Scottish football from abroad

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kickersman
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Scottish football from abroad

Post by kickersman » Wed Feb 18, 2015 9:19 am

Scottish football from abroad

In my childhood days, Scotland always was my „second team“ at international tournaments – behind Germany, of course. But, as Scotland didn’t qualify since 1998, this interest settled somewhat.
The Rangers disaster, the qualifiers for the European tournament 2016 and the Scottish independence referendum renewed my interest on Scottish football. Now, more for club football and football structures in general, less for the national team. This is the reason, I am reading this excellent forum and other internet sources.

But for a continental European, some things in Scottish football seem (very) strange.

1) The governing bodies
SFA, SPFL, SJFA, HL, LL, EoSL, the different amateur leagues, ….Why does Scotland need so much governing bodies? For a country with only 5 million inhabitants and some hundred clubs? Is it a reminder of the ancient clan structures? You know, “we against them, and together against our next neighbour”. So much associations and leagues could not work properly together “for the good of the game”. They want to keep jealously their own priveleges.
What are the differences between senior, junior, highland, lowland or amateur football? I suppose, nothing or only marginally. All words describe the same game, which is in Scotland almost entirely on an amateur basis. So, forget the artificial differences and merge together all in ONE powerful football organization. What about the SFA? Lack of power or lack of interest to play the leading role? They should force the other organisations to merge under one roof. In the most European countries, only one FA is in power – and it works.
By the way: a separate SPFL to organize the special items of professional football is okay. This is common in a lot of countries. But for all other topics – national team, referees, law, youth development, running the lower tiers etc. – one governing body is enough.

2) The closed shop mentality
No automatic promotion to the SPFL, a lot of separate part-time and amateur leagues, where a change between can be very difficult or almost impossible. New “members” only after election. Are there any advantages of the election system compared with a straightforward pyramid, who comprise ALL Scottish clubs from the top to the bottom tier? With automatic and guaranteed promotion for the best team(s) on every tier? (A system, well established on most European countries)
The closed shop mentality prevents ambitious clubs to move higher. It just protects run-down clubs, who should by relegated – for their own interest. Better to compete well some tiers lower than punching unsuccessful over their weight. (Anyone thinking of ES this moment? Please excuse these maybe harsh words on some clubs or Scottish football in general.) Achievement-oriented football needs an open environment, with promotion/relegation as a reward for good management and playing skills on the field.

3) “Professional” football
42 “professional” clubs in Scotland. What kind of “professional” are the structures at clubs like Montrose, ES or Albion Rovers (you maybe know another candidates)? A full-time manager? Maybe. A full-time squad? I don’t think so. Please tell me.
How many Scottish clubs have full-time squads at the moment, IMHO the most important criteria for “professional” football? 15, 20? So, any “professional” league should comprise mainly these clubs. Plus some clubs with part-time squads, to bridge the gap between “big” and “amateur” football. A real SPFL with maybe 20 or 24 clubs is enough. Below this “professional” level, strong clubs with part-time squads should form the top of the amateur pyramid.

4) “Signing new players”
The team lost their last five games. A lot of injuries. Crisis. The typical answer in Scotland? “Signing new players”. At least, I read this very, very often. But, where are other solutions? Maybe developing promising youth players? Maybe developing a new playing system, better suited to the existing squad? Improving the technical skills of the players? Or something else?
Scotland had some great managers in the past. But where are they now? No Scottish manager in the premier league. And on the continent? I don’t know even one. Other countries of Scotlands size had a lot of managers abroad. In Germany, several managers from Switzerland, Austria or Denmark work and worked with remarkable success. Where are the Scottish managers with international attitude?
Where are the Scottish teams with a new, surprising style of playing? In Germany, a superb website named “www.spielverlagerung.de” cares about football tactics all over the world. But I haven’t seen an example from Scotland so far. Is there a website for Scottish football tactics, too? (Again, maybe too harsh words. Maybe justified. I don’t know.)

5) OF
The OLD FIRM. In Germany’s media, Scottish football is just the OLD FIRM. No Dundee, no Aberdeen, no Edinburgh, no provincial football. Nothing else. Maybe Hampden, as a traditional and famous football venue.
In Scottish media, the OF dominates totally. Even now, with both teams playing in different divisions, a boring cup game between them is the highlight of the season. The money from the past TV deals was distributed unjust. And after the Rangers insolvency, armageddon did not occure. Although, many pessimists thought, it would. The OF absorbs most of the energy in Scottish football, it prevents all other Scottish clubs to progress on national and international level.
Even the lower clubs. When I read, “Auchinleck and Cumnock are the OF of the juniors”, I shook my head. All the bigotry, the fighting on and off the field, the hate – desirable for two bloody amateur clubs? Oh F*** – Scotland deserves something better than two giants, who don’t care about the rest.

6) Ground criteria
This is an argument often mentioned, why junior clubs don’t want to promote to the SPFL. So, why not lowering the criteria to a sensible minimum? Okay, the SPFL clubs (the real one, see above on 3) need separate turnstiles, crowd segregation, TV and VIP facilities and so on. But even on a top amateur level, a decent stand, tidy changing facilities and a clubhouse seem enough for the actual needs and crowds. Any minimum capacity should be better on a lower scale. For the occasional big cup tie, the ground is sold out. Or the club moves to the next bigger ground for this cup game. (A very common practice in Germany). The criteria should not prevent ambitious clubs to rise up the pyramid.

