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Saving Scottish Football Again

Scottish Football.

Yes here we are again trying to improve the sorry state of Scottish football.

In reality it’s all about money but as Scottish football hasn’t got any, we need to think outside the piggy bank.

Well what have we got?

Some leagues. Celtic currently sit at the top end while Rangers do penance for their sins in the 3rd division.

No doubt Rangers will slowly move back up through the leagues. I’ll bet a lot of the teams at the bottom will be sad to see them go. Their gate receipts must be up. The standard must have improved a little. Teams will be trying harder to win matches because the team that follows Rangers up to the 2nd division will continue to have improved gate receipts.

But at the moment most teams in the 3rd division won’t want Rangers to get promoted. That’s like leaving the gate open for the cash cow to escape. They want their golden calf securely lashed to a 3rd division goal post.

The only way to prevent the cow from leaving is to make sure Rangers don’t win the league. Therefore teams have to up their standards. But the backlash is that the team (other than Rangers) who win the league and gain promotion, will be denying themselves Rangers crowds. It’s a catch 22 situation.

 

Meanwhile up in the premier league, since Rangers got ejected, competition is fierce. Celtic are not running away with the title as some predicted. Instead, there is no huge gap at the top between Celtic and the also rans. As I write, it’s now early December. Celtic sit top but only just. They have dropped a huge amount of points this season already.

What seems apparent now was that previously, teams faced each other 3 times a season. This meant each club faced 6 games against Rangers and Celtic. That’s a potential loss of 18 points while Rangers and Celtic fight it out over their 18 point quota.

But this year clubs outside the Old Firm face only the potential loss of 9 points to Celtic. Suddenly those clubs begin to see the fight for the Championship as a real possibility. The team that beats Celtic can win the league.

Some would argue that Celtic’s standards have fallen because Rangers are no longer pushing them all the way, but I think it’s simple maths and a fresh mentality blowing through Scottish football.

Perhaps it’s a balance. Maybe the league needed strengthening at both ends. Celtic are keeping the top in shape while Rangers reluctantly reinforce the bottom.

They say a strong foundation is needed to build a tall building.

 

But it is inevitable that Rangers will move up through the ranks and the old hierarchy will be restored. Will Scottish football return to its old familiar stagnant pond or has there been a lesson learned?

Scottish Football must adapt or go out of business. That is the bottom line. Celtic or Rangers’ only alliance to Scottish football on a business level is their semi guaranteed Champions League money. In the past they have monopolized this cash. All they had to do was win the Scottish league and gain entry to the group stages. Had they joined the English league, this money would be less certain, though 40 million just for being in the EPL would be very handy until relegation.

 

…………………………..

 

Let’s picture Rangers gaining promotion from the 3rd division to the 2nd. Those teams left behind are going to have the January blues. Christmas is over. Summer couldn’t be further away. All is dark.

They are going to want a new attraction to replace Rangers.

And the poor demoted teams from the 2nd division who will just have missed out on the big Rangers boom town season. They’ll be so pissed off.

Rangers go up as they go down. That has to hurt. The whole 3rd division benefited. The whole 2nd division about to benefit. So would the teams in the 2nd division this current season not be playing harder to stay up? Staying in the 2nd division would be like earning group stage Champions League money?

Could a team actually follow Rangers from the bottom tier all the way to the premier league due to the financial benefits of riding on Rangers’ coat tails. This could encourage mergers between neighbouring clubs. Share one stadium. Triple their fan attendance.

The time would be ripe for Celtic and Rangers to put development squad(s) into the lower leagues.

The Scottish League itself could enter a team made up of fringe team members of all the premier league teams. Place them in the league below the SPL and let them have guaranteed game time. Make this team subject to complete overhaul each season.

 

Summer Football.

“Well it Rains in summer too”.

For sure there are plenty of pros and cons.

