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Is it time up for the Scottish Football League?

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Jim Spence | 17:20 UK time, Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Scottish Football League has survived two world wars but is it about to be killed off in a battle where the forces of both the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Premier League are pitched against it?

SFA chief executive Stewart Regan has called for one body to oversee Scotland's leagues and he wants to see a pyramid system support the senior ranks.

And the latter issue could prove to be the Trojan Horse for the SFL's survival hopes.

The SFL has dragged its heels on relegation from its lowest tier, fearful that a member club has nowhere to go at present, with no organised national structure outside of its own set up.

But their stance, while understandable from the point of view of self-preservation, offends against the notion of meritocracy and leaves many sizeable communities such as Galashiels and Inverurie, to name but two, without any real chance of competing in a truly national league.

The SPL has been rightly criticised for its miserly and unfair position of allowing only one club to come up per season from the First Division.

But that could change with the SPL now considering the incentive of play-offs to reach the top flight.

The trade-off though, will be that the SFL agrees to allow promotion and relegation from the Third Division, meaning that a pyramid system must be put in place to accommodate that.

The Scottish Football League run the League Cup tournament

The SFL look after Divisions One, Two and Three and the League Cup

The First Division clubs seem certain to vote in favour of such a set up given the potential carrot on offer of at least a season in the top flight with lucrative matches.

But the Second and Third Division clubs may be less keen on the prospect of some upstart from outside replacing them in their cosy berth at some stage in the future.

At the moment one stumbling block to the aspirations of clubs wanting to join the national league is that they fail to meet certain licensing standards.

But the SFL clubs enjoy a guaranteed amount of money every season from the SFL pot.

So, by dint of history, they have an inbuilt advantage over those in the Highland League, East of Scotland league and the Juniors, who might well wish to join the SFL but cannot afford to do so, even if there was a route in.

So what if the SFL clubs do not agree to this request for a pyramid structure?

The possibility is that the SPL will simply invite First Division clubs to come under their umbrella and leave the SFL.

What is then left will be a rump of part-time clubs, who may well argue about parachute payments and the like in perpetuity but are unlikely to have the stomach or the finances to mount any fight, legally or otherwise.

No one thought the SFA would ever change, but this week's vote proved then wrong.

Similarly, those who have blocked progress for their own reasons must now be aware of the combined forces of change lining up for further radical transformation.

I suspect the odds are now stacked against the SFL.

What remains to be seen is whether this unequal struggle ends in the almighty annihilation of a body with well over a century of history and tradition, or concludes with dignified terms of surrender.


  • Comment number 1.

    I do not think that any person, who has anything to do with Scottish Football, is happy with the current set up that we have. Yet nobody seems to know what to do for the best. I feel for the personnel trying to shake it up as they keep getting knocked back with their proposals. To me this highlights that the balance of power is spread too thinly over too many points and the governing bodies should be able to act in any measure that they deem fit, as long as they back up their reasoning.

    As far as the fans go, the general feeling seems to be that the SPL is too small and that we have too many teams.

    However to create a Bundesliga or English Premier League format would be a disaster with far too many teams not of the standard required for top, or even second, flight football.

    Personally I would like to see a format which is based on the Portuguese leagues. Two divisions of 16 followed by regional leagues. Failing that two divisions of 16 followed by the last ten teams in the third division (or second if it goes premier, first, second), if there isn't the quality required in the highlands or other teams.

    Finally, to have two governing bodies acting somewhat independantly is incredulous. To be perfectly honest I had no idea that there was this overlap, I hope they merge soon.

  • Comment number 2.

    The SPL only has two half decent in it at present (the OF).It is the standard not the quantity in the SPL.

    You can re organise the SPL as many times with 10,12 or 14 teams but the fact that the OF play each other 4 times per season sums up the sad state Scottish football is in.

    The SFL is now league standard period (with gates of 350)

  • Comment number 3.

    There are some well-run and well-supported ambitious clubs outside the SFL who deserve the chance to compete with the professionals.

    The likes of Montrose & East Stirling add absolutely nothing to the SFL and never will. Adding juniors and non-league teams into the mix would shake up the competition, not just in the 3rd division but above that as well. Just look at what ICT & Ross County have achieved.

    Personally I'd like to see 2 senior leagues of 16 with regional leagues below that. I know that some chairmen of SFL clubs aren't keen on regionalisation but this closed-shop, stale organisation has killed our game.

    The SFL is 120 years old, it's definitely time for change.

  • Comment number 4.

    would junior teams and their fans actually want to join the SFL? I have no complaints about playing celtic 4 times a season as those games are what we pay top dollar for in respect to our season tickets. I would not want to see a home and away fixture against celtic replaced by a home and away fixture against a raith rovers or morton etc. If the SPL expands the prices will have to drop at every ground as fans wont continue to pay an average of £400 quid per season to see games against the better teams be replaced with less attractive fixtures. If the price drops, income drops, if income drops then the standard of player we can attract to this league drops beyond what its current status is. its like turkeys voting for christmans

  • Comment number 5.

    I am of the opinion that a 16 team league would increase gates. Granted there would be less fixtures but there would not be 4 games against the same opposition which is very dull. So fans will not be bored by the same fixtures and maybe that will increase the gates. Also 30 games would leave time for a sizeable winter break, and in this time off fans' appetites for football will grow again for the second half of the season.

    Secondly you are quite right #4 in that the season ticket prices would have to drop for all teams. But is this a bad thing? Look at the Bundesliga? Ticket prices were slashed there and look at the attendances, look at how rich that league is now.

    I think that it is swings and roundabouts. Lower prices, bigger crowds, remember that football is for the people and far too many are priced out currently. Not only will Celtic Park and Ibrox be full every week (where both this season have had lots of empty seats) but Tannadice and Pittodrie will also see bigger attendances, leading to better atmospheres. Possibly leading to more enthused football, and even bigger gates, more TV coverage etc.

    Just to pick up on your last point #4, turkeys have no say about being Christmas dinner. A farmer would not listen to a turkey saying 'I don't want to be eaten this year' so why are the authorities bowing to the teams which are being stubborn for their own gain and not for the gain of the league in general. It is basic nature to look after yourself, if you are convinced that you think your actions will aid you, the authorities should have the power to act in a way that is better for all teams.

  • Comment number 6.

    So a £20m drop in TV revenue from a 10-team set up will be replaced by increased gates at lower prices in a 16-team set up? Replace Rangers at Parkhead with Raith or QoS or whoever, and 60k will turn out?

    Would I like 16? Yes. But lets be honest, we'd be voting for lower prices, lower wages and lower qualities of players coming in, the English League 2 would be snapping up our best youngsters at the drop of a hat for a pittance and the football would somehow magically be better?!!

  • Comment number 7.

    And the most likely scenario for the next seasons is a 12-team league. Dundee Utd etc may not want 10 but neither Rangers, Celtic, Aberdeen and Hibs are going to vote for 16. They will put the SPL 10th and 11th spots up for play-offs and solve the problem that aways, and effectively get to a 10 team league this way. They all have a self-interest #5!

  • Comment number 8.

    Umnarab said "The likes of Montrose & East Stirling add absolutely nothing to the SFL and never will"

    Is that the same East Stirlingshire who got into the playoffs 2009 and 2010? Bad example I think!

  • Comment number 9.

    two points

    1) Annan Athletic is one example of how a team from Scotland's other senior league can not only thrive in the SFL but also enhance it's competitions.

    2) Galashiels? Spencey, Gala Fairydean are garbage and have been for a while... a good while. Spartans have been flying the flag for East of Scotland football most prominently and consistently over the last 5/6 years.

  • Comment number 10.

    Be very careful on how you address some of the smaller clubs as many of them are original members of the league,but i digress in my view let the SPL cherry-pick the clubs from the SFL that they would like,then let the rest of the SFL to split into two leagues with promotion and relegation,also to supplement the new two league system invite new clubs to join ie,from the East,South,Highland leagues and the Juniors,and lets play during the summer

  • Comment number 11.

    would people actually turn out even if ticket prices were slashed? i cant see it happening either, motherwell reduced their prices in 2008 for a home fixture v us and the same amount of motherwell fans turned up as there had been in previous meetings. If a guy has two sons and he has the choice of spening £50 to go see them at ibrox against a morton or raith rovers, most of them would choose to keep their money and spend elsewhere. The fans of the other teams in scotland need to come out and support their teams on a more regular basis rather than waiting for a cup final jolly once every 10 years.

  • Comment number 12.

