a Rangers player. c)A num,ber of teams in the SPL and SFL are almost bankrupt but have been allowed to outbid other teams in the league for transfers and offer wages higher than they can afford as a way of maintaining their FALSE position in the grand scheme of things: eg Rangers and Hearts were around £30m in debt in the last season, Kilmarnock are £11m in debt, Aberdeen and Dundee United are both in debt to the tune of several year's entire revenue, but somehow are other Hearts will continue to be allowed to offer more in wages than 9 other clubs in the league even though they have no hope of clearing their debt. The end result of this has been that when teams like Hearts and Hibs in recent times have put together young homegrown teams capable of challenging the Old Firm, before the season is out the Old Firm have begun buying up the likes of Kenny Miller, Kevin Thomson, Scott Brown, Andy Webster, Paul Hartley, Derek Riorden... and in many cases the OF then do little to help the players progress and develop (eg Alan Gow, Derek Riorden) but in the meantime Hibs, Hearts, Falkirk etc have been deprived of their special players who could win matches for them meaning teams which in a year or two could threaten to break the duopoly never get a chance because of the uneven financial playing field now and because of the power of players and their agents now holding clubs to ransom.

    The way for Scottish football to flourish is to forget the old models of running clubs and leagues that we've used for the last 20 years and get back to local teams scouting for local talent and bringing it through and looking to raise more of their revenue from local fans and businesses. Eventually sense will even catch up with the EPL model of paying players millions a year and clubs being £100s of millions in debt... its an unsustainable way for clubs to operate and didn't do England much good when it came to the World Cup and found that once Wayne Rooney was playing with an injury the country with 'the greatest league in the world' didn't have any other homegrown strikers who were playing as first picks for the top clubs and scoring goals regularly.

    We need to create a more level playing field in the Scottish game and say it actually isn't OK for the Old Firm to syphon off the bulk of the goodies all the way through the system (from youth football up) and then squander their resources as wastefully as they do. Name me 5 players who Rangers and Celtic have each brought through their youth ranks and become established stars in the SPL or beyond in the last 5 years... Celtic have nurtured McGeady and that's about it and Rangers can claim Danny Wilson's 6 months in the first team were a success! Out of all the good young players the OF poach from other clubs name me 5 from Rangers and Celtic where you can say they clearly became much better players after signing for the Old Firm and realise all their potential... Scott Brown has plateaued at best at Celtic as have most of the promising prospects the OF sign.

    It would be interesting to see how well the OF did in the next 5 years if there was some kind of limit on the number of star players they were able to poach from the teams developing and nurturing young players at the moment: Dundee United, Motherwell, Hibs, Hamilton, and possibly Aberdeen. It would be interesting to see if these teams could go beyond being one season wonders (winning a cup, finishing 3rd or 4th) if they were able to keep their promising squads together without having their best players poached by the OF in Scotland or more depressing still Championship or League 1 or 2 clubs down south. It would be interesting to see how clubs fared over the next 5 years if all 12 clubs in the league were made to run the way the likes of Hibs and St Mirren have been financially, i.e become debt free then live within your means each year. Let's see the relegation battle over the next 5 years as Killie are forced to become debt free within 5 years and have to claw back £2m per year against a debt free team of a similar level at the moment like St Mirren. Let's see Hearts challenge for 3rd place or a top 6 spot without continually increasing their debt year on year on year.

    What makes Rangers and Celtic so great?! You name them as some of the best / biggest clubs in the world. Celtic cannae persuade a guy to leave Hull City to join them. David James chose Bristol City over Celtic, and when it comes to signings Celtic currently have the bragging rights over Rangers. Rangers are such a big club in the world football that Lloyds /HBOS have not let them buy a player for 2 years and wouldn't give contracts to the management team until not so recently. When was the last time these clubs won anything on the European stage... oh, almost as long ago as England won a World Cup?! They have a lot of fans - about the same number of devoted fans who go and watch Newcastle United... who were in the Championship last year! Middlesbrough can offer better wages to half the Celtic first team to play in the Championship, and once the sign these players from one of the best clubs in the world do little to improve Middlesbrough's standing in the 2nd tier of English football!

    The 'greed is good' and 'buying success' model pioneered by the OF in the SPL is dead. Lets' forget about having managers who are good wheelers and dealers in the transfer market and get back to coaches who can spot and nurture young talent and help players reach their potential. It's time to develop young players and coach them properly so we have teams who have speed and skill and can even pass accurately and control the ball quickly. It is time all clubs lived within their means.