I wonder if the lower leagues were played in Summer could they be used as case studies and learned from. Why play those matches in torrential rain and extreme cold. That really isn’t much fun for the shivering crowd or mud caked players. But on a mild summer evening with a relaxed crowd in tee shirts out supporting their local team… who knows, it might even catch on. There’d be better playing conditions, decent pitch, more skill, faster game, and possibly more entertainment.

The Premier League though seems determined to play in winter. Are roofs on football stadiums banned? Would the presence of a roof mean that technically it would be indoor football?

Supposing roofs were allowed to be used only in adverse conditions and only a certain number of times a season and only by agreement with the visiting team. How expensive would a giant sliding roof be? It could simply be made of some waterproof material like nylon or whatever tents are made of. Nothing so heavy it would kill a player if it fell on them. I have noticed though that some of today’s players seem to fall over injured if touched by a mere breeze.

As for a winter break, why not just have the League cup played over a 3 week period so that if by a miracle, there is good weather in the break, it would at least be put to good use. Maybe we could play it in one of our new roofed stadiums.

I think the main reason we still insist in playing our football in Winter is that it conforms with most of the rest of Europe. Scottish teams want to be fit and on form in order to successfully compete in the Champions League. Now let’s be realistic here for a moment and review that last sentence.

How often do Scottish clubs compete beyond the first round of any European competition? Rare to seldom, I’d say. So for that vain hope of glory, our teams must slog it out all Winter in plough fields bombarded by blizzards and freezing monsoon rains. There is something very touching and sad about that. I can imagine the players in Spain and Portugal watching a Scottish fixture and shaking their heads, saying “Those poor gobs. Thank god I don’t play in that league”.

European success? Not going to happen. But even I dream too.

I mean it could happen but we shouldn’t over anticipate or budget for it. One day, it may snow in Jamaica but I doubt they have a fleet of well oiled snow ploughs and ace drivers waiting on call 24 hours a day all year.

Scots tend to forget that about half of Europe has fairly short mild winters. So they don’t face the same hardship that Scottish teams endure. In fact the countries who do have long harsh Winters like Scotland’s, (Scandinavia) play their football in summer.

These smart countries look after their own domestic game first then think about Europe second. They aim within a budget of reality.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t dream. By all means dream big and grand but don’t invest in a recurring nightmare.

So just because the Scottish premier league has its head in the clouds, it doesn’t mean the lower leagues have to suffer too.

 

A Summer league might attract decent players from foreign leagues to sign for Scottish clubs. Dark Wintry Scotland is not very appealing but Scotland is far less daunting in Summer.

Players could be enticed by 6 month loan contracts. They could take a wage cut, keep fit, and enjoy the country, before returning to their official Winter clubs. It would practically be a free holiday. Obviously contracts would need tweeked as no one wants to lose their loan signings a month before the league ends.

Let the Summer league run till November. This would coincide with the pre-Christmas European fixtures. Most Scottish clubs exit at this stage anyway, but if they make it to the next round, we’ll worry about that when it happens.

 

Right so let’s picture this new league set up in action.

Season kicks off in mid May.

Celtic, Rangers and the usual bunch are joined be 2 teams of Scottish fringe players as mentioned above.

With 14 teams now in the league, that adds up to 26 games. Is that enough? Will there be a top 4 or 6 play off?

November rolls around. The League title has been Decided. European fixtures are underway. League ends.

Winter break ensues till January when Scottish Cup and league Cup fixtures keep the football deprived fans happy. These fixtures lead up to the seasons beginning and mean that any Scottish clubs still in Europe will have had a chance to play some competitive football.

Scottish cup final takes place in May as usual.

League cup final takes place on Mid Summers day or exactly half way through the season.

Meanwhile in the lower leagues, Many small town teams have merged and pooled their resources.

Celtic and Rangers development squads are now participating in one of the lower leagues.

They help to bolster crowds a little and hopefully have added a bit of colour and edge to the leagues. They may win the league but will not be promoted.

 

So… these thoughts are a bit jumbled but we have to start somewhere to get somewhere. Let’s get the ball rolling.

 

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