The whole Rangers/Newco debacle has plunged an already waning game into turmoil but far from leading to the death of Scottish football, could this be it's rebirth?
There’s no denying it. Scottish football is in turmoil. If I was to be less eloquent, I’d say it’s on its arse, which is perhaps a more accurate description. Its national team hasn’t qualified for for a major tournament since 1998, attendances at league games are dwindling and now there’s the not so insignificant matter of the Rangers/Newco debacle to cast more clouds overhead. Happy days, these are not.
Let’s face it, the SPL in its current guise is just not working, it’s in massive decline. As an outsider looking in, I can tell you that its stock has fallen lower than shares of RBS and they need to implement a whole new brand and product that makes it attractive to fans and sponsors alike. It’s imperative that Scotland’s footballing landscape does not become a barren wasteland but I’m afraid that’s where it’s heading. Take umbrage, if you will, but this is no time to let pride stand in the way of what is clearly necessary. The damage done by Rangers has not and will not destroy Scottish football but right now it’s looking an awful lot like Dresden in the spring of 1945.
But, wait. Far from the saga over at Ibrox leading to the demise of the Scottish game, this could just be the making of it. Football in Scotland is ripe for revolution and the SFA, SPL and SFL need to recognise this. The only way total recovery can be made is a complete overhaul of the game and its structure from head to toe. The blazers must see that this is their own chance for redemption, to save face and pave the path towards uniting Scottish football like never before. They need to look past the short-sighted objectives of retaining current TV deals and project themselves into the distant future and see a competition that has retained its integrity and flourishes because of it. This is a brave new dawn.
We’ll come back to Rangers/Newco but just as importantly as any decision that will be made on that club’s future, vital steps need to be taken to ensure interest is not only kept from within the country but from also without. Revolution requires drastic measures and there are two changes that could ensure a successful game north of the border.
1: A total restructuring of the 42 club SPL and SFL league system to increase its membership to 48 clubs so that it is split into one 16 team SPL and two SFL division, both made up of 16 teams as well. The fact is that a twelve team league is boring. It’s boring for the fans and for the players too, playing against the same teams, seeing the same faces every few weeks leads to a lack of interest. I know, population-wise, Scotland is a small country yet variety is still vital in holding the attention of those watching. More teams means more players and managers being given the opportunity to pit their wits and skills against one another at the top level. Everybody knows each other inside out and that is one of the factors that has lead to its stagnation.
The numbers apart, not much needs to differ. The structure of playing one another three times and then splitting the top and bottom clubs to play against each other once has been a huge success. It gives those teams who are neither playing for the title/European qualification something to play for. In the year of its inception, I remember Dundee coming to Pittodrie for a game pitting sixth against seventh that would ordinarily have had little meaning for either side. In a 16 team division, playing each other home and away, plus the games after the split would mean a 37 game season, just one less than the current SPL campaign. The SFL’s use of the play-offs can also be kept, in addition to a two down, two up system of relegation and promotion
2: Change from the tradition August to May season to a summer March to December. I know the idea has been bandied around before but a summer season would give a new identity to the SPL and, initially, a renewed focus on the league. This would capitalise on the dearth of football between May and August and if they are so worried about TV deals, for those three months at the very least, Scottish football would captivate attention of a much wider range of football hungry fans. TV audiences would rise and on the back of that sponsorships would in turn be worth more.
The fact is, Rangers no longer exists. Rangers WERE a huge club. They HAD great fans. It HAD a wonderful history. But they are now more
With regards to European football, beginning in March would actually give Scottish clubs a huge head-start over other countries, thus avoiding the tricky early rounds against better prepared but seemingly inferior opponents. If Scottish teams do progress past the end of a rejigged season, or the national team qualifies for a major championship, it wouldn’t be as hard to tweak things to accommodate that, as you might think.
From a quality of football point of view, you’re cutting out the three months of the year when the weather is notoriously worst in Scotland and a summer season would be provide the kind of conditions conducive for Marc Wotte and his development team to implement their own technical changes to youth football. The pitches would be in a much healthier state, lending itself to a better standard of football. Playing football predominantly through the summer months would encourage youngsters to play much more, rather than being deterred by the dank, dark evenings that winter brings and return to their computers. The advantages are varied and this shift needs to be given real and thorough consideration.
Achievements like those of Celtic in 1967 and Aberdeen in 1983 must forever be celebrated but the decision on Rangers/Newco’s destiny will ultimately decide whether those feats will ever have a chance of being repeated. Reinstating Newco into Division one would ultimately kill the game. The fans wouldn’t accept it. Without integrity and a sense of fair play, the fans would simply drift away and might as well watch WWF wrestling. After all, what’s the point of playing a sport if those at the top continually strip it of honesty and its beautiful unpredictability, which is essentially what they would be doing.
As an ex-Aberdeen player and now fan, I would walk away from it. What would be the point of taking part in a league where rules are not adhered to? We might as well let football matches become a free for all and do without referees if those at the top allow infringements of their own guidelines be mocked in such a manner as Rangers have. Football is compared to religion because it carries with it the faith and hope of millions of people. Fans entrust their whole lives to the game. They want to believe that football is an extension of themselves, a world that is separate from the injustices of the real world. That’s why fans are so incensed by cheating because the crime is taken personally, a blasphemous mark that stains its moral fabric. Allowing Newco to enter back into the SPL or even the First Division without any just repercussions would test the mos
The fact is, Rangers no longer exists. Rangers WERE a huge club. They HAD great fans. It HAD a wonderful history. But they are now more. That is exactly why Newco must start life in the fourth tier because it is an entirely new entity. It’s not about what Rangers/Newco deserve, it’s simply about what is right. If Rangers, in their previous form were still alive and kicking today then a demotion to the First Division with a points deduction on top would be cceptable but it can’t happen now. Any other newly formed club looking for election into the league would have to follow the exact same route, just as Inverness Caley and Gretna did.
Surely companies investing in Scottish football would also want to be associated with a product that has values too, not some rigged cartel
I can understand the arguments of those wanting to preserve sponsorship and TV deals but surely companies investing in Scottish football would also want to be associated with a product that has values too, not some rigged cartel that abandons the majority of its members for the sake of just one, like a mafia mob looking after their own. And answer me this question: What if Newco didn’t get promoted in that first season? There are no guarantees that they would anyway.
For those who see this purely as anti-Rangers sentiments, I’d ask you to put yourselves in the shoes of other fans and imagine how you would feel if this was happening to Celtic. It looks a little different now, doesn’t it? Not that his is the end of the world for you either. What you once had may be gone, but your club, albeit a reincarnated version, can be built again whilst helping to pump life back into the lower leagues. Newco’s involvement in the three leagues below the SPL, would reinvigorate them. Clubs whose attendances currently run in the hundreds will have their futures secured by the money brought in by thousands of Newco fans coming through their gates. Full houses in the Third Division? Unheard of.
Assuming its rise back to the SPL will be swift, those three seasons could live long in the history of not just Newco fans but all of Scotland. The publicity and exposure given to those divisions would be worth a hundred times any financial gains that will be made. World wide recognition for lower league football in Scotland would bring fans, sponsors and the attention of a worldwide audience to a depth some football fans will never have heard of. Cowdenbeath and East Fife’s results being read out on international sports channels? It will happen if Newco accept to start from scratch.
Finally, a message to messrs Regan and Doncaster. Please listen to the most important people in football: the fans. Football in Scotland can survive without Rangers but without its fans it will wither and die. Don’t let that happen. Allowing Newco to enter at the base of the league system is not a risk but to play with the trust and faith of football fans from Dingwall to Dumfries could just be fatal.