  • Comment number 25.

    tomslaford: rankings aren't the best measure of how good you are. England go into most World Cup finals as one of the favourites based on how high their FIFA ranking is but when it comes to the actual competition itself it seems England are never anywhere near winning the thing. This year they were one of the worst teams in the finals, and had their worst ever finals in their history yet managed to climb one place higher in the FIFA rankings despite not making the last 8.

    The ability of the Scottish national team hasn't changed much in the last 10 years whether we have been under Bertie, Walter, Big Eck, Burley or Levein. Under all those managers we have failed to qualify for 1 Euro champoinship or WC finals... yet I'll bet our FIFA ranking will have varied by about 50 places.

  • Comment number 26.

    Germany beat England and they were ranked higher in the rankings before the World Cup !(England were apalling in South Africa) England only tend to lose only to the higher ranking top six sides.

    England rose one place to 7th from 8th after the finals, because France and Italy dropped below them, but Uruguay rose (totally justified) above them, hence Englands 7th place.

    Scotland rose a place to 43rd without playing !!.They will never qualify again ( like Wales and N Ireland)

    The African, South American ,Asian ( far east ) teams have all taken over Scotalnd .... because the Scottish Pub League is now so poor!!

    Bet Beattie scores a bundle up there ... easy matches playing St Johnstone, St Mirren, Motherwell 4 times a season easy peasy

  • Comment number 27.


    Your comments are both inaccurate and uninformed, with a hint of racism.
    Why, as it appears to me, do you spend so much of your time and effort belittling a league and footballing nation that you have no apparent fondness or respect for?
    Would your time not be better spent being positive or critical of something that you know about, or like?
    Please do the decent thing and leave this article to people who genuinely care about its topic.

  • Comment number 28.

    TomSlaford You know nothing about Scottish football. Celtic league would not solvew the issues as Irish and Welsh league clubs are all part time. I have no issue with playing their sides but it would for their good not ours, we need to play bigger teams to improve our sides such as clubs from France, Germany, the Netherlands.
    Your team lost 4-1 in the world cup to Germany your arch rivals. Scotland are unbeaten by England for 11 years since we beat you in the last game England played in the entire 20th century. Plus the best manager in English football history is Scottish. And you are managed by an Italian. So if we are a pub team what does that make you lot.

  • Comment number 29.

    re: england and rankings. Why could England not beat lower ranking teams than them like USA and Algeria? Why did a team that scrapped by the skin of its teeth into the last 16 before getting whipped there go up to 7th best in the world?

  • Comment number 30.

    Paisley_saint_doug A wage cap would humilate Scottish football even more. I don't get people like you. I am Scottish and from a family of Scottish football fans who support Scottish clubs. It hurts me really really, badly when Scottish teams lose, in Europe, and all your idea would do is make that happen more and more often to the only two teams who have done half decent performances in Europe in the last 10 years.
    I do not get your type at all. You seem more interested in Scotland having a "competitive" league than a good league. Why? Why don't we make the wage cap 50 quid and then have a "real pub league", where any pub team from Scotland can win the league. Then the Red Lion Rovers can go into Europe and lose 15-0 to a team from Cyprus.
    What is the point in that? If you want competive football watch pub football. This is serious football.
    I would rather Celtic and Rnagers won every title for 20 years than a have a mediocre competitive league where all our best players leave. What is the point in that.
    I AM Scottish
    The Scottish league should be for all the best Scottish teams, not teams not good enough for England. It should be as good as possible. The teams should perform well in Europe. How competitive it is does not matter. one bit. If you are the best team you should win the league, no childish handicaps. This is serious football. It is not a charity. And if we treat it like that we will get ripped apart by the teams from abroad.
    No wonder Scotland fails we have got people who want our best teams to play in England, we have got supporters who would rather have a competitive league than a good league.
    This is serious football.
    Look what about supporting a competition for the top 6 to play top 6 sides from another league so then smaller sides can develop.

  • Comment number 31.

    Paisley_saint_doug All the players you mention would leave to the English league if we had a wage cap we would just have a rubbish, rubbish, rubbish league. Which would allow people like TomSlaford to laugh at us more.
    Why do that?
    In Spain and Germany the big clubs play their reserve sides in the second and third division so reserve players can play real teams and young players can get real experience. So Barcelona B play in the second division. We should do that in Scotland. All SPL sides should play their reserve sides against non league sides or Irish league sides or third division sides in a real competition. Messi, Iniesta, Xavi all developed in this way. This way the first teams can stay good and the young players get experience.

