Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Ess Pee Hell 2!

“The Scottish Premier League has approved the creation of a second division, with invitations going out to 10 Scottish Football League clubs.

SPL chairman Lex Gold described the move as "seismic" and said the restructuring would be good for top-flight football in Scotland.

A meeting of the present 12 SPL clubs also approved the introduction of a cup tournament restricted to member clubs.

It is hoped to have the new arrangement up and running for season 2008-09.”

I don’t know about you guys out there in the blogosphere, but as the good Doctor would put it, I’ve seen this before, and the news isn’t good.

9 years ago we first heard of Lex Gold (pictured above) when he announced the first set of proposals to shake up the basket case known as Scottish Football. He talked of making the game more exciting for spectators/sponsors/ yada yada so on and so on… So here we are again, this time with SPL2, so what has changed.

Well, the quality of the product (sorry I was slipping into marketing speak) has not improved, there are 3 main performance criteria (sorry! Tests) I can use here, performance of the national team, performance of the football teams in European competition, and excitement of the league itself.

In the 10 years before the SPL the Scotland national team had qualified for 3 (and on their way to a fourth) major tournaments. Since 1997, we have had… hmmm…. France 1998 (which we were on our way to qualifying for) and…. Err… that’s it really. For the 2000 & 2004 European Championships we fell in playoffs to England & the Netherlands respectively, while for the 2002 & 2006 World Cups we couldn’t even get that far. Red pen for the SPL there. However the SPL would turn around and point to the recent success of the Under 19 Scotland team. True, but with these players, and the older ones like James McFadden, wouldn’t be getting 1st team exposure were it not for the continuing cash crisis surrounding Scottish Football. No longer will teams buy a “Carlos Kickaball” just because they can (and keep a promising young player on the bench or on the team).

The second tester here is European results. From 1987 to 1997, Scottish teams reached a European Quarter final 3 times( Rangers in 1987/88 & 92/93, Hearts in 1988/89), while after 1997 this was only achieved twice (Celtic in 2002/3 & 2003/4). Again the shrinking contribution of Scottish players may be to blame here. Or also the inflexibility of the Scottish teams, playing someone 3 or 4 times a league season is not conducive to tactical experimentation. That and there is no domestic match practice for two legged European ties.
The Third criterion is the excitement of the league. We have had 6 last day championship finishes in the past 25 years. Of these, 1998, 2003 & 2005 have involved the Old Firm (the richest clubs in Scotland, Celtic & Rangers) going for the championship on the last day. The others happened in 1983 (Dundee United, Celtic & Aberdeen), 1986 (Celtic & Hearts) and 1991 (where Rangers actually played Aberdeen for the championship, with Aberdeen only needing a draw at Ibrox).

In the past 9 years, the rich teams have hovered up the sponsorship money and Television money and squandered it on dud foreign players, instead of investing & hot housing young Scottish talent. The only good idea the SPL came up with was SPL TV, and they couldn’t agree on how to run that. I’m not sceptical, I’ve just been here before…

This blog was originaly posted at : on August 18th 2006

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