Enough. These are some thoughts from a German, interested in Scottish football. Now I’m looking for your answers.

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Re: Scottish football from abroad

Post by Scottish » Wed Feb 18, 2015 5:40 pm

Thank you kickersman for your thoughtful contribution. Inevitably, a response means not just explanation but also opinion. To take your points in order:

1. Yes, Scotland doesn’t need so many governing bodies. When Hampden was rebuilt, the SFA, SPL and SFL all worked out of the fifth floor - three separate governing bodies and the only same level they were on was physical. There was even an Easter weekend with no fixtures because they couldn't get it together.

Separate organisations has nothing to do with the clan structure and everything to do with bodies established chiefly in the 19th century and unwilling to cede authority. The SFA? In theory it could organise everything under its umbrella (and the leagues are affiliated to the SFA) but has been either unwilling or felt it itself unable to do so. The power of the clubs – and two in particular – has always taken precedence. SFA primacy exists though, certainly as far as international matches and the Scottish Cup are concerned. Though now that UEFA mainly determine the former, that's not as important as previously but in the cup league matches must be postponed if a cup replay has been arranged.

I agree 100% with your assessment that there should only be one governing body though with as much autonomy as possible retained by the respective leagues.

2. There are advantages to election even if it’s inherently unfair. Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Ross County and Gretna have all played at the top level since election in 1994 (the first two) and 2002. Before then Stirling Albion and Livingston (elected as Meadowbank Thistle) did the same. See here http://scottishleague.net/archive/archive1.htm

However, just because it can work, doesn’t mean it’s right. See my thread on English attendances for reference to teams that have worked their way up from non-league. And vice-versa. In 1992 Luton Town played in the top flight of English football. By 2009 they were non-league. Admittedly a points deduction had much to do with this but it still took them five years to recover league status.

So it can work both ways.

As you’ll know, play-offs are being introduced in Scotland at the end of this season. It’s not automatic promotion and relegation but it’s a big step forward. I suggest on my thread on Scottish attendances that once established there’s no going back and a move to automatic promotion and relegation is inevitable. Scottish football often copies English football long after something has proven to work. Play-offs (test matches as they were then called) were established immediately England had a second division in 1892-93 and moved to automatic promotion and relegation in 1897-98. The second level in Scotland was established in 1893-94 but promotion and relegation not until 1921-22. Similarly with modern play-offs which weren’t introduced in Scotland until nearly two decades after they were south of the border. Automatic promotion and relegation was introduced in England in 1987. One day soon it will in Scotland too.

Yes, the closed shop does protect current clubs and inhibits them from making any progress as long as their place is guaranteed.

3. For much of its history, many players in the top division were semi-professional in that they held a regular job away from football. This was the case in many other countries, Germany included. Even in the 1950s some Old Firm players were part-time. When Kilmarnock turned full-time in 1959, many players were unhappy as it meant their earnings actually decreased if they became full-time footballers. Even in the 1970s & 1980s there were part-time top division teams.

Since around 1990 most teams in the top two divisions have been full-time. Right now I’d say all Premiership teams are full-time, plus at least Hearts, Hibs, Rangers, Falkirk in the Championship. I’m not sure about Livingston, Raith Rovers and Queen of the South though the first two of these have been full-time in the recent past. Below that possibly Dunfermline are still full-time but not any of the rest. Someone more intimately aware of the situation in the lower leagues (SkylineDrifter perhaps) will know more.

For lower league clubs players are part-time though some youth players may be on government job schemes which allows them to be full-time for the duration of the scheme. Some will have a full-time manager but others won’t.

4. Very few clubs these days can afford the quick fix of signing new players other than free agents and loan signings and at many for every player who comes in another will go out. Managers on the continent? David Moyes at Real Sociedad & Alex McLeish at Genk come to mind. As to others, Stuart Baxter worked on the continent for many years and is now in South Africa. Bobby Williamson has managed at club and international level in Uganda and Kenya. Not the top level admittedly but still very much a move away from parochialism. Owen Coyle, capped by the Republic of Ireland as a player, but born and brought up in Scotland coaches Houston Dynamo in the USA. Frank Nuttall has recently started coaching in Kenya. This query could be levelled at English managers (once sought-after on the continent) too.

Yes, there are now no Scottish managers in the Premiership. The sacking of Paul Lambert means this is the first time this has been the case since 1984. Yet this is not a uniquely Scottish problem. No English manager has ever won the Premier League. Howard Wilkinson was the last English manager to win the league title, with Leeds United in 1992. Of the current English Premiership managers, seven are English (as are three caretakers), one is Welsh (Mark Hughes) and one Northern Irish (Brendan Rodgers). Of those clubs with English managers, West Ham (Sam Allardyce) are highest in the league at eighth.