    Also what about supporting my idea for our top 6 sides to play top 6 sides from Europe in new competition build the clubs up don't push them down.

  • Comment number 32.

    Real Isle of Man.... so you don't think that going back to a top league where most of the teams were filled with young Scottish players where the teams all had an incentive to improve them is the way forward in the long run. Most of what I am arguing for is clubs living within their means and developing their own talent, and letting that talent do the talking instead of having a league where money does most of the talking.

    If you are all for letting the free market decide the level Scottish football reaches then with Sky, BBC, ESPN now investing more TV money in the English lower leagues it will continue to be the case that a mid-table Championship team can now cherry pick players from the OF teams and offer them better deals than the OF can in wages as the players leave for undisclosed fees and on Bosmans at the end of their deals.

    For 2 decades the OF have relied on importing in talent but as the years have progressed and as TV money has played a bigger part in clubs revenue the fact that the OF have 50 - 60k paying customers at home games is less of a factor now, so is the chance to play in the Champions League. In the last 5 years Celtic have deteriorated from being a team qualifying for the last 16 in the Champions League to a team knocked out in the first qualifying round before the SPL has even kicked off!

    The fastest deteriorating teams in Scotland are the Old Firm. There is no doubt they are falling fastest and hardest. Look at Rangers transfer activity so far this summer if you don't believe me. They've lost 7 or 8 first team regulars and some of their prized assets and signed 1 player to date. Do you really think that Rangers and Celtic (already out the Champions League before the SPL has kicked off) are going to fly the flag for Scotland in Europe well this season. Rangers and Celtic don't have a clue about how to develop young players or improve them and help them realise their potential, which was i asked people to name young players they've brought through their own ranks in the last 5 years who have established themselves in their own team or moved to bigger better clubs, or name me players who have improved at OF clubs after being poached from other teams in the SPL. The OF are 1 trick ponies - buy in ready made players from other Scottish teams and foreign players. Their dominance in Scotland is 100% based on buying up the better players from the other 10 teams in the league. How did Celtic make Riorden a better player? They kept him in the stand for most of the time he was with them! Ditto Rangers and Alan Gow. Both players were matchwinning goalscoring players for Hibs and Falkirk respectively before signing with the OF and both were on the verge of the Scotland team.

    The changes I am recommending might weaken the SPL for a year or two but in forcing teams to look to the long term and concentrate on developing better young players and building a stronger fan base in their local area again I would expect SPL teams to become stronger in the long term.

    You are crazy to compare the SPL with the EPL as a measure. The warning signs are flashing down south if you haven't noticed. How many EPL and Championship clubs have been on the verge of administration and winding up orders with Customs and Excise over debts? So far Portsmouth, Watford, Crystal Palace, West Ham, Cardiff City, Hull and Swansea have been mentioned in that regard and their debts are tiny in comparison to Fulham (£200m in debt and not even a big EPL club with a big fan base), or the top 4 EPL clubs £2bn in debt between them. Lets see what happens to Sky subscriptions as job cuts are expected to get worse this year and next year and while Premiership and Championship clubs continue to outbid each other with transfer fees and sky high wages. If Sky and ESPN lose subscribers during the recession do you really think they are going to offer the English leagues better deals every time the TV contracts come up for renewal? And if the TV companies begin offering less money to the clubs with their high debts and selfish players where will things head in the EPL and Championship in the long run. Clubs have run up huge debts they can't hope to pay back: Portsmouth are currently the most obvious example.

    Remind me which SPL clubs pushed through the scrapping of the reserve league? Could it be that the OF led the way with this change, which has meant players needing to progress from U19 to first team now have no bridge between youth football and senior football unless they drop down the leagues?

    I couldn't care less if half the jobsworth journeymen players currently in the SPL left if wages caps were introduced... mediocrity already reigns supreme and players are being rewarded with mediocrity... eg Hearts debt is now bigger than Rangers debt. Are you trying to tell me Hearts have invested their fans money wisely? At some point financial reality will kick in down south and clubs there won't always be offering sky high wages in future forever. The sooner we get back to players having an affinity with their teams and being less concerned about doubling or tripling an already decent wage by moving clubs after 6 months of a 2 year deal the better.

  • Comment number 33.

    Here is a comment I posted when Dundee Utd fans were wondering how many fans they may take to last years semi final.

