I think that most fans, if they are honest with themselves, find the thought of the SFA restructuring the leagues to allow Rangers into the First Division almost as abhorrent as fans throughout the SPL clearly thought of allowing them to stay. So, that leaves a gap – a single space – and two very excited prospects for filling it.
Dunfermline are the team who have started their campaign in the media. They “fully expect” to remain in the SPL. But why should they? Their performances throughout the entirety of last season were abjectly poor. Even bringing in a manager for whom I have a great deal of respect, they were barely able to save themselves from humiliation. Five wins, 10 draws and 23 defeats left them lingering at the foot of the table, fully deserving, on sporting grounds, their relegation.
The principle of relegation and promotion is enshrined throughout our game, so why should Dunfermline feel that they have any right, legal or otherwise, to immediately return to the SPL?
The other choice is Dundee. Second in the competitive First Division, their fans must be drooling at the prospect of a Dundee derby lighting up the fixture list once more! While some will certainly complain about replacing a liquidated club with a club that is intimately familiar with administration itself, Dundee’s claim for a spot in the SPL is every bit as tenuous as Dunfermline’s.
Let’s be clear, they didn’t win anything. Second place is the football equivalent of being a bridesmaid. They were so far behind resplendent Ross County that it would seem a travesty to give them a “free pass” to the SPL on performance alone. On sporting terms, however, it’s certainly seems that they have a stronger claim to the SPL spot than their rivals.
But why should we allow club chairmen to sit around the table, eat their prawn sandwiches and make the decision that will alleviate one or other of the clubs? Why should a vote, replete with conflicts of interest, be allowed to carry us forward into
this new era for Scottish football?
I say that it shouldn’t. There is a better way. A fairer way. A way that would perhaps even raise the profile of the Scottish game, and would certainly give the long suffering fans something to cheer about.
Let’s encourage the SFA to arrange a grandstand event, a play-off for the space in the SPL.
Well, it is the most sporting way to do it, in my opinion. Two teams with an equally tenuous claim for the spot battle it out like titans in the national arena. Not only would it be a match worth watching at Hampden (for a change), but it would generate some well deserved revenue for both clubs – and the SFA – and fans of both clubs can feel satisfied that their performance on the field has merited the result.
I don’t believe for a minute that the TV companies wouldn’t be interested in this match. All they need is a few former players on board to talk about Rangers for an hour in the lead-up to kick-off and we’ve returned back to normality! But seriously, TV money for a special event like this must be something to consider. It doesn’t even have to be Sky – perish the thought, but Aunty Beeb might spend a penny or two, wheel out Chick Young, and make it available to everyone with a TV!!!
It removes the power from the men in the grey suits who think that they can ‘negotiate’ their way through every situation with legal challenges. No club that is currently throwing it’s weight around with the “sporting integrity” reasons for refusing ‘Deadco’ back into the SPL could possibly argue against the prospect of a spectacular, one-off, grandstand event to decide the outcome. Hampden always feels and sounds good when it’s populated with non-Old Firm fans, and small clubs tend to find supporters that they’ve never known that they had. Entire towns suddenly take an interest in football, children are decked out in club colours, faces painted, excitedly squealing on the terraces. Who wouldn’t want that?
It’s clear to see, especially if looking back a few short months at the English Championship Playoffs, that there is a lot of excitement generated around such matches. It’s a prize that is much sought after, and player and fan motivation alike is outstanding. So, we should be asking ourselves “how can we make this happen?”
Another, much less important, but equally relevant reason is the image of Scottish football. It has been badly damaged by the entire Rangers saga, the SFA’s approach to it, and by the minority of fans (and large chunks of the press) who take apparent glee
in flogging a dead horse. Perhaps, if it is well staged, this event may go some way to repairing Scottish football’s tarnished image in the eyes of the global media.
So, with Rangers only waiting for paperwork to officially terminate their time in the SPL, let’s bring the focus firmly onto not just who should come up, but how. Fan pressure has worked to prevent a travesty of justice from occurring (Rangers being allowed back into the SPL) so maybe, just maybe, if enough of us get behind the idea of a playoff match, the SFA, SPL and SFL might just listen.
Written by Colin D. Young