The plight of 'the provincials'

The place to discuss Scottish football
Post Reply
Alan McCabe
Posts: 507
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2005 1:01 am
Location: Falkirk
Contact:

The plight of 'the provincials'

Post by Alan McCabe » Tue Nov 15, 2005 4:58 pm

Having looked at the period since the inception of the Premier Division in 1975, it is interesting to note the periodic downturns that have affected many of our 'middle range' sides that rarely faced such calamities in the decades prior to the cessation of the enlarge First Division format.
Hardly any of these clubs, generally known as the 'provincial' sides, have managed to return to their levels attained prior to 1975.
Much to the detriment of Scottish football, although not of course to the incoming beneficiaries, many middle-ranked clubs have been deposed by outfits that were perennial village strugglers for many years. Imagine telling followers of Partick Thistle or Morton, both still carrying considerable levels of support, that by 2005 Brechin City and Stranraer would be performing at a higher level despite drawing audiences more akin to reserve match crowds of the formers!
Yet while Partick Thistle and Morton scramble desperately to try and sneak back into the top half of the Scottish League ladder, they are merely the present incumbants amongst the 'former giants'.
Current SPL sides Kilmarnock, Dunfermline Athletic and Falkirk have all suffered demotion to the lowest league division since the 1975 restructuring, their places being temporarily occupied by provincial challengers such as Ayr Utd, St Mirren, Airdrieonians, Hamilton and Raith Rovers.
There has also been the influx of new clubs that has resulted in Inverness not only staging Scottish League football but actually climbing all the way to the top echelon, near-neighbours Ross County almost being carried similarly along in their slip-stream. Livingston's rise from their Meadowbank guise carries striking hallmarks to Gretna's incessant climb through the divisions as financial clout again means more in the modern era than attendance figures clearly do.
So where will the next change occur?
Dundee look the most vulnerable of the 'fallen giants' as they face their worst ever post-war league finish within three years of playing European football. Likewise Raith Rovers can only reminisce of where they reached ten years ago as Scottish football's power game shows no respect for tradition or history.
Airdrieonians and Clydebank have each succumbed to the financial hardship of senior football in the recent past and the law of averages dictate that more must follow.
So who's next? Unfortunately the list of vulnerables is probably as well-populated as it has been for many years. With some clubs struggling to post three-figure attendances at times, you can only imagine that Football's Grim Reaper is lurking poised for action.

Scottish
Site Admin
Posts: 7811
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2005 4:51 pm
Contact:

Post by Scottish » Wed Nov 16, 2005 1:09 am

A thought-provoking piece as always Alan. But I'd take issue with three observations in it. While true that few would have envisaged Stranraer/Brechin above Morton/Thistle that's not necessarily a bad thing. The former are in the 1st on merit and the latter in the 2nd on lack of merit.

As you say it's happened to a few others over the years and as a supporter of one of the clubs affected, yes it's no great fun travelling to Montrose or Berwick instead of the top grounds but on the other hand it's a great boost financially for clubs in the lowest division with upwards of 1,000 away fans augmenting home supports of under 400.

The lack of a 'big name' in this season's third division is certainly having an effect with average gates around the 400 mark with Arbroath having the best current average of 522.

But yes the move to ten clubs with two relegated was always going to have a deleterious effect on the 'middling' clubs - those from outwith the four large cities but with a long tradition of top flight membership. Now we've gone from one extreme to the other. From relegating a fifth of the top division to relegating a twelfth (in odd years not preceding a leap year at any rate).

Unless we move back to a sensible number of 16 this problem will recur.

Dundee at the moment seem to be weathering things pretty well crowds-wise, averaging over 4,000. Only Thistle in 2002 and Falkirk in 2003 have managed that since the change to one up to a 12-club top division. Of course the season has a long way to run but right now Dundee are far better supported than at any time during their last two spells in the 1st division - 1990-92 & 1994-98.

Similarly at the bottom clubs have been living with pathetically small attendances for decades. It may be that they're on artificial life support with shares of TV rights and sponsorship of the League Cup filtering down to them but I don't think there's any reason to suggest that these clubs are under any great threat.

As you point out it was Airdrie and Clydebank that went to the wall and right now the likes of Kilmarnock (£13M in debt) - or even Hearts if Romanov wakes up on the wrong side of the bed - are in far greater danger than East Stirling. After all, how much does it cost to run a club when players are on a tenner a week?