    SFL has indeed had it day. 2leagues of 16 and regional leagues with the chance of entering the 2nd tier if they meet Stadia criteria and credit standards.
    A winter break for all leagues is about time too as the climate has changed and winters are now colder and most teams cannot deal with frost.

    Also how fans attend games in mid winter in Scotland is a credit to them, but they shouldn`t have to.With the regional leagues at least if a game is called off at short notice fans are putting themselves in as much danger by trying to get long distances to the match that has been postponed.

  • Comment number 13.

    Here we go again Jim. You are simply approaching the central problem from a different angle. Personally I have no interest in what a single body should call itself. SPL ? SFL ? Carmen Miranda ? The fact is that the Scottish game needs a single body under the SFA.

    For this body to flourish, give it any name you like, it requires the absence of the Old Firm. Regular contributors will be rolling their eyes as I bang on again. Our game needs a root and branch reform. Two leagues of 16 with a pyramid, regionalised, support system would be a starting point just as long as all leagues were two up, two down, with playoffs, but without the OF.

    It will require Sky to remove the OF to the EPL. Money talks. But that works in more ways than one. Just ask the Pars and Raith fans. The ground was full - because they had a chance to win some something - fans will turn out.

    I am probably in a minority of one. I firmly believe that the exit of the OF from Scottish football is the way forward. My own chairman would probably have me hung, drawn and quartered given my allegiance.

    He needs to look beyond the end of his nose. The game is for fans, not the stock exchange, lets think the unthinkable.

  • Comment number 14.

    Now that season tickets have been on sale for some time now would it be legal for league structures to be changed at this stage?
    I renewed mine thinking that no agreement would be reached on restructuring and, much as I dislike it, that the status quo re SPL numbers would remain although I favour a winter break.

    If they were silly enough to move to a 10 team SPL I would not want to renew and would be looking for a refund, wishful thinking perhaps but an interesting point I think.
    What do others think?

  • Comment number 15.


    “No one thought the SFA would ever change, but this week's vote proved then wrong”

    Don’t go getting carried away with yourself man. Nothing has changed as a result of last weeks vote and it hasn’t proved anything.

    What Stewart Regan has is a mandate for change and he now has to deliver or there will be no change.

    Proposals have now become objectives and it is up to us all, to turn our thoughts to how we might contribute to the success of those objectives whilst keeping up the pressure that will shape the next set of proposals.

    Just how far ranging are these changes?

    Not very far. Ask supporters of youth football what it will do for them?

    As you know, I’ve beat the drum on change for long enough. The coming changes are very close to what I have long advocated which is a structure based on strategic strength and one can do no more in such circumstances than give the man at the helm your full support.

    But will it address cultural failings on protectionism, sectarianism, abuse of referees, true professionalism and myopic club management? - - I suspect not.

    You may or may not be right about the SFL future. It is however irrelevant. Out with the OF, the only viable top league structure that supports a pyramid system is a 16 team top league. If you factor in Neil Doncaster’s attendance criteria the TV top up that Rob04 highlights is no longer as important, unless of course you are one of the OF.

    The figures support it and it is a no brainer to see that under such a system there is no place for separate entities in that of the SPL and SFL. The SFL do however hold the key and perhaps this is the new frontier of Scottish football.

    Selling the existing product will only become harder if the status quo continues. It is time for a true partnership between TV and football in which both parties sit down and jointly devise a new product with greater appeal if non SPL clubs have to be more involved.

    I think I know where you were trying to go with this blog Jim but it has somewhat ‘reverted to type’ and you are going to have to find new focus for the future if we are going to move this debate on.

  • Comment number 16.

    To be fair I think this is by far the most intelligent list of responses to this topic I’ve seen. A lot of new points I think. I always feel though that Scotland is still not looking outside itself nearly enough. I’d be interested to see case studies of other European leagues in small nations. How have they innovated and how has it worked for them? I know that Norway and Portugal run two tier Premier divisions with 16 teams in each tier, below that they have regionalised. I’m sure other countries run differently. MAYBE YOU COULD DO A BIT OF INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM ON THIS JIM?

    To be fair though our system is and has been archaic for so long. We’re so fractured and disjointed and there is a ridiculous number of competing parties. How are we ever going to solve this problem if we can’t look beyond the end of our own nose never mind the continent??

  • Comment number 17.

    #Rob04 (and anyone else who can answer this)

    What is this £20m drop in TV revenue? Is this figure a guess or will a 16 team tier automatically lose it? Can you explain please?

    Also, do I think that 60k (or 50k at Ibrox) would turn up for a game against Ross County? Probably not but if the ticket prices were cheap enough I think that many fans would turn up to see their beloved team win. Same goes for Hearts/ Motherwell fans. Let's face it, this year has seen terrible attendances, a misely 17k at Celtic Park vs Inverness! Thousands of empty seats all over the country. Yes an OF fixture would see a full house but if you average out the general rise in attendances it will see an increase. Yes Motherwell reduced fees and saw no change but this was after a lot of games against the OF already, the appeal of expecting to lose wears off.

    The people who are in a position to pay the fees week in week out in these troubled financial times are well off people. How many thousand fans are priced out? How many of these thousand working class people who live for the weekend would actually make for a 'better' fanbase? That is what has happened on the continent and attendance/ atmosphere has reached new hights.

    It seems that we are all agreed on two 16 team tiers plus regional though so is anyone reading this?

  • Comment number 18.


    Will you ever come up with a soultion to the problems in scottish football or will you just contiue to highlight and dance around problems!

  • Comment number 19.

    @Coloniser (#8) - 2 flash-in-the-pan seasons reaching the playoffs doesn't make them a force in the SFL. East Stirling have traditionally finished in the bottom half in the lowest league since their formation. Plenty juniors and non-league clubs could offer the SFL and Scottish football in general a lot more than that.

  • Comment number 20.


    You'll find the figure quoted in the press following the splurge on ditching the 10-team SPL and the 'there is no Plan B' response. We are not all agreed on a 16-team league at all and not one SPL could currently afford to go for this option immediately. Not one.

    Neither Celtic nor Rangers believe that £60k would turn up to watch a turkey shoot against the likes of Raith or QoS. The certainty of less TV revenue would not be balanced out by some idle speculation that attendances would automatically increase by further reducing gate prices. If I knew that for certain I would not be commenting on this blog since I would have no doubt by this stage also invented a cheap biofuel to replace petrol and be living a blissful monied existence being fed grapes by beautiful women. But enough of my daydreaming and back to yours. The 'priced out' paradise would also have to make up the shortfall in revenue watching less competitive games: the old Scottish First Division prior to the 10 league was peppered with post-christmas games that were nothing more than passie or kick and rush back and forth between teams that had nothing to play for. People make want to go 'back to the future' in some nostalgic trip among the daisies but I prefer the economics first.

  • Comment number 21.

    I have no problem with Scottish football being run by one body but that is only a first step and will not in itself solve the problems.

    Ticket prices will not be reduced as this would lead to clubs rushing into insolvency.
    Television will not show matches that attract little or no viewers. They only show matches outwith OF and the Edinburgh derbies because they are currently contracted to.
    How many junior clubs actually want to step up and has anyone asked them?
    Many will prefer to be a big fish in a small pool rather than a minnow in a "higher " league. Where is the money going to come from to pay for the ground improvements needed?
    Before we get carried away with rushing to copy other leagues in other countries we need to be sure that like is being compared with like.
    What are attendances in Portugal for instance away from Benfica, Porto and how many clubs are bankrolled by rich backers?

    Before any radical proposals are made the SFA will need to take soundings to ascertain just how many "smaller" clubs wish to move upwards,where they come from (to assist with regional pyramid leagues),etc..

    Only when all this information is available can the actual planning process begin and this will need to be followed by firm financial guarantees, business plans,etc. before any actual changes take place.

    Change is a long way off.

  • Comment number 22.

    #16 Craig

    I wouldn't expect Jim to be able to do anything about it! He's just a sports journalist. I think his blogs are always quite agressive and succinct, usually adressing a pertinent issue. Likewise you always get some good debates here so he must be doing something right.

    Personally, I miss Chic's blogs - the amount of censored postings was hilarious. I used to sit and try to imagine what they must have written to get banned - especially given the abuse that was deemed acceptable.

    As to the issue, they'll not get it right whatever they do. So many opposing vested interests I think it's impossible to get it right - I actually feel quite sorry for them to a degree. It seems obvious - 2 pro leagues of 16 or 14. The rest accept they are amateur. What possible other choice do they have? Mind you, with most first division teams on the brink of going amateur the size of the proffessional league could dwindle to just one division. It will be a shame for the fans but it will represent progress in that it should at least become financially sustainable.