    Barca said :'dundee is a small place and utd only get half the support'
    I very much doubt you even get 1/4 the support of people in Dundee. I bet half of the people in Dundee support one of the old firm, as with any other place in Scotland. Therein lies the problem with Scottish football. With over 60% of the population supporting 2 clubs, the rest dont really stand a chance. Until more people start supportng their local teams, Scottish football will not be able to become a more attractive spectacle. With money more evenly spread there could be better competition between teams and standards would improve for the benefit of the national team as well as the watching public.

  • Comment number 34.

    The only way the Old Firm stranglehold can be broken is for significantly more money to come into the SPL. Unless a sugar-daddy appears, which is unlikely, we're stuck with trying to increase TV revenue and the only way to increase this is by playing when few other leagues play. Hence we must play in all of May, every 2nd June and all of July. Summer football is our only hope !

  • Comment number 35.

    Do you really think Scotland will qualify for the next World Cup or Euro 2012 !!. Wishful thinking unfortunately mis -placed

    They have no chance at all !

    England played poorly in the World Cup but still had ranking points in the bag to hold onto 7th place.The Premier league is the Premier league the cluse is in the name

    22 European teams now are ranked higher than Scotland , 5 African, 8 South American, Australia .... USA ... Japan ..etc.Many of these teams were considered minor a few years ago. Scotland are now classed as minor nation.

    Smell the coffee the Scottish Pub League has dragged the national team down because of the domnination of the Old Firm and the poor standard of the rest ( St Johnstone, Inverness CT )

    The good old days are 30 years away since Hansen , Daglish, Nicolas , Gray Brazil (.. maybe not 1 goal in 13 is hardly international class) who all make a living commentating on England. When will they be able to comment on Scotland in a final .... never again

    The Old Firm have sucked the talent and resource out of the SPL and the results bear this out

    These are facts .... the conveyor belt of Scottish players has now stopped (probably 20 years ago).I blame the Old Firm for not promoting young players !!!!

  • Comment number 36.

    PS : Just read comment probably referring to Alex Ferguson ...

    Alex is a good Manager (that is his job).... but he failed with the Scotland !

    Cannot remember Scotland ever qualifying for the knock out stages of any competition either.

    Bob Paisley and Brian Clough won two European Cups each also what is your point

  • Comment number 37.

    tomslaford Alex Ferguson has won more league titles than any manager in the history of the English game. And you are managed by an Italian. So what does that say about English football?
    Plus we are undefeated against England since we won in 1999. So what does that make you lot?
    Plus you lost 4-1 to Germany.
    6 Scottish managers are in top 10 of English title winning managers plus no English man has ever won a scottish title.
    We know about football you lot do not. That is why you will never win a world cup again without appointing a scot in charge.
    As for your comment about so many scotsman commentating on football in England, Why would you employ an English man to tell you about football? Eh!

  • Comment number 38.

    Paisley_saint_doug Your idea would be a disaster on every level. Every good player would leave no team would be able to build a good team due to the wage cap as every good player would leave and foreign players could still come here, so it would make no difference to foreign players being here, as foreign players still play for lower wages.
    You live under the idea that if Rnagers and Celtic did not buy the other sides best players, no one else would. It is total fallacy. In reality Hibs and Hearts and everyone else would still lose their best players but just to England for LESS money than the old firm offer. Scott Brown would have lef Hibs for a few 100 grand at best. No English clubs cared about him.
    The only difference is the old firm would also lose ALL their best players. No good teams would get built. EVERY team would fall apart due to wage cap, and all players would still leave.
    Just show we could have some fake competive league, like that matters.
    I don't care how competitive a race is it should be as high a standard as possible, not competitive.
    You seem to think that if the old firm could not bid for Hibs players no one else would. Why do you think that? Why?
    We would never see a scottish side even get past the quarter finals of a major european trophy ever again. Foreign players would still come here just not very good ones.
    Then you say that players who would leave would be journeyman players, no they would be the best players who get more money aborad in England. We would be left with the rubbish players.
    Every single good scottish player would leave. No foreign player of any quality would ever come here again.
    Just so we could create a "fake competive" genuine pub league, like they have in tonnes of countries which do not get crowds as big as our league.
    If you have a wage cap no team could every build a good team. Hibs would have lost all their best players in the fifties with a wage cap. My team would have lost all our best players in the 80s. We would not have won a european trophy under Fergie, why would Willie Miller have stayed if we had had a wage cap, rather than going to Wolves.
    Plus devious clubs would pay under the counter anyway and you end up with some some bizare game theory world. With silly rules actually aiding the more devious clubs to cheat to win. As they would pay under the counter. While the honest clubs would lose by playing by the silly rules.
    Let the clubs decide themselves what they want to do. If they make a mistake that is their own fault. If they want to grow don't stop them.