I'm no accountant but if Killie are servicing that debt at even 5% per annum that's £650,000 a year just to stand still. Just over 3,000 season tickets at an average of £200 will meet the repayments but that leaves the full annual costs of running the club - players, management, admin, travel etc etc - to be met from around 2,500 walk-up fans - say £50,000 per match at best, £1M a season at most - plus commercial activities

You'd need to sell a helluva lot of replica shirts to even start thinking about reducing the debt.

the hibLOG
Posts: 1198
Joined: Thu Jul 21, 2005 8:41 am
Location: Wellington, New Zealand
Contact:

Post by the hibLOG » Wed Nov 16, 2005 10:40 am

How many of the clubs in the 1st are full time? I'm kind of assuming that all the clubs below that are part time - am I right?
Fraser

Scottish
Site Admin
Posts: 7811
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2005 4:51 pm
Contact:

Post by Scottish » Wed Nov 16, 2005 11:34 am

I think Stranraer, Brechin & QOS are all part-time & the rest largely full-time in the 1st. Below that Morton, Thistle & Gretna are largely full-time. Raith and Ayr I'm not sure about. They probably have a mix of FT & PT with full-time players on contracts signed in better days. Employment & Training schemes confuse matters. I remember a few years ago Albion Rovers using such schemes to claim they ahd a full-time squad

Lisbon67
Posts: 115
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2005 5:07 pm
Contact:

Post by Lisbon67 » Wed Nov 16, 2005 11:08 pm

What exactly is provincial? According to FIFA's World Cup website Scotland's major cities include Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee - Ok so far but also Perth & Dumfries!!! and here's the killer - HAWICK

http://fifaworldcup.yahoo.com/06/en/t/t ... l?team=sco

Alan McCabe
Posts: 507
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2005 1:01 am
Location: Falkirk
Contact:

Post by Alan McCabe » Thu Nov 17, 2005 12:32 am

Yep. I noticed that as well Lisbon67.
Got to wonder just who compiled such nonsense.
Maybe its the same person who chose to mark Tiree on all those weather maps that the BBC use?

Scottish
Site Admin
Posts: 7811
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2005 4:51 pm
Contact:

Post by Scottish » Thu Nov 17, 2005 12:51 am

I always thought Tiree got a mention as there was a weather station there? You should see the maps on Tyne Tees. They always try to 'theme' their weather forecast - hence one night it's towns/villages/hamlets with people's names - BILLingham, STANley, ANNfield Plain - and another night it'll be animals/wildlife - FISHburn, EAGLEscliffe, FOXton - and yet another night a religious theme - BISHOP Auckland, NUNthorpe, KIRKlevington etc etc etc.

Boring after a couple of weeks and nowhere near the thrilling experience of the STV fly-through showing huge dauds of rain falling incessantly on the Ayrshire coast.

As for FIFA I can visualise the angry letters about Hawick's inclusion right now - being written by the citizens of Galashiels, Selkirk and Melrose!

problemchild
Posts: 63
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2005 10:16 pm
Contact:

Post by problemchild » Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:04 pm

Hailing from Melrose as I do, I shall get on to FIFA poste haste. Football has no place in the Borders. :D

LEATHERSTOCKING
Posts: 1623
Joined: Fri Jun 17, 2005 1:11 pm
Contact:

PLIGHT OF THE PROVINCIALS

Post by LEATHERSTOCKING » Fri Nov 18, 2005 10:08 pm

That`s true, there IS no place like the borders - thank god. Same with Motherwell where there`s a cheery sign saying "Welcome to Motherwell" & some jolly japer has added "Your" at the front. Tee hee joke shop.

Scottish
Site Admin
Posts: 7811
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2005 4:51 pm
Contact:

Re: PLIGHT OF THE PROVINCIALS

Post by Scottish » Fri Nov 18, 2005 10:28 pm

LEATHERSTOCKING wrote: Same with Motherwell where there`s a cheery sign saying "Welcome to Motherwell"
Is that above or below the 'twinned with Chernobyl' bit?

upthewell
Posts: 81
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 1:33 pm
Contact:

Re: PLIGHT OF THE PROVINCIALS

Post by upthewell » Sat Jan 07, 2006 11:27 pm

scottish wrote:
LEATHERSTOCKING wrote: Same with Motherwell where there`s a cheery sign saying "Welcome to Motherwell"
Is that above or below the 'twinned with Chernobyl' bit?
Despicable. I thought this was a high brow message board....

Anyway - what do I care? I live in the delightful market town of Wishaw.

Scottish
Site Admin
Posts: 7811
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2005 4:51 pm
Contact:

Post by Scottish » Sat Jan 07, 2006 11:43 pm

Well, when you've spent the first 18 years of your life in Kultural Kilmarnock and the next 18 in Marvellous Middlesbrough then everywhere else pales by comparison.

Better not say where I've been since then :D

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 23 guests