In the English Championship Dougie Freedman and Alex Neil have recently been appointed at Nottingham Forest and Norwich City which suggests there is still a demand for Scottish managers. Steve Clarke is at Reading, Steve Evans at Rotherham, Malky Mackay at Wigan

Tactics? Google “Largs Mafia”

5 The Old Firm? Don’t get me started. ‘Twas ever thus and unfortunately it will never change. You are absolutely right about the coverage of the League Cup match, the past TV cash distribution and the stifling of the game elsewhere. Unfortunately it is worse now than before. Fifty years ago OF home matches accounted for around 25% of spectators. Forty years ago it was over 30% and now it is over 40% - and that is actually a decline from a few years ago when it was almost 50%.

And that’s without factoring in OF away support.

Auchinleck & Cumnock. I’m sure ‘Snuff’ will be along to tell you that the OF are the senior equivalent of this, not the other way round! Oh, and they’re not amateurs. Their players will be better paid than most League Two teams and some League One as well.

6. I don’t think the problem with juniors not wanting to transfer to say the Lowland League or seek promotion to the league is anything to do with ground criteria. The bigger junior teams have facilities better than many non-league teams and equal to some league ones too. It’s more because (to go back to Auchinleck and Cumnock) there are better crowds and less travelling involved ( a couple of miles and less than ten minutes in this case) than in the Lowland League. It’s the “big fish in a small pool” mentality which may or may not change now there is a chance of league football.

There aren't really any non-league or junior sides which appear to be capable of reaching the top of the game though some may be able to go as far as the Championship. The largest population centres which don't have league football are the "New Towns" of Glenrothes, East Kilbride and Irvine and they all have existing league clubs in their vicinity.

If I had my way, I’d put all the senior and junior non-leagues on an equal footing and have a series of play-offs with the bottom two in the league to determine league status for the following season.

But I’m not going to get my way.

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Re: Scottish football from abroad

Post by Skyline Drifter » Thu Feb 19, 2015 11:33 am

scottish wrote: Since around 1990 most teams in the top two divisions have been full-time. Right now I’d say all Premiership teams are full-time, plus at least Hearts, Hibs, Rangers, Falkirk in the Championship. I’m not sure about Livingston, Raith Rovers and Queen of the South though the first two of these have been full-time in the recent past. Below that possibly Dunfermline are still full-time but not any of the rest. Someone more intimately aware of the situation in the lower leagues (SkylineDrifter perhaps) will know more.

For lower league clubs players are part-time though some youth players may be on government job schemes which allows them to be full-time for the duration of the scheme. Some will have a full-time manager but others won’t.
Queen of the South have been full time since 2007 David. :roll:

Livingston are full time. Raith Rovers are to all intents and purposes full time (they have two part time first teamers, goalkeeper David McGurn who is a PE teacher or similar and centre half Dougie Hill who is a heating engineer).

Dumbarton, Cowdenbeath and Alloa are part-time though they most likely have at least some full time players and they certainly all have full time managers.

Dunfermline are still full time and I'm told Ayr largely are also, though I imagine they still have some part-time senior players.

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Re: Scottish football from abroad

Post by kickersman » Thu Feb 19, 2015 12:29 pm

David and Skyline Drifter, thank you for your detailed answers, giving me a better view on Scottish football affairs.

There are some points, I would discuss further.

1. The governing bodies
You spoke of the “respective leagues, retaining as much autonomy as possible”. Why is it good to have different leagues? Why differentiate between league, non-league, senior, junior, amateur and welfare football? Why preserve a hodgepodge of leagues under the SPFL? Juniors, LL, HL, EoS and maybe SoS sometimes cover the same areas, defending fiercly their small pond, but refuse to compete against each other on the field. This small pond mentality is not easy to understand for a continental European.

Why not bring in more competition in part-time football? Why not dissolve these leagues completely, mix all the clubs together in an easy-to-understand pyramid with regional divisions under one nationwide authority (= the SFA)? On the top, this structure should incorporate the smaller league clubs, which fit in perfectly with their part-time structures. At the bottom this pyramid should be linked with an also radically reorganized amateur football. Simply, all part-time and amateur clubs should be divided on regional aspects. And to all Auchinlecks and Cumnocks: this setup would incorporate a lot of derbys! A real pyramid from the lowest tier up to the OF.
Okay, this would mean, the century-long tradition of junior, HL or somethingelse-football would be wound up. Maybe too radical for traditionalists. But from my German point of view, Scottish football remains too long in its old structures, and therefore is unable to create a more modern approach, which is urgently needed at the moment. This modern approach must not only incorporate cosmetic changes at the top (premier league of 10 or 12?), but a radical reform of the whole Scottish football system. If step by step, or in one big bang, I don’t know. But it must come soon.

2 The election system
Another thing hard to understand. Your examples of ICT, RC and others show, it works. But is it working well? One of the main reasons (among the money) i think, why clubs oppose the promotion/relegation from the SPFL, is their uncertain “league future” after a relegation. Where does, i.e., ES play, after a potential play-off-defeat? LL, Junior or EoS? What about the application? Would they be elected – or not? What are the alternatives, after their application would be turned down? Or what about a club, who is expelled (for any reason) from the HL or the Juniors? Where does he play next season?

The current system lacks something, we call in German “Planungssicherheit”, in English maybe planning security. In Germany, every club knows his next lower division in advance, should he be relegated. There is no application and election, he has the guarantee to play in this lower division. And also the guarantee to come back, should he win the division. Why not build up a similar system in Scotland?

