BRECHIN - AND
Glebe Park may seem an unlikely setting to
determine the future of the SPL but if Clyde don't win their
final match of the season away to Brechin City and Inverness
Caley Thistle take the First Division title (which they will
if they win at home to St Johnstone even if Clyde are successful)
then it's almost certain there will be no relegation from the SPL
for the second year in succession.
What a damning indictment of the Self Preservation League that
Do the people who run our top clubs never learn? They've
tinkered with the rules a little so as to permit ground-sharing.
But that was only to protect their existing members - the prospect
of a promoted Clyde sharing at Rugby Park was a price they had to
pay to make sure Dundee and Hearts could continue to function if
they lost the use of Dens Park and Tynecastle.
If ICT win the title there should be next to no chance of them ground-sharing.
The nearest SPL-compliant stadium is Pittodrie - over 100 miles
from Inverness. Still, this is the lunatic SPL we are talking about,
so anything is possible. Their latest wheeze is a suggestion to
play the 'split' games before the split is due to come into effect.
Who thought up this brilliant idea?
At least at the moment the split is simply a ludicrous add-on at
the fag-end of the season. If the new suggestion is put into practice
we could end up with a situation whereby, let's say, Livingston
and Motherwell finish bottom of the table, level on points with
Livvy having a slightly better goal difference.
But Motherwell would have played the Old Firm FOUR times
each and Livvy just THREE.
Cynics may say 'so what, they won't go down anyway.'
And they may well be right. Here's the situation one game from the
end of the SFL season and two away from the SPL's finish:
No one knows if a club will be relegated/promoted
No one knows if any clubs will be hit by the new
10-point deduction for being in administration.
No one knows what form the ridiculous 'split' will take next season
(though there will still be one)
No one knows what rule changes, if any, will be brought in to prevent
this shambles from happening again next season.
Presumably though the club chiefs do know why crowds are dropping
disastrously at the end of the season. A case in point is Aberdeen
v Hibs, watched by under 7,000 and the lowest for the fixture
in over 40 years.
We make no apologies for contrasting the situation with England
once again. Traditionally, gates in England and Scotland follow
the same trends. But not now.
Half the Premiership clubs played their last match
on the same day as that pitiful turnout at Pittodrie. Every ground
was packed out. Even at relegated Leeds and Leicester
there were full houses.
And it wasn't just the glamour end of English football which produced
bumper end-of-season gates. Of 46 matches over the weekend of May
8th/9th just one - at Kidderminster - had a lower attendance
than Livingston v Partick in the SPL.
That's right. The likes of Scunthorpe, Bury, Cheltenham and
Southend attracted more spectators than an SPL club fresh
from winning a major trophy.
No fewer than SIX of the twelve English Third Division games
were watched by more fans than Aberdeen v Hibs. The five SPL games
other than the Old Firm derby drew just over 30,000 in total. Or
to put it another way, a couple of thousand fewer than watched just
TWO English Third Division matches at Hull and Doncaster.
Now just in case it has escaped our legislators attention there
is one good reason for this continued growth in crowds south of
the border - competition. Teams have something to aim at in the
shape of a play-off place. As long as relegation in Scotland depends
not on who finishes last in the SPL but on what kind of ground the
winners of the First possess or how close they are to an existing
SPL ground then crowds will continue to drop - and rightly so.
Perhaps it will take a further season of dropping gates to galvanise
the SPL into action. They must surely realise that just about every
move made by this League in its six years of existence has been
But they needn't even look south for the solution. In the SFL those
matches which had meaning to them produced big gates. There were
three times the usual number at Broadwood for the Clyde-ICT
duel. More people watched Morton in the second than Livvy
in the SPL. Airdrie won that division's title at Alloa in
front of a gate almost 250% bigger than on their last visit. Even
in the Third Division, previously without a four-figure crowd all
season, there was a full house at Stirling for the top of
the table clash with Stranraer.
And at least the SFL promises a thrilling denouement. Nine
of the final fifteen matches have something at stake. Every game
in the cut-throat Second Division - where there is a 40% turnover
every year - is part of either the promotion or relegation struggle.
And apart from the Clyde-ICT battle, both Stranraer and Stirling
take their tussle for the title to the wire.
Meanwhile, Partick Thistle fans will be more interested in
events at Inverness and Brechin than in their own
team's final game at home against Kilmarnock.
Sadly, that just about sums up the SPL.
Recently we answered a query on the Drybrough Cup.
Fraser Pettigrew e-mails with additional information. This
trophy (in its early days) operated an experimental rule which saw
the eighteen-yard line extended acorss the pitch and offside applying
only between there and the goal-line.
There's a new book and CD available on Edinburgh
City, covering the club's history from their establishment as
the 'Queen's Park of the east' to joining and subsequently
leaving the Scottish League, through a spell in the juniors, subsequent
demise in the 1950s, rebirth in the eighties and their return to
the Scottish Cup and taking over as tenants at Meadowbank.
Packed with historical info, detailed statistics and including a
film clip of City in action from 1953, the book is £10 and
the CD £5. More information and ordering details can be obtained