    I have given my critique of your idea.
    Why not give a critique of my idea.
    1. Have the top 6 scottish sides play the top 6 sides from some other country like the Netherlands, Austria etc in new tropgy like the old anglo scottish cup: So all our top sides get big matches and can increase attendances and then compete with the old firm genuniley not by fake rules.
    2. Put reserve sides of the big sides in the 3rd divsio or new leaghue made up of juniour and non league sides or even to play Irish league first team sides. So that they can get expeirence against real teams.

    Just as in Spain Barcelona B play in the Spanish second division so Messi ansd Iniesta got real expirence against real even when they were not in the first team as young players.

  • Comment number 39.

    I am still loving the guff about England and their ranking points. When teams go and play competitive football a lot of the ways we measure how good a team or player is / are go out of the window when the referee blows his whistle to start the game. So what if player X is on a wage of over £100k per week. So what if FIFA rank England the 7th best team in world football... they beat 1 team in the World Cup finals out of 4 matches. They managed to hang on and beat Slovenia 1-0, after drawing with USA and Algeria. When they played a decent strength European team they were humped 4-1.

    It IS laughable that following all of the above that FIFA rank England 7th best in the world when they just managed to scrape into the last 16 of the WC and were comprehensively thumped when they reached that stage of the compeition.

    Do you know where the (English) "Premier League" nicked the name for their league from?


  • Comment number 40.

    Jim... you and Chick Young have very similar blogs this week and BBC Radio Scotland's "Sportsound" programme only got round to mentioning the games at Pittodrie, Tynecastle and St Mirren Park about 5 minutes before kick off as all the pundits spent most of the preview to the kick offs talking about Celtic's game at Inverness and comparing Celtic and Rangers' transfer dealings and title hopes.

    If you seriously want to see more competition can BBC SCOTLAND please give fair coverage to the OTHER 10 TEAMS in the SPL.

    When I moaned in the summer about a comparison of the coverage given to "Rangers Up For Sale" and "St Mirren Up For Sale" stories on the BBC website and pointed out that the BBC updated the Rangers story every couple of days for most of last year even though there was no news and no change and no sale and that St Mirren were actually closer to be sold than Rangers were you actually posted a story a few days later which was about 2 paragraphs long. Since our new board members have been confirmed and since they are looking into overseeing a community buy out of the club BBC Scotland have still not posted anything about who these 2 new board members are and what their background and expertise is... compare this to the coverage of Andrew Ellis, Dave King and the bloke from Lloyds / HBOS who sits on the board at Ibrox.

    Fans of the other 10 teams pay their licence fee too.

  • Comment number 41.

    Real... you still haven't mentioned anything about the main reasons why I am in favour of bringing the OF down a peg or two to make the SPL a more even playing field... which is despite the fact that they start with having the pick of the crop at youth level and have the best resources to nurture young talent the OF have a horrendous record of developing players who are good enough to play for their own first teams, or at SPL standard for other clubs. They also have a horrendous record of improving the quality or effectiveness of the young Scottish players they buy from other clubs. Why do guys like Scott Brown nearly always fail to keep improving and fail to reach their potential when they sign for an OF club?

    In the last 5 years the resources the OF have financially has fallen compared with English clubs and some of the other bigger European leagues, but lets not forget that for 15 years before that they were regular among the super rich clubs in Europe because of their fanbase and playing to sell out crowds most week when they played at home. During the years of plenty they frittered their money away and did not plan for the long term... just as a lot of EPL clubs and Championship clubs are doing.

    Why do you think continuing to let the OF syphon off the cream of the talent and bulk of the money from the Scottish game will help Scotland's standing in European competition - Celtic were already out of the CL before they'd played an SPL league game... losing to another unseeded team rather than a European heavyweight.

  • Comment number 42.

    tomslaford... re: Alex Ferguson as Scotland manager. Fergie stepped into the role on a part-time temporary basis after Jock Stein died at a qualifying match. When we got to the 1986 finals we were drawn in the "group of death" with Denmark (who won all their games in the group), West Germany (who reached the final of the competition against Argentina) and Uruguay. I'm guessing Fergie was in charge for 5 competitive matches, during which time we won the play off to get to the finals and ran finalists West Germany close... England can't even claim to have run semi-finalists close in 2010 :)

  • Comment number 43.