4 You gave me an impressive list of Scottish coaches, working on an international level. Thank you.

6. Ground criteria and small pond mentality.
Obviously, the ground criteria are no hurdle to ambitious non-league clubs. Okay.

But as I trawled through the Scottish fitba forums, I discovered a mentality named “glory hunting”. Silverware seems very important in Scotland, I think. More, than in Germany. And a Scottish club can be more successful, if he concentrates on his local pond with various league titles, league cups and whatsoever cups. IMHO a kind of self-complacency, which doesn’t promote the quality of football. In Germany, the clubs concentrate more on their league position, not the trophy cupboard.

And your argument with no non-league or junior side being capable of reaching top level: in the German league system, small fish like SC Freiburg and Mainz were third and fourth division sides 30 or 40 years ago. Maybe No. 100 or 150 in the club ranking. Bloody part-time football and gates of a few hundred. Today, they play in the Bundesliga with gates of 20000 or 30000, occasionally in the Euro League. Both were never acknowledged as “football territory” and Mainz is even sandwiched between German giants Eintracht Frankfurt and 1. FC Kaiserslautern. Why deny Glenrothes and East Kilbride a better “football” future” with the actual league system? Give them a chance, to show you better.

If I had my way, Scotland gets a pervious league system with a clearly defined pyramid incorporating every Scottish club and guaranteed promotion and relegation on every tier. Just a more competitive environment. Forget the closed shop and your local pond.

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Re: Scottish football from abroad

Post by Snuff » Thu Feb 19, 2015 2:41 pm

Scottish wrote:
Auchinleck & Cumnock. I’m sure ‘Snuff’ will be along to tell you that the OF are the senior equivalent of this, not the other way round! Oh, and they’re not amateurs. Their players will be better paid than most League Two teams and some League One as well.


Thanks David - you saved me the bother of responding.
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Re: Scottish football from abroad

Post by Scottish » Thu Feb 19, 2015 4:13 pm

1. Maybe I didn't explain myself too well on the first point. I'm not arguing against a pyramid system, which I would heartily endorse. But in my view the only way to get over the unwillingness of the leading junior clubs to enter such a system is to put the existing three junior leagues on the same level as the Highland and Lowland Leagues and institute play-offs from there. The exact structure would be a matter for debate but the important thing is to establish the principle. A good example is the third level below league status in England. The Southern and Isthmian leagues have not been merged into one but continue as separate bodies with equal access to the next level, the Conference South. While the league structure at both ends has to confirm with the pyramid process, local competitions are left under the jurisdiction of the respective leagues.I think it is better to incorporate existing competitions into a pyramid structure rather than attempt to create one from scratch. This is one of the reasons why the English pyramid has been so successful (no one forced the Southern and Isthmian leagues to merge despite a geographical overlap of the two competitions) and it was only after many years that a major alteration was made with the introduction of the Conference North and South.

In terms of local tournaments the same as the Southern/Isthmian knockout competitions already happens within the Scottish juniors. There is a West section for example with a clearly defined process of promotion and relegation but former Central region clubs do not take part in Ayrshire competitions or vice-versa and even within that level there are further geographical sub-groups for even more localised competitions. These are of great importance for the clubs involved as they bring in more local fixtures and greater levels of support. I see no reason why these authority of these competitions should be transferred to the SFA or SPFL when the local bodies are (usually) competent enough to organise them. The Scottish Junior Cup - a national competition - has been organised for 130 years without input from the SFA. Why change it now? Though I'd envisage senior non-league teams entering and it becoming the equivalent of the FA Trophy.

2. I'm in favour of promotion and relegation, not election. But I do think it's only right to recognise that there have been more new clubs in the top flight in the past decade than there were in almost sixty years beforehand. South of the border, both Wigan Athletic and Wimbledon - elected, not promoted to the league - have won the FA Cup. Inverness CT might yet join them this season. The question of where a relegated side goes has been determined. There's a thread somewhere - I can't place it - which says specifically where a relegated team would play the following season. League Two teams were aware of this at the start of the season. For example, Montrose or Elgin would go to the Highland League and Clyde or East Stirlingshire to the Lowland League.

6 "Glory-hunting" is a term used to describe (or, more correctly, deride) those who prefer to go and watch (or slump in front of the TV watching) the Old Firm rather than their local clubs. I know people who would be embarrassed if asked for directions to Celtic Park or Ibrox because they wouldn't have any idea where the grounds are - despite claiming to be lifelong fans.

This is not unique to Scotland - though more pronounced than elsewhere. The same accusation is levelled at some supporters of Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona and I think Bayern Munich too.

Freiburg and Mainz are about the size of Aberdeen. The largest town in Scotland without a league team - East Kilbride - wouldn't be in the top 100 by population in Germany. But that's not my point. What I meant by new towns is that these were originally small places which were built up after the Second World War to accommodate those displaced by slum clearance in Glasgow. Glasgow's population fell from a peak of 1M to around 600,000. The "Glasgow Overspill" moved to other towns, chiefly the "new towns." They brought with them all their prejudices and that has passed on down the generations. I saw the same thing in Barcelona with the grandchildren of Andalucians who moved to Catalunya in the 1950s still supporters of Real Betis.

