Game’s rulers talk the talk but will they ever walk the walk?


12 – 10 – 10 – 10 or 16 – 14 – 12 or 14 – 14 – 14.

No they aren’t the latest scores for the z list ‘personalities’ who have cha chad their way onto Strictly Come dancing but the various permutations presented to the Scottish football public of the much-needed league reconstruction.

For as long as I have been watching football (26 years to be precise) talk about increasing/decreasing divisions, play offs, pyramid structures and the like has been a hot topic as the games authorities struggle to devise new systems of running Scottish football.

Usually the official word is that the need for change is as a result for a better standard of game, to flourish, but in reality the vested interests dictate that any potential radical alterations are quickly stopped in their tracks when the clubs accountants move in and see only financial losses.

During times of austerity balancing the books must be the priority for club chairmen who appear to be caught between a rock and a hard place, doing their utmost to cut costs whilst ensuring income from their fan base does not decrease, a danger when the supporters who are the games lifeblood choose to walk away.

And walking away they are, not just this season but for a number of years now mainly because the product on the park is simply not worth forking out for.

The standard of top flight football in Scotland is as bad as it has been for a long, long time, a fact that many who continue to talk up our game choose to ignore for some confusing and alleged bigoted driven reasons.

With the loss of Rangers from the SPL, a growing feeling of optimism enveloped supporters who expressed confidence that it would foster competition leading to better matches and more exciting football.

It was said too that attendances would increase, but three months into season 2012-13 the reality is that Celtic will stroll to their second successive title and the rest will continue to cut each others throat in the race to be dumped out of the preliminary rounds of European competition next summer.

Okay the likes of Hibernian, Aberdeen and to some extent Motherwell fans have enjoyed their sides good fortunes, but frankly watching senior football in Scotland requires a high level of tolerance in overcoming suffering, such is the poor fare on offer.

So what’s to be done?

Well if the SPL have their way another division should be formed on an invitational basis only. If the SFL have their way an increase of the top league is the target with the introduction of play-offs another suggestion.

And if the games real rulers, the money men at SKY and ESPN, have their way a hasty return to the SPL of Rangers and four lucrative Old Firm matches is on the agenda.

For a nation of just over five million the fact that there are currently forty-two professional clubs in Scotland is a freak of nature with every one of them keen to maintain their place and quick off the mark to accuse you of being disrespectful should the suggestion be made that perhaps some of them are no more than glorified junior or amateur clubs.

Certainly what is amateur has been the handling of the finances of some of these clubs with Hearts and Dunfermline just two of potentially many others on the precipice, following on from the shambles that became the liquidation of Rangers.

Until change, and I mean radical with a capital R, is swiftly introduced Scottish football will continue to stumble into oblivion with supporters and sponsors continuing in walking away.

Chopping and changing the number of clubs in each division is not going to cure the games ills on its own, improving the quality of coaching at youth level so we can produce another generation of Laws and Baxters – this should be the aim.

Bold decisions are required, such as contemplating overturning over one hundred years of tradition and introducing summer football and following the examples of the Bundesliga, the best supported league in Europe, in slashing ticket prices. This must be considered also if we are ever going to create a product we can proud of again.

Sadly I fear we shall just witness more of the “I’m alright Jack” attitude which has held our game back for too long and future generations will choose to follow in the fortunes of teams in the English Premiership and La Liga rather than those on their own doorsteps.

Written by Robbie Devine


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