    Paisley_saint_doug Celtic and Rangers would do rubbish in Europe with a wage cap so taking away the one chance for scottish football to punch above its weight. So humiliating Scottish football more. The old firm have reached UEFA cup finals in the last 10 years. They would not have done this with a wage cap.
    You are being obtuse if you claim that Celtic and Rnagers have not better than other Scottish sides in Europe in recent years.
    You are being obtuse if you claim we could cut the wages of our sides and to better in Europe that is not how football works and it will never will be.
    Cutting the wages would lead to every good player leaving the country.
    Young players would leave the old firm within 3 years for English championship clubs if we had your idea, if they were any good.
    There is no guarantee they would not get foreign players on cheap wages too. A wage cap would not stop debt at small clubs could still spend more than they have.
    Also how on earth can clubs plan for the long term? Rangers built Murray Park what else is there to do?

    You still have not replied to any of my ideas. Why nor reply to my idea of putting reserve sides in real leagues. Like they do in Spain Barcelona B play in the Spanish second division. Bayern Munich II play in the third division. This way young players in their reserve teams.
    Support this idea rather than making scottish clubs do even worse in Europe. Your idea would allow people like tomslaford to slaughter us.
    Why do you not accept the Spanish and German system is far more successful, and does not try and make their own top clubs or rubbish to help the smaller clubs.
    All our reserve sides should play in a competition against third division teams or Irish league teams or non league sides to give real experience to the young players.
    Why do you not support this idea? It works for Spain and Germany. .

  • Comment number 44.

    Paisley St John .... good point I agree re - Fergie Jock Stein was a gentleman.

    My point regarding Fergie was that he has to pick players from anywhere to be succesful in the Premier League. Even Mourinho would find it difficult to pick a team to qualify for any competion for Scotland because of the Old Firm TOTAL domination for 30 years.

    Inter won the Champions League .... without any Italians.Celtic and Rangers play more overseas players than Scots... it is a trend

    Unfortunately due to the standard of the Scottish Pub League the overseas players requird to win the league are at best third rate like the league

    Last World Cup qualification for Scotland was in 1998 in France along with Belgium from the same easy group in Europe

    Guess which were the only two teams from Europe that were eliminated from the qualifying groups .... yes Scotland and Belgium ..the rest is history

  • Comment number 45.

    Real Isle of Man ...

    You cannot compare the Scottish Pub League with Germany , France .... Bulgaria , Romania yes !!! it is ranked 13th in Europe due to total domination of the Old Firm

    I agree with sugestion reserves playing Irish and Welsh leagues

    However the Old Firm reserve teams are that strong they would finish 5th or 6th in Scottish Pub League (Sorry St Johnstone , St Mirren and Motherwell , Inverness CT you are poor )

  • Comment number 46.

    I thank you for agreeing with my idea about the reserves playing in other leagues or tournaments against real teams, to get real match experience.
    But! No one has compared us to the German or French league.
    We ever were and never will be as a good a league in depth as Germany or France. We are tiny compared to them. It is only Celtic Rnagers, and the new firm that allowed us to compete with these teams at the TOP only. All we can hope is that our best teams can beat their beast teams. That has happened in the past, and can still, if we develop the right systems to ensure our best teams are better than theirs.
    The ideas about wage caps would make this impossible. All I said is we should be ambitions and try and get to play tournaments against German or French sides even just the teams who did not qualify for europe, or teams from the Czech republic or Austria.
    We need to be more creative and ambitious in getting big teams from abroad to play scottish sides without us wrecking the domestic league.
    That is why I support a 16 team top league with another group stage trophy against big sides from other countries..

  • Comment number 47.

    Jim, good blog but I think you have omitted one point that no-one else has mentioned. This is the world we now live in.
    The problem with Scottish football cannot be all blamed on the Old Firm, or the league system with its split, or winter games or the fact that we do not seem to produce talented football players, even the SFA are not all to blame.
    The problem is also due to football players. They would rather not play every week but pick-up large wages from Old Firm teams, or even Championship or now English league 1 sides, than play for a Scottish side that could challenge for the Scottish league!
    I think also that more than the lack of competitiveness in the Scottish league, or the fact that it is expensive to go and watch the games, fans are continually disappointed by players leaving for financial reasons without seeming to care about the football side.
    But this is the modern game, it seems to me that neither UEFA nor FIFA are paying attention to this. But this is not just affecting the Scottish league! Look at other leagues such as Belgium and Holland, they have similar problems, their good players leave quickly and they are dominated by three to four bigger teams.