In Scotland the new towns are not full of supporters demanding a senior football team (as for example they were in Milton Keynes, though that was bitterly resented by Wimbledon supporters) but rather consisting of OF Fans with easy access to Glasgow. Irvine and East Kilbride for example have a half-hourly train service to Glasgow Central which takes about thirty minutes to get there. Cumbernauld, I think, has more trains and roughly the same travelling time.

There have been attempts to create support in two new towns for existing teams - when Meadowbank Thistle moved to Livingston and changed their name to that of the town and when Clyde moved to Cumbernauld. One was more successful than the other but again it wasn't on merit.

I wouldn't deny any club the chance to do better and the presence (currently) of Ross County in the Premiership shows what can be done. But they have a distinct geographical advantage that no club in the Central Belt would have. I maybe should have phrased it better in that what I believe is that there is nowhere in Scotland which doesn't already possess a league team which has the potential to sustain a Premiership side on anything other than a short-term basis.

To conclude, I'm not disagreeing at all on the need for a pyramid structure which would afford every club the opportunity to progress through the leagues. I am confident that there are several clubs below league level which could reach Championship level. But in the much more clearly defined, longer established, greater populated English pyramid, not one non-league club has reached the top level in almost thirty years of existence.

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Re: Scottish football from abroad

Post by Scottish » Fri Feb 20, 2015 12:24 am

Skyline Drifter wrote: Queen of the South have been full time since 2007 David. :roll:

Livingston are full time. Raith Rovers are to all intents and purposes full time (they have two part time first teamers, goalkeeper David McGurn who is a PE teacher or similar and centre half Dougie Hill who is a heating engineer).

Dumbarton, Cowdenbeath and Alloa are part-time though they most likely have at least some full time players and they certainly all have full time managers.

Dunfermline are still full time and I'm told Ayr largely are also, though I imagine they still have some part-time senior players.
Thanks for that. I thought Livvy and Raith were but didn't know Queens were and for that long either. Will Cowden and Alloa really have full-timers? The Sons, yes but not all. I'm surprised Ayr can afford it the way things have been going and I thought Morton might have a few still on Championship/1st division contracts.

That would make twenty properly full-time outfits which, historically, is a lot. It was less than ten thirty years ago.

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Re: Scottish football from abroad

Post by HibeeJibee » Fri Feb 20, 2015 1:14 pm

To pick up various points:

(1) - Governing Bodies... I agree there are too many governing bodies - but things have been moving in the right direction, with the merger of various groups for form the Youth FA and the reunion of SPL and SFL. I would like to see the Juniors absorb the EOS, SOS and North Caledonian leagues to form the pyramid system between the "Pro Game" leagues (SPFL, HL & LL) and the Amateurs. I would like to see the Amateurs absorb the Welfarers (though if we're talking Saturday XI-side football, that is already the situation, with the exception of 1 solitary league with just 4 clubs). I would be nervous of a few dozen suits from the SFA running everything from Hampden and if we had a Scottish Football Federation you'd need regional committees and so on to do things anyway. But there should be further rationalisation - and closer co-operation of the various bodies. I would not want to see a breakaway league of full-time clubs - effectively a rebirth of SPL with the previously mooted SPL2.

(2) - Amateur Basis... actually almost all Highland & Lowland clubs, most Junior clubs (certainly in the East & West regions), and a lot of EOS & SOS clubs are part-timers i.e. giving some form of remuneration to their players who train 2 or occasionally 3 nights a week. It is a waste of resources in the game - the players aren't going to shift abroad, they'd play football even if only for expenses or for nothing - but it isn't changing any time soon.

(3) - Closed Shop... again a fair point, but again things have been moving in the right direction. Playoff between SPFL2, HL & LL is a start which will hopefully become an automatic place in future. EOS & SOS leagues have been connected into the pyramid underneath LL (1 down / playoff winner up). Although EOS, SOS, Juniors, Amateurs etc. all require applications to join the bottom runs of their leagues, it is unusual for clubs to be rejected, so the system works fairly well. Again, if a rationalisation was made, I personally would formalise the situation for clubs from the combined Amateurs-Welfarers moving up into the Juniors-EOS-SOS-NCFL.

(4) - "Professional"... I have no doubt the name 'Scottish Professional Football League' was only chosen as they wanted to keep letters from SPL and SFL in merged body... and couldn't think of something else for the P to stand for. In SFA terms 'Professional' - i.e. clubs in leagues within the Professional Game Board half of the administration - means clubs in leagues which apply Club Licensing as their minimum standard, thus including HL & LL, thus including approaching 80 clubs of whom only 20-odd are full-time.

(5) - Youth Development... most Scottish clubs are actually developing young players now as their main focus - the days of transfer fees and "signing lots of foreigners" are long gone at most clubs. Things are more promising in terms of style and youth than I remember for many years - at least a decade, probably more. There is still a reluctance frm Scottish managers and players to move to countries where people don't speak English, and the lure of the neighbouring English PL and its unrivalled money is prime, which is unhelpful. But, Ryan Gauld recently went to Sporting Lisbon and a some managers have worked abroad, so maybe the prevailing attitude is slowly turning.