    The Old Firm must leave immedietely for all concerned. The competetive incentive this will provoke throughout the league will more than make up for their absence as a product which everyone on the planet knows is stale. Also, the OF teams will have no choice but to sort their secretarian baggage out if they went down South or they'd get booted out.

    I am very pleased they are at least trying to take action.

  • Comment number 23.

    Time for hardball by the SFA . They have the trump cards over the OF and the Edinbrough twins . Either back the SFA join the league they are going to orginise , back our plans for good of Scottih football or we will set up the league anyway and award the European places accordingly , as these places are the invites of UEFA for the SFA endorsed competitions. Can any team from these four survive without European money ? And before you can argue IT IS THE SFA who can decide who gets these , a breakaway league CAN NOT registor with EUFA. Its in them great UEFA rules . No club should be considered great than the country they represent . Its time some clubs , 50% attendence or not started acknowledge this , they represent Scotland , nowhere else , maybe its time to ban foreign flags to help them remember . SCOTLAND .

  • Comment number 24.

    I'll have you know mr glory hunter(SuperDennisFarina10- JELAVIC18) who probably lives miles from glasgow that last time morton drew celtic away in the scottish cup we took the 2nd largest away support to parkhead that season and thats possibly only due to rangers being given a greater ticket allocation. and also a couple of seasons ago cappielow was pretty much full when the likes of celtic and kilmarnock visited. And unless one of the top six teams ends up in 3rd division can you really see 9,000 being beaten as an attendance record so don't say morton wouldn't have anything to contribute to the sp hell. And I dare say I speak for all non OF fans. If everyone would support their local teams instead of, when you ask them "why do you support rangers/celtic?", saying my dad supported them or I'm of Irsh/N.Irish descendance or because they win all the time we'd have far better clubs. Look at the size of Paisley/Motherwell/Dundee/Stirling/Inverness/Kilmarnock/Perth. Look at the population of these places in ratio with average gates and you'll find they're very low. possibly, no sorry not possibly, because the glory hunters head of in their green and blue buses to a place a few hundred miles away to support a team they have no physical connection to(it makes no sense to me whatsoever). It even annoys me that when celtic are at home that morton's gate receipts take a hit. Murry1975- your point is very very valid. Scrap the SPL and the SFL and go back to just the SFA. One board split into two, one for the national team and one for the domestic league. Can you imagine a world with no glory hunters, pittodrie with 22000 fans a week, tyncastle rocking every second week, even the liikes of somerset park bouncing for a run of the mill league game against the likes of stirling or cowdenbeath. So stand together all you non OF fans and get them out!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 25.

    I'll have you know SuperDennisFarina10- JELAVIC18, who probably lives miles from glasgow, that last time morton drew celtic away in the scottish cup we took the 2nd largest away support to parkhead that season and thats possibly only due to rangers being given a greater ticket allocation. and also a couple of seasons ago cappielow was pretty much full when the likes of celtic and kilmarnock visited. And unless one of the top six teams ends up in 3rd division can you really see 9,000 being beaten as an attendance record so don't say morton wouldn't have anything to contribute to the sp hell. And I dare say I speak for all non OF fans. If everyone would support their local teams instead of, when you ask them "why do you support rangers/celtic?", saying my dad supported them or I'm of Irsh/N.Irish descendance or because they win all the time we'd have far better clubs. Look at the size of Paisley/Motherwell/Dundee/Stirling/Inverness/Kilmarnock/Perth. Look at the population of these places in ratio with average gates and you'll find they're very low. possibly, no sorry not possibly, because the glory hunters head of in their green and blue buses to a place a few hundred miles away to support a team they have no physical connection to(it makes no sense to me whatsoever). It even annoys me that when celtic are at home that morton's gate receipts take a hit. Murry1975- your point is very very valid. Scrap the SPL and the SFL and go back to just the SFA. One board split into two, one for the national team and one for the domestic league. Can you imagine a world with no glory hunters, pittodrie with 22000 fans a week, tyncastle rocking every second week, even the liikes of somerset park bouncing for a run of the mill league game against the likes of stirling or cowdenbeath. So stand together all you non OF fans and get them out!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 26.


    My posts don’t seem to be getting through to this blog but if it does, perhaps the following might answer your question.

    I have to agree with others, we are not agreed on a 16 top tier but just to clarify a point that is often overlooked in all of this:

    Attendance trends over the last decade and more so show that the top earning teams, from attendance revenue perspective, are 26 in number. Below these clubs there is a marked drop off in attendances. The 26 are also the clubs who consistently have the most success, which for the minnows is either SPL or SFL1 status.

    This is where the potential is to grow the game again or maybe even to just salvage what is likely to be left of it, if current economic trends don’t take their toll first.

    And it is from this group of 26 clubs that future SPL teams will come irrespective of whether we have a 10 or 16 top flight.

    Presently we cannot generate enough funds to support the current SFL1 and this will only be harder if the lower tier is 16 clubs all bidding for a top 10 place. The grim realities of the present SFL1 will hit even harder in a 16 team league.

    If these clubs are to be given any hope of surviving then the odds against SPL relegation have to be reduced, which leaves us with a 16 team SPL.

    There are no guarantees that the crowds will come back whatever structure you have however, if they do, then in percentage terms it will be the non OF clubs who benefit most and it is very likely the OF revenues will not be anything like what they currently get in a successful season.

    That said, I favour a 16 club top league because one way or another, sooner or later we may have to go down that road, like it or not. We should face up to this now! Not wait until we have no option.

    For sure, the present economic climate is affecting attendances, but if people think Scottish Football is going to somehow discover some Holly Grail of talent and quality that will bring the fans back, then more fool them.

    Scottish football isn’t as appalling as some would like us to believe but it does suffer from a massive negative perception of brand.

    Reversing this perception is the real change that Stewart Regan has to deliver. Not what amounts to structural change, no matter how difficult it was to achieve.

  • Comment number 27.

    #26 i like your comment about establishing a brand. in all these reconstruction plans i have never heard a genuine discussion about what is clearly wrong with the current spl brand, what possible brand can a future scottish league have, and how to rebrand. it's all pretty much been more of the same. ultimately the spl is a brand that has to be sold to the consumers, us the fans. with the current branding and ethos interest will continue to fall and even the tv rights will collapse as no one will watch. the thing is where can scottish football place it's product? it cannot dream of being a big fish in the money world under any circumstances, it's just too small. if you want to watch fantasy football on tv we're all already watching epl and spain etc on tv not the spl. we cannot compete in that niche. proably not even with the english championship! so what interest can we provide?

    on those who think the OF should leave. does that not just make our resources to construct a league from even more tiny. alot of consumers or indeed fans like the fantasy football big money world. if celtic and rangers were in the epl ( not that it will ever happen!) would most people in scotland choose to watch them? would it not make the current problem with the vast majority of fanbase being drawn to them even worse?? it may well. why if it were an option would you be interested in watching st johnstone v st mirren when you could watch OF play the likes of man u or liverpool etc week in week out? a move to the epl for the OF would benefit the OF, they'd get even more dominant over scotland, that's why they suggested it in the first place! for scotlands sake i hope it never happens.

  • Comment number 28.


    Not as simple as this I know but as a shorthand to work out the attendances required to make up this shortfall if we moved to a 16-team league at the flick of a switch: assuming £25 per head on average over 38 games you would need 800k extra paying customers - and these over a shorter season - to make up the difference overall. If average input per head were reduced to £20 then it would be an additional 1m extra customers over a season.

    Not one indebted SPL team would vote for a 16 team league. They are all cutting costs not their own throats. Which is where I differ from Iain at #26.

    I fail to understand why people fail to understand that a 16-team league is something to aim for over time, its a process and something to be aimed for and not something that can happen in an instant. I do agree with Iain at #26 however, when you say that there is too much bad mouthing the current product. Try watching your average EPL match, lots of turgid higher quality stuff there.

    Don't agree with Hibby though on his OF removal plan. It may happen at some point with growing economies of scale and levels of football but be careful what you wish for..

  • Comment number 29.

    Are times a-changing..oh I do hope so!

    Dwindling Crowds, more aggro for refs, less revenue from TV and Sponsors, and the Scottish answer is to intensify the bickering and snub the patently obvious!!

    I believe it is time to ditch the SFL and SFA, and the even SPL and emrace under one umbrella, wether that be the SPL or not is up for debate. One Voice, One Outcome, One Game.