    Finally just as a reality check, who do you think are going to win the EPL? What are the odds on Aston Villa or Everton?

  • Comment number 48.

    All the discussion of a salary cap is just utter nonsense, notwithstanding the obvious fact that they would fall at the first legal challenge. And where would you set the ceiling? At the level of turnover of DUtd or St Mirren that would just drag the OF down to the dross level of the other clubs and rapidly escalate the exit from the SPL of even the most average players who could earn more corn elsewhere. Duh!! Too high and they would be meaningless. Salary caps only work in NAmerica because they are 'sealed' markets and players in the NFL and NBA don't and can't go anywhere else globally. They could only be applied in a 'uniform' European market and not just in Scotland but in England, France, etc. Very different markets. In other words,'caps' are meaningless.

    Of course the OF will dominate the league and it will be a procession..again and again and again with a few small short-lived blips over the past half a century or more. The only question non-Scots tend to ask about the SPL is whether it will won by Celtic or Rangers? I love the way though that non-OF fans blame the OF for their woes. If people don't watch the likes of Dutd or St Mirren honstly who can blame them? Many don't play a decent level of football against their peers never mind the OF. As for the OF some of the fans get disappointed if they just beat the likes of Killie 2-0, and many take some kind of groundgog day enjoyment from gubbing Hearts or St Johnstone again and again for the 3rd or 4th time a season every season. Utter boredom. And no point in getting all morally superior about it, having a 'locality' chip on your shoulder and telling everyone that they should support their local team when the finances just cannot support this many professional clubs: many based in daft wee backwater towns, or in old 19th Century industrial centres, long after the industry has gone. If you lived in EKilbride for example (100k population) there is no professional team in the town to support! Why would it be a surprise that many there gravitate to the OF?

    Start playing passing football and invest in coaching at the youth level to produce modern European players; remove the status of drink and take-away's as Scotland's 'true' national sports and have the semblance of a 'sporting culture'.

  • Comment number 49.

    Real Isle of Man. You're wrong on this one, sorry. Wage caps are coming, it'll happen as squad salary caps for all the leagues. Where does the present system stop? Man City - Yaya Toure £220k per week. What happens when Balotelli demands £300k pw? Then Silva wants parity? Then Milner says only half a mill will do? The football authorities know this will soon become an issue. Hegemony at all leagues across Europe. Brilliant. You talk about the best team winning but surely the best team would still win within a 'Squad Salary Cap' system. The league needs evened out. Competitive leagues attract fans. NRL, NFL, NBA, NHL, SuperLeague. The EPL isn't competitve it's just marketed that way. It's blindingly obvious to everyone but apparently blazers are too scared to say it. Ultimately what you are proposing is it all stays the same. The team with most money wins. Yawn, think i'll switch off now. At least WWE has a pretense of competition.

    Also, so what if our teams don't do well in Europe? They are pretty rubbish right now under this system anyway. The talented Scottish players would still make it through, the national team won't suffer. I don't recall Swedish teams walking through the Champions League but the Sweden team taught us one or two things on Wednesday. Good players make it through Scottish football despite the system, not because of it. Why not give the other 80% of players the chance to make a difference at their clubs instead of being snaffled to sit in the stands at RanTic?

  • Comment number 50.

    Just by taking a skim through the comments (and facing some hurtful truths!) it is clear that the problems with Scottish football are evident and this is widely agreed upon. I don't think these problems are down to one issue, but rather a plethora of intertwined issues that has infected the Scottish game. Before going on, I think it might be useful to point out that during the days, or rather, decades of Scotland qualifying for every other major Championship in addition to hosting an exciting, competitive league (although you have to arguably go back to the 1980's for this one) whose teams regularly surpassed exceeded expectations within the European domain (going back to perhaps two years ago when Rangers were beaten by Zenith in the Uefa Cup final), Scottish football was punching above its weight. Don't get me wrong, it was for the most part deserved and achieved on merit; but the truth is it was. We only have a population of just over 5 million, 1/10th of that of our southern neighbours. The SFA's total turnover last year was just £22.6 million ( compared to the FA's turnover £261 million in 2008( Drawing a comparison between both nations as tomslaford seems to thrive on doing is both laughable and misleading. Furthermore, using the FIFA rankings as bragging rights goes beyond a joke - clutching at straws doesn't begin to illustrate how ridiculous this comparison is. England should be one of the best footballing nations in the world taking into account the interest and finance placed in the game, but they are nowhere near the standard required for this.