(6) - Ground Criteria... this has been lowered to a suitable level, as league criteria from tiers 5 up have been abolished and replaced with club licensing. To play in SPFL1 or SPFL2 only requires cover for 100; to play in the Premiership or Championship only requires cover for 500!! In practice every club in SPFL has seats and a capacity over 1,000 and every club (except 1) in Highland & Lowland have seats. To join EOS, SOS or Juniors just requires an enclosed ground with a railed pitch, a decent pavilion and basics like toilets or vehicle access. I would actually argue the biggest facilities issue in Scottish football now is the lack of basic amenities like toilets and decrepitude at some Junior grounds, and the lack of enclosure at some "public park" EOS & SOS grounds.

(7)- Pyramid Arrangements... as mentioned, if East Stirlingshire or any other club south of the River Tay is relegated they go to the Lowland League; but if any club north of the River Tay is relegated they go to the Highland League. Going down a level I understand that if any club from the Border, Lothians, Fife or Stirlingshire is relegated from the Lowland League they go to the EOS League; but if any club from Strathclyde or Dumfries & Galloway is relegated they go to the SOS League.

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Re: Scottish football from abroad

Post by Partick Thistle » Fri Feb 20, 2015 8:52 pm

Thanks kickersman, and all those who have replied.

A great thread, and a great compliment to Scottish football that you would be so interested from Southern Germany. Congratulations on your superb World Cup success. The entire World will never forget that game against Brazil!

You make a lot of sense from the outside looking in, but I would say that it seems to be a near impossibility to unify the game under the single banner. Too many hearts and minds are set in their ways in the Junior game, despite continuing talk about developing the pyramid structure. I would love to see the likes of Linlithgow Rose and Pollok becoming involved in the SPFL. However, short of passing Law in parliament there is nothing that can be done to change the minds of those who are in charge of those clubs and their governing bodies. Who knows, maybe it will change in the next generation? I wouldn’t hold my breath…

If I could be so bold, I’d like to offer you my personal opinion on some of the issues that you raise, it's a good chance for me to put my pub talk down in black and white :-)


SPFL – Taxi For The Pink Elephant

The dismantling of the SPL was the best thing to happen to Scottish football in years, albeit it could only be achieved with the simultaneous disbanding of the SFL. The formation of the SPFL was a clear step forward nonetheless, embracing ideas that seemed impossible just a decade ago – namely a fairer distribution of wealth, the re-introduction of top-flight play-off and the introduction of a pyramid system which, in my opinion, will only develop further and deeper with every passing year.

The previous closed shop mentality still has repercussions though – we were left with an ungainly 12-10-10-10 formation, with the ongoing top-flight conundrum standing as the pink elephant in the room.

We seem to have been drip-fed the bizarre idea that splitting the top league up near the end of the season is the way to go and that a “Top Six” finish is somehow the dog’s bollocks, something to be desired. What madness is this?

Surely one of the saddest, most pathetic, maybe even funniest, sights of recent years was seeing fans and players of a once proud club (Dundee United) going totally mental because they’d just beaten Aberdeen to sneak into the Top Six. You’d think they’d just bundled Barcelona out of the European Cup, such was the delirium around Tannadice. In reality, they had simply changed their mid table position from 7th to 6th. Who trained them into celebrating such mediocrity?

One of these days, the 8th placed side in the Premiership is going to finish with more points than the 5th placed side. The day that happens, the League will be widely and rightly held up as a laughing stock.

Would this farce be allowed to happen in England, Germany, Spain, Italy? Not on your nelly. Only diddy countries allow such an absurdity. Right enough, this is the land where teams are allowed to play Cup semi-finals at home. But I digress…

Aside from the imbalanced Premiership fixture list, the “fear of relegation” still grips like a long term ailment which refuses to respond to treatment. The top-shop are clinging to that “1 in 12” auto-relegation ratio for dear life – desperate not to fall through the trap door from the mansion into the poor house.

The strangely dis-coloured and circus animal in the corner refuses to budge – becoming more odious with every passing year. It need not fester, and it can’t be allowed to.

We need to take the emergence of the SPFL to its next logical step, by removing this “fear culture”, getting rid of the financial and sporting imbalances, and replacing it with something which is driven more by fairness and excitement, something which is more attractive to both supporters and sponsors alike.


Revolutionise the Scottish game

I propose a revolution the likes of which Scottish football has never seen. And yet it is completely simplistic.

We revert to a balanced 10-10-10-10 set up. We go 2 up, 2 down automatically. As well as this, we continue to run with the hugely popular League play-offs, beloved by all for the sheer sporting drama.

Ironically, this calls for clubs to “embrace the fear” and come to terms with the fact that rising and falling needn’t actually be a matter of life or death. And virtually all clubs in the SPFL are in the same boat in this regard.

I am sure this would capture the imagination of everyone involved in the Scottish game – the players, the coaches, the directors and, perhaps even more importantly, the TV companies and the sponsors.

Too radical?

Hear me out and I’ll tell you why radical is necessary and why there is nothing to fear with, what seems on the face of it, such a turbulent set up.


How it could be

A short explanation as to how we get to my hypothetical season 2016-17.

1. At the end of 2014-15, all of the 2nd placed lower League teams won the play offs. Brora Rangers won the League Two play-off Final vs East Stirlingshire.
2. At the end of 2015-16, play-offs were suspended to allow for League reconstruction. There was 3 down and 1 up between Premiership, Championship, and League 1. Montrose and Elgin City finished in the bottom two places and were both relegated to the Highland League.