    Remember, Junior Football is still strong, in pockets of the country Amateur Football is still very popular, the Scottish National Team seam to be heading in the right direction (however slow) many of the non "old firm" fans truly WANT to see a united and progressive Scottish League set up (with or without the OF)

    To that end it is now time for radical change.

  • Comment number 30.

    The Scottish Football League must remain, it should be the Premier League that folds. The Premier League has virtually no history in comparison to the Football League.
    I'd like to see a 14 team Premier simply because 16 to 18 will give to many meaningless games and will of course never happen. Play each other 3 times. Not perfect but the matches would even up the following season.

  • Comment number 31.

    a while ago on chris jardine's blog i praised how well annan had done but asked would he of ever had the chance to play third division football if gretna had not gone bust? they have been an example of what a club can achieve if they are given a chance. ok they didnt go up but they showed they werent put in to make the numbers up.
    there is clubs that have been in the basement division for as long as i remember. Montrose and East Stirling are the 2 that spring to mind ( i have nothing against these clubs btw) and dont seem to have any sort of ambition to get out. East Stirling even came bottom several seasons running, once with about 8 points and still knew they were safe. so why shouldnt there be a way of a team having the chance to be 'elected' to the SFL? im sure there are several clubs who would try to make a good go of it if they made a chance. I know its not ideal, but to me if a club comes bottom of the third division 2 seasons running, they should be chucked out if there isnt going to be a pyramid system.

    the top end is much harder to work out. I can see why top clubs dont want to play morton but the 4 games a season vs clubs must be boring as hell by now especially as there is only 1 new team a season. but more clubs in what is already a poor standard league is going to not make it any better? somebody with a brain needs to work out a format which will make scottish football a much more appealing product for everybody.

    sadly at the moment the SPL and SFL remind me of the Italian Job... a self preservation society

  • Comment number 32.

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

  • Comment number 33.

    Rob04 @

    I agree with the point you are trying to make but the danger of simplifying figures in the manner that you present is that it overstates the losses and accentuates the gains.

    So let’s be clear: Neil Doncaster has argued that a 10 + 10 set up with competitive football, attracting back the fans will generate the most income for the game overall. He is absolutely correct.

    Where the cracks start to appear in his argument is that he, like you or I cannot guarantee attendances.

    Where the waters become muddied is: if clubs do in fact realise their full potential in a 16, 10 + pyramid; the clubs, the divisions and the league all have the potential to generate more revue than they are currently enjoying.

    I don’t make such a claim lightly and to determine it required a club by club, season by season analysis of attendance trends and gate incomes taking into account variations due to grade A games, drop in TV revenue, season ticket percentages, family & OAP concessions – a multi page, 3 dimensional spreadsheet with over 2500 individual calculations. Over 2 months work.

    I suspect that many a non OF club chairman has poured over similar figures for his own club and determined that out with a 10 + 10, their club can still survive and give their fans something they want as well.

    But the price of their success comes at cost to the OF. Celtic in particular, as their gates vary considerably more in comparison to Rangers, and what affects the Celtic gate more than anything else is their performance in Europe.

    The OF contribution to revenues dominates everything and Scottish football will never be free of it. Questions like: should they stay or should the go?; league structure; UK Premier league or Atlantic League are consequently all rendered an irrelevance by the scale of the economic pros and cons.

    Bottom line? We need more people on the terraces and if clubs won’t address the changing social demographic then we need a league structure that ensures they will suffer the consequences of their own failures, without damaging everyone else in the process.

    And that to me, is the real value of the 16, 10 + pyramid.

  • Comment number 34.

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

  • Comment number 35.

    Getting rid of the SFL governing body is a good start to improving Scottish football, longmuir and ballantyne would be no loss to anyone

  • Comment number 36.

    @32.At 12:43 13th Jun 2011, Iain Jack wrote:

    This is a qoute from me from a previous blog .Would this be similar to the outcome of your analysis , if not would you throw a few pointers and corrections my way . Thanks .
    "The SPL is too small , playing each other 4 times , no please ,this just breeds static tactics and stale league structure . 16 teams , 3 down at the end of season , no play-offs no mini-leagues . This would encourage a new invigoured freshness to the fixtures , and -bonus- only 2 OF matches in the SPL !! A 30 game calendar would allow extra focus on Europe for all clubs , plus added insentive for the cup competetions , losing 8 league fixtures means you need to make up gate revenue through longer cup runs . "

    PS espiecally about attendence , once again thanks .

  • Comment number 37.

    We are beginning to see just how difficult the task of reorganising Scottish football is.
    There have been many good points and suggestions posted but the overwhelming problem is that until gates improve at clubs outwith OF things will never improve.

    So how do you attract more people through the gates and can this be done before the lengthy process of reorganisation can be completed?

    No one has answered that question to date.

    Part of the answer would appear to be that clubs have to live within their means starting from now as there is no point in Dundee Utd./Motherwell etc., having a good season and then being forced to sell their best players, that hardly encourages support in the area where it is needed most, OF will always attract large numbers so that isn't the problem.

    This issue will run and run.

  • Comment number 38.

    The aim has to be to improve the standard of football in the SPL and the SFL to make it a more appealing prospect to potential investors (Sky et al). For one, all three cups have recently changed sponsors - not helping revenue.

    The issues that the SPL are all of fixture congestion - The season starts too early for the OF leading them to having issues in Europe with fatigue (assuming they get past the first stages) and too late for the other teams (Motherwell's season last season started before the world cup because of their entry to Europe). A move to 10 teams won't help this as it will reinforce the idea that the season is decided by 4 games. At least with the current system, teams' seasons end against sides of a similar standard leading to incidences such as Celtic losing to Caley this season and Motherwell on the last day - none of that would happened if the run in was against the league's poorer sides. Expanding the league is the only way to go. The only question is to how many? 16 would leave plenty of time for a winter break and bring in the better sides from Div 1, assuming they meet stadia and financial criteria (No offence to QoS fans, but a part time team shouldn't be in the top division).

    The rest of the SFL has to accept 1 national division of 16 (Bringing in the rest of Div 1 and Div 2) with the rest of the league going regional. A pyramid structure wouldn't be as essential in this set up as it would require bringing in at least ten other teams into the SFL anyway - no need to rock the boat too much in one go.

    This won't hit finances that hard - TV revenue won't drop like a stone because it will be shared amongst more teams and the standard of play between the "old" SPL teams and the "New" SPL teams will even up pretty quickly. Equally, it allows more opportunity for a non-OF team to really challenge for the title as there will be fewer games against the OF that they don't get anything from. Increased competition will result in a higher standard of play and more interest from the media as the competition will automatically make the product more exciting. And the same will go for both ends of the table. Attendances at smaller clubs will rise, and it gives the calendar enough room for a winter break - something which is needed if Scottish teams are going to maintain challenges in Europe past Christmas.

    Nothing will really happen though because the SPL's idiotic voting system requires more of a consensus than will ever be achieved. After all, why would the OF vote for a system with fewer fixtures and, therefore, less revenue (at least in the short term)

  • Comment number 39.

    The SPL has only 6 half decent teams, the OF plus Hearts,Hibs Dundee and Aberdeen.They should play each other 6 times per season.The SPL should have 1 up 1 down.

    The other teams are wee diddy (average gates of apporx 2500) and should play in a SFL league of approx 10 teams.1 up and 1 down.

    The rest are non league standard (average gate 300?) and should become NON league in status with 1 up and 1 down

  • Comment number 40.

    It doesn't help when the normal teams (non OF) get almost bullied into selling their best players to them. Nobody grudges players moving onto bigger clubs but why almost always does it have to be the OF. For instance, if hibs had kept the side of a few years ago such as riordan, thomson, whittaker, murray, caldwell, brown and killen would it not be fair to say they'd be in with a chance or even have won the SPL by now. I know they got good money for most of them and they managed to build a good new stand from it but dont tell me the hibs fans would rather a shiny new stand than the title or god forbid the scottish cup.

  • Comment number 41.

    tomslaford doesnt have a clue by the look o it

  • Comment number 42.

    I do not have a clue how about this ....

    ' Our dream would be to put 11 players on the pitch and play exactly how Spain and Barcelona play, but that's a litle bit of way...'

    Craig Leveins comments what planet is he on ?. Spain are ranked No 1 by Fifa and Scotland ranked 57th ..... he has now chance with the present set up in the SPL.

  • Comment number 43.

    Is he looking to be Spain or mimic their style? Duh!

    In your own time!!

  • Comment number 44.


    More or less – the answer would be yes.