    Anyway...back to Scotland. In my opinion, the problems in the domestic game have mainly come from financial pressures stemming from a monopolisation of the Scottish domestic transfer market by the Old Firm which had a knock-on effect several years ago of the other clubs threatening to implode financially by paying wages they could not afford in order to comptete with the them. Its a vicious circle. Teams like Dundee United won't come anywhere near to winning the league because they don't have the finance to pay for new players that will take them to the next level, nor the ability to keep hold of them as they need to service their debt and are pressured to sell. This has happened, much to the annoyance of most non-OF fans, repeatedly over the past who-knows-how-long as teams like Hibs and Kilmarnock have sold their best players to the OF. No other team in the SPL has the spending power of the OF nor the international reach, and if we are getting really technical, you could say that the league has been made uncompetitive due to globalisation as the OF have capitalised on this global reach and football on TV has become widespread. Despite this, the gap between the OF and the rest has definitely decreased over the past couple of years and this is due to both halves of the OF being extremely poor during this time, in addition to models such as United's and Hibs which is focussed on picking up and nurturing promising youngsters before selling them on. However the sad reality is that the OF monopoly will not allow a break from the status quo and that whilst their may be more competitive individual games in the SPL calender, the league will not reflect this.

    One of the positive things that is coming through the game at the moment is the increase in chances that younger players are getting to play for the first teams in the SPL. Since non-OF clubs have seemed to have learnt their lessons from the past and now refuse to pay over the odds for second rate foreigners in favour of bringing through youngsters, this can only be good for the development of the future of the game. Players like James McCarthur, Scott Robertson, Lee Wallace, David Goodwillie and Steven Fletcher are the future of the Scottish game at international level and have all been given that chance thanks to their maiden football clubs. The national team is currently paying the price for both mismanagement and a lack of opportunities given to players of a similar mould to the above, in the first half of the naughties/end of the nineties. Who do we possess in their late 20's/early 30's which is widely regarded as the pinnacle of most footballers career and which would have been the age when players at the beginning of the decade would have been starting their careers, that can be described as world or even international class? I can only think of James McFadden. Granted, probably none of the current crop of youngsters will blossom into world class players, but when you add them to players like Darren Fletcher, Scott Brown, Kris Boyd and Craig Gordon who are all approaching the peaks of their careers, I am more positive about the future of our international game. Hopefully under the stable guiding hand of Levein, Scotland can progress to a major Championship in the near future and again punch above our weight. Do the rest of you share these thoughts?

  • Comment number 51.

    to 50 tinopener

    Thanks for your response and the many good points you make.

    I agree that one bright spot on the horizon is the emergence of young players getting their chance because of financial constraints.

    All that's needed now is for managers and coaches to allow them a bit of freedom to express themselves on the pitch, and we may just turn the corner.

  • Comment number 52.


    typical old firm comment! pathetic support? our average attencdance is only 1k less than it was from when we were good in the 80's

    where were your fans when we used to gub you lot on your own ground habitually?? cos I can tell you they weren't at Ibrox

    Would be lucky to scrape 20k

    Glory hunters??? us?? Look closer to home

  • Comment number 53.

    Tangerine Scott : I said the best team in the country should win the league. If rantic left then the Scottish league would not any longer be about the best teams in the country. Plus they would still get the best youth players anyway. So it would not benefit the national team. What would stop other teams leaving too? Also we have done well in Europe thanks to the old firm, you are being obtuse to say otherwise, all you are doing is being the dog with a bone in aesops fables. You throw away what we have which is the old firm being respectable in Europe in the hope of something (international football) that we simply might not be big enough to get anyway. The Irish and Welsh have not qualified for any trophies and they do not have an old firm. Neither have Belgium or Hungary who have competitive leagues.

    Also above all people do not like competitive leagues that is a myth people want to see quality, quality, quality. Competition is easy.
    Compare the attendances of the SPL to any country on the planet of our size.
    None even compare with our attendances.
    Sweden is nearly twice our size and has no where near as good attendances. We have the best supported league on the planet, per population your wage cap idea would wreck that. Competitive leagues are rubbish as Jock Stein said a race between old aged pensioners can be competitive.
    Compare SPL sides to SFL sides in attendances it is not rocket science.
    Dundee got higher attendances when they bought better players.

    Now why do you not comment on my idea for us to play more european games and to have reserve teams playing in the lower leagues or a new trophy against real teams. These ideas would help everyone not make us worse.


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