I had a little fun placing arbitrary League positions, with a hint of reality. No offence intended to anyone, please forgive me if your club has not done so well!

Image


Balanced fixture lists with sporting integrity

No more of the absurdity that comes with certain teams playing each other 3 times and others 4 times within the same campaign.

No more teams with 20 home games and 18 away games within the same campaign.

No more ridiculous end of season League tables with the 7th placed team having more points than the team (s) above them.

Every club in the SPFL will have 18 home matches and 18 away matches, and will face the same opponents equally, home and away.

A fair contest is surely one of the first considerations of any competition?


Attractive to sponsors

Almost every club in the SPFL will have a season which will be alive with possibilities from the very beginning to the very end.

These will be the most exciting League campaigns Scotland has ever seen, and meaningful “six pointers” will exist at every turn, all the way from Dingwall to Dumfries.


No more closed shop mentality

Good riddance to the Self Preservation League.

No more stagnant spells where the same old same old top-flight clubs are able to survive for decades on end with only a small percentage chance of facing relegation.

No more spells where clubs in the bottom tier can constantly turn in miserable un-competitive performances without facing up to the consequences.

Winners must rise. Losers must fall. This is the essence of sport. Whether fans like it or not, we all thrive on the tension of success or failure. This is the script that the sponsors and the TV companies crave.

With this new set up, it’s likely that, in the long term, only Rangers and Celtic (liquidation not withstanding) would be immune from relegation. In terms of interest and excitement, that can only be considered a step forward from what we have now.


Redistribute the wealth for the good of all member clubs

Recent changes were welcome – but they didn’t go far enough. Give the lower League clubs half a chance to improve facilities and develop new talent. Don’t make the financial pain of relegation so severe that clubs have to live in constant fear of having to completely dismantle their carefully assembled squads. My recommendation of 8.75% of the total wealth distribution is more than enough for one champion club. Don’t they have enough advantages already with all of their Champions League income stream?

My revised figures below are based on the STV report of June 2013, which itself was based on an estimated prize pot of around £17,965,000.
http://sport.stv.tv/football/clubs/aber ... struction/

Whilst that report may not be wholly accurate in relation to the current reality it serves well as a rough guide to what the clubs currently receive. The “% of the pot” figure will be the steady constant which could be applied to whatever size of prize pot at any given time.

My recalculations are in accordance with my belief that the gap between Premiership and Championship is too high and that, consequently, the current cost of relegation is far too high and is bad for the business of Scottish football.

League Position: New Proposed Payment (% of Prize Pot, +- what is currently being received)
1: £1,571,954 (8.75%, -£833,585)
2: £1,347,389 (7.5%, -£370,083)
3: £1,167,737 (6.5%, -£292,833)
4: £1,077,911 (6%, -£210,193)
5: £988,085 (5.5%, -£215,583)
6: £898,259 (5%, -£219,176)
7: £853,346 (4.75%, -£203,007)
8: £808,433 (4.5%, -£197,617)
9: £763,520 (4.25%, -£224,565)
10: £718,607 (4%, -£183,245)
11: £673,695 (3.75%, -£141,924)
12: £628,782 (3.5%, -£102,401)
13: £583,869 (3.25%, +£197,617)
14: £538,956 (3%, +£195,821)
15: £503,025 (2.8%, +£203,006)
16: £467,095 (2.6%, +£210,193)
17: £431,164 (2.4%, +£190,430)
18: £395,234 (2.2%, +£206,600)
19: £359,304 (2%, +£186,838)
20: £323,373 (1.8%, +£168,872)
21: £287,443 (1.6%, +£149,111)
22: £269,478 (1.5%, +£149,111)
23: £251,513 (1.4%, +£149,111)
24: £233,547 (1.3%, +£147,314)
25: £215,582 (1.2%, +£158,093)
26: £197,617 (1.1%, +£145,518)
27: £179,652 (1%, +£127,553)
28: £161,687 (0.9%, +£111,384)
29: £143,721 (0.8%, +£93,418)
30: £125,756 (0.7%, +£77,250)
31: £107,791 (0.6%, +£61,082)
32: £98,809 (0.55%, +£53,896)
33: £93,419 (0.52%, +£50,303)
34: £88,029 (0.49%, +£44,913)
35: £82,640 (0.46%, +£41,320)
36: £77,250 (0.43%, +£35,930)
37: £71,861 (0.4%, +£32,338)
38: £66,471 (0.37%, +£26,948)
39: £59,285 (0.33%, +£21,558)
40: £53,896 (0.3%, +£17,966)


Remove the “fear factor” with less severe consequences of relegation

At the top end of Scottish football, removing the dire financial consequences of relegation is a massive step forward. This allows the clubs to maintain a budget consistency of sorts and they can concentrate on getting back up the ladder, with a route back which is considerably easier than it’s ever been in historical times. Far from being a catastrophic event which, in the past, may have consigned a club to long spells in the wilderness, the club and the fans will be far more likely to accept their fate, enjoy a change of scenery, and look forward to getting back to winning ways as quickly as possible.


More variety for fans and players

The ten club Premiership would be guaranteed two new clubs per season, possibly three.