    Riskier; less protectionist; not just down but out as well. Out of the league that is but not necessarily out of existence.

    Let the cream float to the top.


    “The aim has to be to improve the standard of football in the SPL and the SFL to make it a more appealing prospect to potential investors”

    There is no evidence whatsoever that this will benefit clubs across the board. Look at the trends and all you will see are transient blips for individual clubs. It is unsustainable – just look at Celtic. Nobody would deny that they have played some great football over the years but their crowds suffer downturns like all the rest.

    I think your point is valid however, when it comes to retaining fans but you have to get them through the turnstiles in the first place.

    You could draft in the entire Barcelona first team incognito and it still wouldn’t please some people. So that means managing perceptions and brand.

  • Comment number 45.

    Tom you clearly can't distinuguish between wanting to play in the style of Spain and wanting to be them..

    In your own words Tom, no you don't have a clue..

    ..but shouldn't you be out delivering Pizza at this time of night?!

  • Comment number 46.

    Aiming at Spain is not a SMART target it should be Albainia or Norway - something achievable !

  • Comment number 47.

    Morbhoy @37

    You ask:

    “So how do you attract more people through the gates and can this be done before the lengthy process of reorganisation can be completed?

    No one has answered that question to date”

    Well done for trying to move the debate on.

    I think you have posed two questions on how and timescales.

    On the second point, I would say no. This is not a set task with a completion date but a never ending one.

    On the how part we could go on for long enough but my view is that every club has to take a much more strategy based approach to ensuring that people within their catchment areas are more highly motivated to come and watch a football match.

    No one has ever answered that one because it has never been taken seriously before because it requires a joint front. One that ditches self interest.

    A step too far for most clubs?

  • Comment number 48.

    I think post number 4 is a really intelligent point.

    Celtic and Rangers playing each other 4 times a season is NOT the problem in Scottish football. Neither is it the other 10 teams playing the Old Firm 4 times a year.

    I would add to your point that as well as reduced revenue from less OF games, there would also be less games played so the overall gate receipts would be significantly reduced. Furthermore reducing the quality on display and the vicious circle continues.

    I have some ideas about improvements but will save for another post. In this case I just want to reiterate point number 4 that 16 team league format is not the solution, nor is any suggestion that reduces the amount of times that the teams play each other.

  • Comment number 49.

    I am encouraged that the pyramid system is at least on the agenda among those in charge of the game. It beggars belief that we have a closed shop at the bottom of the SFL when there are junior clubs attracting upwards of 1000 fans for some fixtures, more than 3 or 4 times the crowds of some games in SFL 2 and 3.

    I also agree with post #28, while a 16-team SPL may be the ultimate goal, it is not feasible to switch to this overnight. Personally I would like to see:

    The top 24 teams in the country at the end of next season form two leagues, SPL 1 and 2 with 12 teams in each; each team plays each other home and away = 22 games; at this point the 2 leagues split into 3 sections of 8, who then play each other home and away again = a further 14 games = 36 games in total. This means the top 8 retain the 4 old firm/Edinburgh derby games to satisfy the TV companies.

    The middle 8 are effectively playing off for qualification into the top 12 for the following season, as follows: the bottom team in SPL 1 and the top team in SPL 2 would start this playoff section level on points, teams 9-11 in SPL 1 would have a +ve handicap based on the number of points ahead of the bottom team they were at the end of the 22 games, and teams 2-4 in SPL 2 would start on -ve points based on how far behind the top team they were. The top 4 at the end of the 14 game section qualify for SPL 1 for the next season.

    The bottom 8 would play off against one another to determine their final positions, with the bottom 2/3 going in to relegation playoffs with the top teams from the regional pyramid below, which contains the remaining SFL clubs who didn't make the top 2 leagues plus those junior/east of Scotland/highland teams who join the pyramid.

    This system would have the advantage of providing attractive fixtures all the way down the pyramid, as more teams would have more to play for towards the end of the season. I would suggest running the season from March to October to provide better conditions for players and fans alike and I would experiment with games on, for example, Friday evenings, particularly for clubs lower down the pyramid, as they may just find that if they adjust the entry prices accordingly they manage to attract some old firm fans in their local areas who would normally be at Ibrox or Parkhead - particularly if these games are being played in mild spring/summer/early autumn temperatures as opposed to the middle of the winter. All things being equal, more attractive fixtures should lead to more fans, more sponsors and more TV revenues.

    Regional leagues below the SPL 2 would mean reduced traveling costs for the small clubs and their supporters, and would provide more local derbies, which should again bring higher crowds, particularly in context of a spring-autumn season.

    In time the increased revenues from this structure would allow the SPL 2 teams to develop to a point where we would be able to look at expanding the top flight towards 16 or even 18 clubs. I suspect this might take between 5 and 10 years but the game as a whole would be stronger as a result.

  • Comment number 50.

    You need a diagram Tom


    It was a simplistic look at shortfall I agree but an attempt to put in perspective the scale of the problem for a 16 format. Not only is 10 + 10 the most financially advantageous format for TV (fans watch television as well), as clubs look at different numbers for the leagues (balancing competitiveness, with interest and finances) they may reach different conclusions on overal structure but interestingly not one SPL club will vote for a 16 league. A certain section of fans indulge this economic fantasy. The analogies that some make with the German leagues just do not work. German clubs carry no debt and the league has a better competitive balance. Even in a 16 league one of the OF would still win it every year.

    If your assertions are correct about there being 26 clubs in Scotland who have sustainably higher attendances then the optimum format should be 12 + 12. My preference in this format would be for two relegation play offs to stimulate interest end-of-season. But ironic that during all this talk about reconstruction we get the status quo with a tweak at the top and wholesale change at the bottom.

    Clubs do have to work harder to get bums on seats and stimulating local interest: get club colours out and visible in towns/ cities on matchdays, have summer football, have games to Friday nights as well and players visiting local schools and clubs on coaching sessions. Surely someone somewhere can come up with a marketing/PR strategy.

  • Comment number 51.

    @ #49
    I like this idea. Innovate way of perhaps breaking the deadlock.

    Could also be the basis for a proper partnership between football and the TV companies I mentioned earlier.

    Totally support the idea of play-offs like Rob04 at #50 also suggests.

    Needs quite a bit of thought on how to manage the fixtures along with Europe, International, Cups and congestion.

    Not sure if it would get the 70 votes or so to carry it through and could be seen as an 18 club cull.

    Wouldn’t like to see anyone take any snap decisions on however.

    Certainly worthy of further consideration.

    @ #50

    "....... marketting/PR......."

    Oh how I wish!

  • Comment number 52.


    One of the best suggestions about re-structure I've seen on these blogs or anywhere else.

    Mail it to every SPL club now!

  • Comment number 53.

    #49 .... Smell the coffee

    Attract bums on seats ..... there are bigger crowds at bus stops than teams just outside the SPL

    Even in the SPL Inverness CT v St Johnstone 4 times a year is a joke no wonder Scottish football has been in decline the past 20 years

    The end product is such a poor standard no wonder the national team is ranked 60ish

    1998 is a long way a way !

  • Comment number 54.

    #51 re fixture congestion... March to October gives you around 35 full weeks. During that period there are maybe 5 weeks set aside for international fixtures (March, June, an August friendly, September, October)... so let's say you have 30 weeks for the season - that's more than enough for 36 league games and the Scottish Cup, even if you allow for some clubs playing European games between July and October and maybe even in March-April (!)... in fact it would actually help our clubs as the July qualifiers would fall in the middle of the season when teams would be much better prepared than they are currently.

    If the national team ever qualified for a major tournament then you would simply start the season earlier and/or finish it later. What do they do in Denmark and Sweden? These teams regularly play at World Cups and Euro Championships. This is unlikely to happen to Scotland in the foreseeable future anyway, I would have thought!

    The League Cup could become a pre-season warm-up tournament to be held somewhere sunny in January-February.

    If the clubs that didn't make SPL 2 felt they were being culled, it would be a case of saying to them that the regional leagues were going to improve their average crowds by x amount, give them £y extra revenue each season, reduce their running costs by £z, put them on TV each week (why does BBC Scotland currently show highlights of lower league English football but not lower league Scottish football?) and so on... What is the alternative? Carry on playing in front of 200 people against the same teams at the bottom of Division 3 forever? I would think any small club with ambition would see it as a great opportunity to get some new sponsors, attract some new fans and grow their club.

  • Comment number 55.


    why does BBC Scotland currently show highlights of lower league English football but not lower league Scottish football?


