Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Did Scottish Football Just Get Something Right?

For the first time in many years, it appears that Scottish football has acted in a way and reached decisions that the majority of fans are actually pleased with, so what has caused this almost unique phenomenon and is it the Mayan calendar at work?

Once Rangers liquidated and the scale of their ills and wrong doings were apparent, starting all over again at the bottom was the only credible outcome. Despite that there was initially a huge suspicion that a fudge would be arranged such is the terror throughout the land at losing the Sky TV deal.

The spectre of further shenanigans regarding an SPL2 that Rangers would join remains somewhere in the background although it does now look as though Rangers will be kicking off in the bottom tier this season. What is odd however is that Scotland managed to actually do the right thing, so just how did this happen?

Little has galvanised both motivation and opinion amongst Scottish fans in many a year. There is no doubt that Rangers have probably been dealt with more harshly (although with validity) than others would have been due to the hatred that they have stirred for so many years. Their effective cheating has yet to be sanctioned by the SFA.

That being said, there is definitely a sense in the country also that there was an opportunity to force some much needed change within the game and that a fresh start was required.

The media has been quick to talk of 'financial armageddon' ad tedium with word that several other SPL clubs will go to the wall quickly once the much fabled Sky deal is off the table.

The reality is that the Sky deal offered very little to Scotland as the money it brought in was not being put to work in the right places and was simply servicing debts that should have not been there in the first place. A chance to create a smaller but debt free set up is a slightly naive one (possibly) but a very attractive one nevertheless.

The paralysis induced by the spectre of Sky merely served to maintain the awful status quo much in the way heroin keeps its' victims' issues under wraps for just a little longer before the inevitable eventually comes.

SPL clubs need to be able to process a budget and run their clubs in accordance with their incomes and not be subsidised by four Old Firm games every season that they have nothing to do with.

Whilst it is Rangers and Celtic that have formed this duopoly, it is the rest of Scotland that has accepted it. Edinburgh for instance has a large population yet is unable to produce a fan base to have a club that could truly rival either of them.

Both Aberdeen and to a lesser extent Dundee United had periods where they matched if not bettered what the Old Firm could muster. It is since the dawn of the modern TV age that the chasm has so widened so why be so terrified to let it go?

What is far more important is to have fans walking through turnstiles every week, that is the sustainable business that the country so cries out for. For all the talk of TV deals, the teams across Europe who are the biggest all have huge grounds that are full every week, they are big clubs because people pay to go and watch them first and foremost.

The reason that a common sense decision was reached on where the newco Rangers should play was because the same chairmen who are terrified of losing Sky are it appears even more terrified of losing what few fans they have.

Scottish football desperately needs to return to focusing on getting punters through the turnstiles again rather than depending on a TV deal focused around four Old Firm games a year. With a bias like that was there ever going to be any other outcome than such a ludicrously lopsided league?

Rangers' fall is undoubtedly going to be a hard pill for Scotland to swallow financially and it may well be that administration will be required for other clubs along the way. It could however be that several years of hardship could see the game rebranded and reformed into a viable product with clubs that are self sustainable.

What has also become abundantly clear is that there is no need for an SFA, an SPL and an SFL, it is an utter nonsense as not one association has made a decision on anything of any significance other than the botched attempt to invoke a transfer ban on Rangers. Every matter of substance has been voted for by the clubs, there is only a need for football body, end of story.

What happens next is far from clear and the sense of a new beginning is going to be overwhelmed by one of overriding uncertainty. Even Celtic who have stressed that they do not need Rangers to survive, undoubtedly need the television money that Rangers' existence guaranteed in order to sustain a squad that is hugely overweight for the purposes of winning the SPL now.

It is of course clear that Rangers' attendances will drop markedly now that they are on the bottom rung but what crowds can be expected at Celtic Park for the next few seasons given that they will effectively be on their victory parade and lap of honour from day one?

All of this points to a coming together of clubs into a much smaller and more competitive pot and it is there and only there that there is some hope for Scottish football. It is already TWENTY SEVEN years since a club outside of Rangers (it is possible Rangers could have some struck off) and Celtic won the league in Scotland which is a quite farcical statistic.

By way of some comparison, five different clubs have won the Eredivise since 1998. Four clubs have won the Portuguese first division in the past twelve years and since 1998, EIGHT different teams have won Ligue 1 despite Lyon winning it seven times in a row during that same period.

Whilst the Daily Record and such have enjoyed the hyperbole of words such as 'armageddon' the reality is that Scottish football has been bankrupt for some time already. Changing the name of the league does not change the product which has generally been dire since the late eighties which was the same time that meaningful competition ended.

That the bodies that run Scottish football had allowed themselves to become so beholden to Rangers and Celtic was farcical. The collapse of Rangers has had doomsayers stating it would be the death of Scottish football completely, how on earth did the SFA and co allow the game to get into such a dreadful state where one single club could bring the whole thing down?

Everyone has known for years that many clubs in Scotland are no longer viable yet nothing has been done about it despite the travails of Dundee and Motherwell as well as the breadline existence of so many others.

Rangers new life in the old fourth division and whatever punishments are still to come must not be the end of the matter but the start. Scottish football must find a way to produce a competitive and attractive product and only then can they start to negotiate television deals that will enhance the products and help it grow, not merely keep it on life support - No Nonsense.