The biggest fun will be in the Championship and in League One. They will be welcoming a minimum of four new clubs per season and possibly as many as six clubs. Imagine – new teams could be in the majority in any given Championship or League One season. Who wouldn’t want that constant sense of freshness in the fixture list?

As with the top-tier, League Two would be guaranteed two new clubs per season, possibly three. Automatic relegation could be introduced at a later stage, if and when the strength and quality of clubs in Level 5 improves. Perhaps the incentive of an automatic promotion place could make a difference in changing the mind-set of some of the big guns from the juniors to join in?


Extra end of season excitement

Taking on-board the one good idea to emerge from the top-flight split, the fixture list for all 4 Leagues should initially be issued with the first three quarters worth of games, i.e. from match day 1 to match day 27. Once the League positions take shape, the final quarter can be issued, especially engineered to ensure that the very end of season fixtures have battles galore between those sides at the top, and those sides at the bottom.


Premiership, Championship and League One Play offs

All ties are two-legged affairs, home and away. Akin to the current Premiership play-off format throughout the 4 main Leagues, the higher League team is automatically in the Final and the lower League teams have a preliminary play-off to earn the right for a place in the Final. Whilst it may seem unfair to weight in favour of the higher League team, it should be borne in mind that they have volunteered to sacrifice comfort, with the potential 3 down from 10 being amongst the highest relegation ratios in the World. In this instance, their higher League advantage seems fair, especially in comparison to the team who have only finished 4th in the League below.


League Two Play Offs

All ties are two-legged affairs, home and away. In line with the cut throat nature of the SPFL, there should be three teams prepared to play for the right to retain their place, but heavily weighted in favour of the higher placed League Two side.

1st Preliminary Round
2nd bottom League Two vs 3rd bottom League Two. Winner is safe. Loser must play next round.

Semi Finals
Loser of 1st Preliminary Round vs bottom League Two. Winner is safe. Loser must play in the League Two play-off Final.
Winners Highland League vs Winners Lowland League. Winner progresses to the League Two play-off Final.

Final
Loser of the first Semi Final tie vs Winner of the second Semi Final tie. Only the winner plays in the Scottish League Two next season.

The 2nd and 3rd bottom League 2 side would need to lose three two-legged ties to be relegated. The bottom side would need to lose two ties. For one of the Highland or Lowland League sides to be successful they would need to win two ties.


Summary

This pioneering League model has the potential to be the envy of Associations the world over.

Let’s confidently lead from the front again, instead of half-heartedly following like sheep.

Let this revolution start at the top and let it work its way down, across and throughout the levels from there.

It’s about time those who control Scottish club football showed a bit of vision for the future good of the game in this country. The Scottish Premiership may well be the most important League – but it’s considerably weakened if the supporting cast and grass roots levels are not given greater consideration and a fairer deal.

It’s time for a bit of bravery.
William

Skyline Drifter
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Re: Scottish football from abroad

Post by Skyline Drifter » Sat Feb 21, 2015 8:46 am

scottish wrote:
Skyline Drifter wrote: Queen of the South have been full time since 2007 David. :roll:

Livingston are full time. Raith Rovers are to all intents and purposes full time (they have two part time first teamers, goalkeeper David McGurn who is a PE teacher or similar and centre half Dougie Hill who is a heating engineer).

Dumbarton, Cowdenbeath and Alloa are part-time though they most likely have at least some full time players and they certainly all have full time managers.

Dunfermline are still full time and I'm told Ayr largely are also, though I imagine they still have some part-time senior players.
Thanks for that. I thought Livvy and Raith were but didn't know Queens were and for that long either. Will Cowden and Alloa really have full-timers? The Sons, yes but not all. I'm surprised Ayr can afford it the way things have been going and I thought Morton might have a few still on Championship/1st division contracts.

That would make twenty properly full-time outfits which, historically, is a lot. It was less than ten thirty years ago.
I am pretty sure Colin Nish will be full time at Cowden. He was at Dumbarton before his recent switch. I would expect there are others. Liam Buchanan to name but one is full time at Alloa. By this I mean they have no other job and do fitness stuff through the week. Dont know that they will actually be doing football training every day. Buchanan works out at a Boxing gym as per his Half Time tv feature during the Challenge Cup semi final.

Morton probably do have some full timers. Pretty sure recent signing Michael Tidser will be one and Andrew Barrowman who recently departed would be another. They have a full time u20's squad certainly.

No idea about Ayr. They were part time when we shared a division two years ago but I was recently told by an Ayr fan they now had a young side on a full time basis. Dont know the details though.

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Re: Scottish football from abroad

Post by HibeeJibee » Sat Feb 21, 2015 8:26 pm

There has been stuff in the press about Ayr "going full-time for the second half of the season" - it did surprise me given the presence of Morton and Dunfermline and Ayr's poor league position, but if it's mainly youngsters then it's probably about building-up for next season and beyond.

That said, East Fife introduced a cohort of full-timers last season and ended-up relegated!!

My unsophisticated understanding of things was that all of the Premiership, all of the Championship (except Alloa + Cowdenbath + Dumbarton) plus Ayr, Dunfermline and Morton were currently full-time. However, unsurprised there's a bit of 'grey' with the likes of Ayr/Raith having a few part-timers and Alloa/Dumbarton a few full-timers.

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