    Good question and perhaps Jim can better answer this one. I'm constantly bemused at the level of attention that the BBC give to the upper and lower English leagues against the poverty of coverage we get. Big presenters on big salaries plus comprehensive coverage across divisions. Its becoming a throwback to the days when virtually the only mainstream TV coverage and exposure any of our teams got was on Sportscence on a Saturday night.

    I also think they need to seriously revamp the League Cup and either run a Celtic (teams from Ireland) or Atlantic Cup for the bigger teams, while the remainder play for the SLC among themselves. The international calendar is about to expand putting more pressure on domestic leagues and its a tournament that is in danger of becoming outdated if its not already looking that way.

    Regional leagues would bring better finances to clubs like Annan and Berwick. Their games would all be derbies of a sort and the costs of travel would be significantly reduced. To be fair I think many clubs would vote for a pyramid structure. Opposing change is no longer an option. Astonishing to think that a club like Albion Rovers can sit in towns like Coatbridge when in bigger towns such as nearby East Kilbride and Irvine, there is no professional team.

  • Comment number 56.

    In this ever changing world there are always new obstacles being presented to thwart good ideas.

    FIFA are now proposing, without any consultation, to increase the number of international friendlies in non-European/World Cup years from 12 to 17. As now these would be mandatory dates and would seriously affect all major clubs.

    Hopefully this will be resisted by clubs across Europe but will probably lead to a compromise of around 14 friendlies per season thus adding to the fixture chaos across leagues.
    We already have the situation whereby England will be playing an international match on the Wednesday before the season begins.

    #49 makes alot of sense but I can't see the powers that be voting for it.

    #55 BBC Scotland TV sports coverage in general is poor and will only get worse when the cutbacks bite.
    I think UEFA would have to guve their blessing to any Celtic/Atlantic Cup competition and again I can't see them agreeing to this even supposing teams from other countries were willing.

    The major problem with teams like Berwick is the fact that it costs £10 to watch the game and for many that is too much for the fare on offer. They would rather pay more and travel to watch SPL or PL football and that is a problem that is, in my opinion, impossible to resolve.

    Small steps are needed but getting agreement between the clubs/SPL/SFL/SFA appears to be almost impossible to achieve.
    There must surely be some common ground such as a winter break that could be agreed without the need to reorganise leagues.
    I can't believe that there is a proposal to move the New Year OF game to midweek.
    Who moved it back to New Year? the football authorities and the police.
    They readily admit that the trouble isn't at the ground so why is this a reason to inconvenience the thousands of fans who have to travel to theses games?
    Political posturing and an inability to properly police known trouble spots is the real reason.
    There must be more potential for trouble on a a dark winter night, irrespective of whether the next day is a working day or not, than an early kick off during the day.

    Just another example of authority's inability to arrive at a sensible conclusion.

  • Comment number 57.


    Your proposal is certain a lot more flexible and adaptable to seasonal variations due to Internationals and European matches as you highlight and, in my opinion your SPL1 & SPL2 would financially more viable despite the drop in Cat.A/OF matches.

    Much as I would like to I can’t come up with a viable model for the remaining 18.

    In your opinion, given the wake up call that many clubs need as you rightly state, what would be the more viable – splitting into regional divisions or simply having a 3rd tier of 18? This would support the derby interest that Rob04 at #55 likes.

    With a regional split of nonleague, colt and aspiring junior teams, do you think that this would work?


    “Regional leagues would bring better finances ……….”

    Logic would suggest this is the case but try as have, and believe you me I have tried! – I can’t find any evidence that shows that two clubs, say for example Forfar and Brechin, would consistently enjoy higher than seasonal average gates for derbies unless one or both of them are promotion candidates. Derbies in the lower divisions seem to be just another game.

    I think that any questionable viability would put SPL2 clubs and a good number of SPL1 clubs against the idea and could well vote against it as morbhoy at #56 suggests.

    Can’t agree more with both of you on the miserly TV coverage we get of the lower divisions.

    Come-on Jim – knock some heads together.

  • Comment number 58.

    @13 - totally agreed, we need one body. Having three bodies who all argue with each other holds football back. It makes change harder and it costs more in administration. And it means we still have the Highland, East and South leagues as well.

    I also think we need a pyramid structure with two bigger top flight divisions and then regional divisions beneath that with promotion into the top flight. My preference is for two leagues of 18 teams rather than 16 teams, because I'd rather have 34 games a year. That said, I know 16 team leagues would probably be easier to implement as 12 + 10 + 10 fits nicely into two bigger leagues. The existing SFL 3rd division teams would probably be against going into reigonal leagues, but I'm guessing the SFL 2nd division teams would be happy enough to be one season away from playing the Old Firm.

    The biggest issue for all teams in Scotland aside from the Old Firm is revenue. Higher attendance is necessary for them to survive, let alone improve. For instance, Cowdenbeath's average attendance last season in the 1st division was 892. Lowest attendance of all was 266. But even in the SPL, there were attendances of around 2,000.

    So how do you change that? I know I don't attend games any more because I'd rather go to the pub and watch it on TV. But if you could get a beer in the stadium, I'd go. I know there's a lot of objections to alcohol in stadia, but I think it'd help.

  • Comment number 59.

    25.At 22:17 11th Jun 2011, Moray_Morton_SC

    For the record, and because the myth gets on my nerves, Glasgow has a population of 592,000 and both the old firm average around 94,000 at their home games which is around 15.9% of the population attend football. Dundee has a population of around 140,000 people and both clubs average around 11,000 at their home games which is around 7.6% of the population. Now given that both Dundee Clubs do not attract the coach loads from all over Scotland that the old firm do I would say that both Dundee Clubs are doing better than most and getting people through the gate.

  • Comment number 60.

    #57 it's tricky isn't it?!

    I think the starting point would be to merge the current senior non-leagues (Highland, East of Scotland and South of Scotland) with the juniors (West, East and North), ideally into 3 (North, South-West and South-East) or 4 (North, South, East and West) leagues.

    Then, decide how many teams are desirable in each division - probably 18. These merged divisions would then play out a season to give you a ranking to base the pyramid on. It would then be a case of dividing the 18 bottom clubs from the SFL into the same regions, putting between 4 and 6 into each region alongside the top 13 or 14 clubs in each region from your non-league divisions. You would then have your 1st and 2nd regional levels, and could work your way down below that.

    I can see how the 18 SFL clubs would be reluctant to go for this as they would more than likely see it as a step down - but, again, the argument would be to ask what is the alternative? And surely games like Pollok v Clyde would be attractive fixtures for these clubs.

    It would be interesting to get the opinions of fans of teams like Elgin or Annan who have joined the SFL recently - do they miss the games against their local rivals?

    Your point about current derby attendances is interesting. If nothing else, it underlines how dysfuntional the system we have at present is. I think the key to it would be imaginative marketing and PR - as already suggested, play games on Friday evenings, reduce admission prices, get it on TV and encourage local businesses to get behind it.

    Summer football is hugely important to this I think - no wonder hardly anyone goes to these games at the moment when for much of the season traveling and spectating conditions can be harsh to say the least.

    #58's point about preferring to watch games on TV is also interesting - if you have summer football there is much less clash with Premiership games on Sky - so the couch potatoes have to get out and watch their local teams if they want to see some football!

  • Comment number 61.

    On the Chris Jardine blog earlier in the season he made a comment about the club management being supportive of regionalisation as a means to play more local games and drastically cut travel for the club and supporters. Not a definitive answer by any means but at least a recognition from players and management of one club of the benefits of this type of move.

    The Scottish eagues have to create a TV niche which will also be attractive to fans. In effect this means getting games on mainly when the EPL/ La Liga is not in action. Friday/ Sunday night and summer football both seem winners in this respect. Lets ditch the madness of mid-winter football and stage games when conditions are better for players and for supporters. Lets also move the end of season cup final to a Saturday evening. Maybe then it will look as if we are trying to market a product that is also open to teams with ambition outside the current cartel and try and breath new life into our set up.

    And a better emphasis on a passing game would be great too.

    The Scottish Football League is dead, long live the Scottish Football Leage as they should say

  • Comment number 62.


    You’d certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons with an ambitious plan like that.

    Not being in touch with the junior game I wouldn’t like to comment on how they would take it.

    You ask what’s the alternative? – I think one likely response from clubs would be take your promotional suggestions and use this approach to make a stronger 18 club Division 3 with either 4 or 6 bottom play-off positions.

    Oh for a crystal ball or the chance to be a fly on the wall of some committee and board rooms when these choices in whatever form are laid out in front of them.

    Thanks for sharing these ideas – I’m definitely getting some shut eye tonight but I can see this one occupying my thinking for some time yet.

  • Comment number 63.

    Meaningful games are what will keep fans coming back to watch matches. Celtic and Rangers are an aberration in Scotland and I agree with Jim's earlier blog suggestion that they should take their first teams into the EPL or an Atlantic league of sorts.

    If that can't happen, and I doubt it will in the current climate, then the best we can hope for is to give teams something to play for in every game, every point and every goal. That means winning a league or cup, qualification for Europe or other international event, promotion, avoidance of relegation, or if all else fails cash money.

    It used to be that clubs and Scottish clubs in particular played with a flair and passion that was focused on scoring goals. Then technical football took over and winning games became more important. Scotland's national team cannot hope to match their Spanish or Portuguese opponents in technical football but we can usually beat them in passion - witness that amazing half hour against Spain last year.

    Lets find ways of bringing in more rewards or at least sharing them more equally. Some suggestions below:

    - European qualification goes to the winners of the league and the teams with the next best goal difference regardless of position.
    - 26 game season with a 14 team top league
    - Top 7 in the league enter a cup competition with 7 teams invited from other leagues outside of Scotland
    - Bottom 7 enter a domestic competition (League Cup)
    - Money is distributed according to number of goals as well as points and position
    - Bottom and top four teams in each league play off in mini-league

    Oh, and for good measure, how about these rules on ownership and financing:

    1. Quarterly published accounts from each team
    2. Clubs being subsidized by an individual or corporation (i.e. spending more than their football and commercial income would permit) lose some of their league income proportionate to their 'outside' investment
    3. Clubs receiving subsidies greater than 100% of their football and commercial income in the previous twelve months would lose points proportionate to their excessive 'outside' investment

  • Comment number 64.

    Is it time up for the Scottish Football League?

    For the sake of the soul of Scottish football, one would hope not.

    The 'Greed Is Good' SPL has been a disaster from Day one of its existence.

    The impasse over how to reorganise the SPL shows how cancerous are the self-interests of such a small group (12 clubs versus the weighted 30 of the SFL), essentially all others trying to retain the Old Firm for the sake of their own coffers but without giving too much power to the Glasgow clubs.

    Not usually a fan of Americanisation, but maybe we need a wholly independent league, with no financial ties to any individual club(s) - with clubs paying to compete, and with an administrator of sufficient calibre to stand up to the clubs, individually or collectively, for the sake of the game.

    In any event, the SFA should indicate that - as from 2013-4, it will recognise neither the present SPL nor the SFL (without the reincorporation of current SPL clubs) as legitimate, and will not nominate clubs to UEFA competition until there is a single senior football league body for the whole country.

  • Comment number 65.

    Craig @ 27

    You asked - 'why if it were an option would you be interested in watching st johnstone v st mirren when you could watch OF play the likes of man u or liverpool etc week in week out? a move to the epl for the OF would benefit the OF, they'd get even more dominant over scotland, that's why they suggested it in the first place! for scotlands sake i hope it never happens.'

    Answer: Because you support St Johnstone or St Mirren (or whichever club) and you want to watch your team, not the OF on the telly.

    However, I agree that it's highly likely, probably inevitable, that the OF would get stronger and get more Scottish fans, if they joined the EPL. So the grounds would still be empty but the pubs would be full with fans watching the OF on the telly while drinking their saved admission fees.

  • Comment number 66.


    I agree in principle with your emphasis on goals. There should be a reward for attacking football but I suppose the essence of the game is that it isn't fair and often even front-footed tactics don't get the rewards the play deserves.

    And your points on ownership are a kind of more punitive local version of the UEFA rules, though you seem to reward a community ownership model most of all. Do agree with your point #1, #2 rewards community ownership only while in #3 there would be a query over what you meant by 'subsidy'.


    We want concensus not blood on the walls. Not sure Reagan and Ogilvie are the types to go to war with clubs anyways but a merging of the SFA/SPL would be good. The SFL is finished anyway you look at it.

  • Comment number 67.

    Rob04, Not sure why my ownership suggestions are punitive. It seems to me that punishing subsidized clubs only when it goes wrong is punitive. That is a bit like saying robbery is fine as long as you don't get caught, then you have to go to jail and all your possessions get taken away.

    Of course it would be difficult and there would be problems with definitions but if anyone actually believes that the likes of Gretna and Rangers have achieved what they have in the last few years legitimately, (i.e. without being very heavily subsidized) then perhaps they should join their similarly blinkered brethren at the SFL and SPL.

    We need something really bold and I have heard nothing bold from anyone at the SPL, SFA, SFL or Henry McLeish. Scotland has led the way in a number of intellectual and sporting endeavors in the past. We must recreate that combination of imagination and determination and show the world that football can be run differently and better.

  • Comment number 68.

    Andrew at #67

    I think you make a good point at #63 on ownership and financing and although Rob04 at #66 may have overstated the nature of these consequences, I agree we require greater accountability in fiscal & fiduciary matters but why punish the fans and players for board room failings?

    We harp on enough about the playing side, but surely the time has come for aspiring clubs to demonstrate robust business plans containing required elements set by whatever authority we end up with, against which they can set out their own business objectives to grow the club.

    A right of audit from above or below, authorities or supporter trusts, it doesn’t matter, the objective is a preventative approach rather than try to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted and it means no hiding place for those who transgress.

    I think all clubs and their fans should have a reasonable expectation that any incoming clubs into whatever league, are fit to be in that league not just on playing merit or ground licensing, but financially robust and an asset instead of a liability.

    Like you said, subject to quarterly published accounts but demonstrating whether or not their objectives have been met.

  • Comment number 69.


    Everything that clubs such as Rangers and Gretna and others such as Dundee and Livi was within the existing law and legitimate. East European football provides a good number of examples just now of dodgy investment. You may not want to run a sporting business in these reckless ways but that is quite another issue. Even the pending tax case against Rangers was one that arose retrospectively and it might might sink them yet. If it does it will be nobody's fault other than their own just like Gretna and Dundee.

    I agree with you on the presentation of quarterly accounts (which should be open to the scutiny of league officials and not just shareholders) and this would help identify problems at an earlier stage than possible adimistration scenarios but I'm quite agnostic in a sense about investment being treated as punitive once it goes beyond a certain level (which can only ever be defined in quite arbitrary terms say at 60% of turnover for example). UEFA regulations in many ways just cement the status quo and lets face it owners and investors will find ways around these and mechanisms to get their money into clubs within the definitions of whatever rules are set.

    I understand the need for better financial regulation of clubs through the scrutiny of accounts but beyond that I'm not convinced that legitimate investment should be punished in these ways. And what would it matter to the OF to each be docked 5 points in any one SPL season? Your prescriptions could in many ways be toothless when I suspect what you really want is better external scrutiny and identifying problems at an early stage.

  • Comment number 70.

    Surprised that the new Rangers owner hasn't already put in the club's resignation from the SPL.

    I fully expected him to celebrate his acquisition of control with an announcement that the Light Blues would seek to open negotiations with the English football authorities to join that set-up, which failing a resurrection of the Atlantic League set-up with Dutch and Portuguese sides, which failing some other new-fangled international alliance, which failing an application to rejoin the SFL, but on no account would he perpetuate the club's involvement with the SPL.

    It has oft-times been said that TV would quite like a two-team league involving the Old Firm; well, why not?

    Every Saturday afternoon, an Old Firm derby.....

    Then we'll see who needs whom more - the Old Firm or the rest of Scottish football?

  • Comment number 71.


    I think we are after the same thing. The means to that is bound to be a messy compromise - and to bring us a little closer to the original blog subject, I do not think a parochial and narrow-minded SFL membership organisation will ever be able to be bold enough. Don't get me wrong, I admire the dedication and commitment of the SFL board and senior staff. I just think they are hidebound by their institutional structure as is the SPL by the way.

    The only organisation that is disinterested enough, senior enough and, I believe, intellectually capable enough to properly organise things for the good of Scottish Football and Scotland in general, is the SFA. There would be sub-committees to run each of the leagues or league groupings (SPL & SFL) but all decisions would go through the filter of the highest senior board made up of senior football, political and social figures.

  • Comment number 72.

    #71, Andrew Keith suggested a "senior [SFA] board made up of senior football, political and social figures."

    Football figures?

    Does that mean club appointees, as at present? (That is really working well,... NOT!)

    Political figures? (Please protect us, and the sport, from the self-important huffing and puffing of Henry McLeish and the like. Political interference in sport never does any good.)

    Social figures? (Cardinal O'Brien/Archbishop Conti and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, I suppose.)

    Oh, dear.

  • Comment number 73.


    Did'nt take the new owner long. His interview today in the Sun under the sub headline ' EPL has to be aim ' throws this, and Jim's previous blog, into stark relief.

    I see little point in hand-wringing over bodies, structures, league set-ups etc. etc. whilst the two biggest teams by far intend to leave the rest of us standing at the altar. This has been public knowledge for some time but for the position to be re-avowed in such blunt terms as Mr. Whyte has, cannot simply be ignored.

    It is time for Scottish Football to get it's collective head out of the sand and start planning for a non OF future. Tinkering round the edges to 'improve' the current woeful setup is simply unacceptable. Any future proposal must be tabled with more than a backward glance at the wishes of the OF. Without them larger leagues are an inevitability.

    It seems to me that the position of the other chairmen is to hope it won't happen, bleat like stuck pigs when it does, then hold out the begging bowl for the parachute payment. Where is the long term vision in that ?

  • Comment number 74.

    Noble thoughts but will never happen.
    The SPL has the power and provides the money and will not relinquish either.

    There is a big difference between ambition and realisation.

  • Comment number 75.

    After Mr Whyte's comments, the ten other teams in the Premier League should demand 8.33% of the income each. If the Old Firm don't agree then threaten to resign from the Premier.
    It does nothing for the credibility of Scottish football having the two biggest teams continually wanting to leave.
    Nobody has any guts !

  • Comment number 76.

    El Generalissimo at #72, Actually I was hoping we might get the likes of Jock Stein, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Oh, but wait a minute, they are either no longer with us or not actually Scottish...........

    We get the leaders, (football, political and social) that we deserve. Of course, some are rubbish. We are a small country. We don't have many people to chose from. But we don't do that bad compared to other countries.

    But if you believe those people you mentioned are not up to the jobs they have, my advice is for you to get your suit or cassock on and get down to Hampden, Holyrood or your nearest church or NGO and show us all how it should be done.

  • Comment number 77.

    The idea that the problems/aspirations of Rangers/Celtic/Hearts/Aberdeen bear any similarity to those of East Fife/Albion Rovers/Montrose, is just daft, as is the idea that one governing body can represent both adequately.
    The hiatus between the SPL and the SFL did not arise from chance, but precisely because of the diversity of interests.
    To try to force them together again is a recipe for trouble.
    They may require reform, but that is a different matter.
    The problem with the relegation, or even potential relegation, of more than one side from the SPL, is that it has the potential to further undermine the quality and competitiveness of the SPL: If a club believes that it has little chance of being relegated, its business model can discount, to a large extent, the huge cost of relegation, and budget accordingly.
    If, however, that club fears that it may finish in the bottom two or three, (and that is likely to include all whom we would consider natural bottom six candidates plus those who have actually finished there) and that there is the very real prospect of relegation from there, then you have far, far more clubs spending with that danger in mind.
    Do we remember the case of Partick Thistle when they were last promoted to the SPL? It was hailed as economic good sense when they announced that they wouldn't increase wages beyond a maximum of £500 per week.
    Well Partick Thistle certainly still exist, but they (premeditatedly) contributed little to the quality of the SPL at the time, and, fortunately, were soon relegated as a result.
    Picture the quality of the SPL if seven or eight of the top flight, and any newly-promoted clubs, spend within those perameters.
    The one-up-one-down scenario isn't miserly or unfair, it's another facet of the SPL's raison d'etre: to promote the highest possible quality amongst the Scottish football elite through the concentration of financial resources.
    Give it a rest, your transparent one track agenda, ie to see Hibs win the SPL by the only means achievable (removing all superior quality opposition; OF by banishment, Hearts by the bankruptcy which would surely follow) is beginning to grate.

  • Comment number 78.


    Rather presumptious of you to assume that any Hibs fan wants to see Hearts go under. Aside from a minority on the lunatic fringe of both sets of fans there is no genuine hatred there. It is possible to support a team without wishing any ill will towards your city rivals.

    More pragmatically, on average the largest crowds at Easter Road are when the Jambos come calling. Not the Old Firm. Been that way for some time now.

  • Comment number 79.

    i think it would be helpful for Scotland to pull together with other leagues to form an Atlantic League rather than being bullied by the bigger nations. It could work like I suggest below or something similar - 5 countries each represented by 9 clubs, maybe


    The domestic leagues would have a top division of 9 teams, therefore 16 fixtures, 1 club relegated per season. Teams would also play in the Atlantic league.

    Atlantic League - Div 1 - 15 clubs top 3 from each National league - 24 fixtures
    Atlantic League - Div 2 - 15 clubs middle 3 from each national league - 24 fixtures
    Atlantic League - Div 3 - 15 clubs 2/3 from bottom and 1 promoted team of each National League - 24 fixtures

    Local fixtures would count towards both leagues. Entry to the Atlantic Leagues would be based on your finish in your National League the preceding season.
    Entry to the champions league could be based on your Atlantic League Div 1 finish the preceding season.

    Other 'districts' of Europe could operate a similar combinaton of National and district to boost competetiveness eg. scandanavia

    The main problem i would see would actually be the lack of reward for fixtures in say Atlantic League 3 but it may be that the lack of pressure in such fixtures would help youth development. It may be possible to provide incentives for such games in other ways. In any case, each National league fixture would therefore be exceedingly important and it would be possible for teams such as Hearts to win a 16 fixture national league - there is no doubt about that.

  • Comment number 80.

    To Bruce @59. you have to remember that for most OF home games they could easy fit more into the ground if the capacity were larger and also unused season tickets. That annoys me but what annoys me even more is people in Inverness, Elgin, Perth, Dundee, even Aberdeen of all places who are born and bred in these places and support OF walking around in their blue and green tops contributing to the OF's stranglehold over the rest and haven't even been to Ibrox/Parkhead. I live in elgin but from gourock originally and if I'm walking down the high st in Elgin or Inverness on a sunny saturday afternoon, finding any youngsters(or adults for that matter) in an Elgin or Inverness shirt is very hard to come by. I find it a sad state of affairs when a half decent SPL team like Inverness can't even show off its colours because people "support" two teams hundreds of miles away. Walk up Inverness High st and you'll see at least 4 times the amount of OF shirts than you will Invernes. The OF fans outside Glasgow just annoy me so much. I want to punch the laptop.

    PS. No laptops were harmed before, during or after this post.

  • Comment number 81.

    I think it's time up for this blog,all possible options have been posted and it's time to move on Jim, unless you're sunning yourself yourself somewhere.

  • Comment number 82.

    81 morbhoy.......I agree, move along nothing more to see, this one has run it's course, but some good debate as always.

    I know the movers and shakers in the game read the blog and the comments so it's worth letting a topic like this breathe for a bit.

  • Comment number 83.

    Jim at #82

    "I know the movers and shakers in the game read the blog ....."

    You are beginning to sound like that other fella - what's his name? - Jim Traynor!

    Maybe you can go one better than him and persuade the 'powers' to actively participate now and again.

    That would be a change in the right direction!

    Wouldn't you agree?

  • Comment number 84.

    83, Iain, so much for moving on.

    I think you're overly optimistic about the power of us humble hacks.

    Argument and discourse aimed at the changing of minds takes a lot of time as I'm sure you know.

    I think ultimately only the fans persuade the "Movers and Shakers".

    That is done by dialogue, through the supporters trust movement for example, or fans federations, and seldom achieves things very quickly.

    And of course if that fails, fans can persuade the "Movers and Shakers" by not parting with their hard earned cash for season tickets or at the turnstiles.

  • Comment number 85.

    Jim one on the GB team football team next pleeaaaseeee. And maybe the movers and shakers will help us stop it!!!!!

  • Comment number 86.

    #84 Jim Spence,

    Sorry to return to this Jim following my request to move on but I feel that, in addition to supporters' trusts, all clubs should consult their fans in order that their views are heard.

    I know this would be difficult logistically but a trial run whereby season ticket holders, who would have access to a website ( and have to give their season card details), could express their views would be a good start.
    Too often I read views that are supposedly representative which conflict with not only my own but those of other fans I know.

    Clubs may not act on said views but they certainly couldn't plead ignorance and they certainly would know what was exercising their fans' minds as well as the movers and shakers being made aware also.

  • Comment number 87.

    I know the movers and shakers in the game read the blog

    Only between takes on Strictly Come Dancing Jim


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