League Reform 1945 to 1967 (16-16)

The place to discuss Scottish football
Post Reply
Aten
Posts: 142
Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:59 pm
Contact:

League Reform 1945 to 1967 (16-16)

Post by Aten » Fri Jul 17, 2015 10:27 am

As the question of league reform has been raised in another thread and I am currently researching the history of such reform, I thought it might be of interest to offer a brief resume for the period 1945 to 1967.

It may or may not surprise anyone but the quest to have two divisions of 16 teams has been going on for decades. Things really came to a head with the resumption of official football in 1945. Whereas most expected the League to pick up where it left off in 1939, i.e. league 1 & 2 of 20 and 18 respectively; the clubs and the League Management committee saw things differently.

The contrived arrangement of leagues of 16 and 14 for season 1945/46 was passed off as a temporary arrangement for one season in an effort to appease those clubs who missed out but this was, to use modern parlance, pure spin. Of the original 38 league teams, 8 missed out this first season. Two, King’s Park and St.Bernard’s, did not survive the war and officials of the league were disappointed, at least privately, that the others did: - Brechin City, East Stirlingshire, Edinburgh City, Forfar Athletic, Leith Athletic and Montrose. (Strangely, Stirling Albion, possibly a creation due to the demise of King’s Park was accepted as a new league club). What was clear was the “big” clubs were determined to prune the league numbers and create a top division of “elite” clubs that would be based on population distribution and an end to automatic promotion/relegation. Sporting integrity indeed!

Season 1946/47 saw the continuation of the 16/14 set-up but the league was forced to appease the excluded “minnows” because under League rules clubs could only be expelled for rule breaches. As these clubs broke no rules, another league had to be created to accommodate them. This resulted in the shambles known as “C” Division. The 6 “minnows” plus Stirling Albion along with various reserve teams from the top division making up the numbers. The “elite” clubs still pushed for a so-called “super” league of 16 teams that would be determined on ground capacity and no automatic promotion/relegation. They could not have cared less what happened below them and indeed it was hoped that the “C” division would kill off the unwanted clubs. For season 1947/48 two top leagues of 16 teams was finally settled but based on merit and promotion/relegation.

From then until 1955 league reform was practically an annual event. The “minnows” would just not go away and various proposals to accommodate all 38-member clubs all failed. Examples include divisions of 20 and 18, 16 and 22 and a top division of 16 teams and two regional divisions of 12. By 1955 things came to a head once again. So far the shambolic “C” division only got rid of one team, Leith Athletic, and a lot of the major clubs had become dissatisfied with fielding reserve teams to keep it going. For season 1955/56 the League Management suggested a top league of 16 and two regional “B” divisions of 10 and 11 but the clubs settled for an “A” division of 18 and a “B” division of 19. The “minnows” were reluctantly back in the fold. The following season the names were changed to Divisions 1 and 2. Rumblings of further reform continued to persist with the odd number in Division 2 being of particular concern. Yet applications from the likes of Gateshead, Gala Fairydean and Inverness Clachnacuddin to join the league were rejected.

Then in April 1964 Rangers dropped a bombshell. They invited 32 clubs to a meeting at Ibrox Park, the purpose of which was to discuss a proposed new rule (Rule 68) to be put before the forthcoming League AGM. The new rule would in effect give the clubs the power to liquidate the existing league and allow them to create a new league for selected clubs. What Rangers were after was league membership restricted to the invited 32 clubs and those selected were chosen on the basis of the last 3 years gate receipts. Two 16 team leagues would be formed, again based on gate receipts which in effect meant Airdrieonians, East Stirlingshire, Queen of the South and Third Lanark would be demoted and Clyde and Morton promoted. The 5 clubs targeted for expulsion were, Albion Rovers, Berwick Rangers, Brechin City, Stenhousemuir and Stranraer. It was also made clear at the meeting that any club not supporting the proposal would be replaced by one of the excluded 5.

This was an explosive attempt to bulldoze through reform yet surprisingly the press gave Rangers an easy ride over the proposal. They clearly chose to ignore the blatant bullying tactics and the creation of an organisation that took no account of merit or sporting integrity. Celtic did not attend the meeting, although in favour of a 16-16 set-up, they were not in favour of the proposed method to achieve it. Airdrieonians and Third Lanark did not vote in favour of the proposal.

Having got wind of what was afoot, Berwick Rangers called a meeting of all 19 2nd Division clubs prior to the Rangers meeting to decide a plan of action. It was agreed that the 5 would stand together and refuse to participate and also to send a lawyers letter to the League demanding an inquiry and investigation into the action taken by Rangers. They took things a stage further prior to the AGM by obtaining an interim interdict preventing Rangers from proposing Rule 68 at the League AGM. The only thing of note that came out of the AGM was that the League Management Committee informed the “5” that there was no grounds for an enquiry into Rangers’ actions. In October 1964 Rangers gave notice in the Court of Session of action against the “5”.

In early 1965 the League Management, all of which were rejected by the clubs, put further league reconstruction proposals to the clubs. Despite the need for reform self-interest and self-preservation always came out on top and with change requiring a two-thirds majority, reform was almost impossible. With year on year attendances falling it was clear something had to be done but any reform was never going to be the whole answer and with the continued squabbling the clubs lost sight of the real reason for declining attendances – the derelict state of almost all the football grounds. With more and more outlets providing cost equivalent entertainment in more comfortable surroundings, the clubs blindly ignored this. There was always some other factor to blame whether that be television, radio, cinema or even the bookies!

Rangers ploughed on with their attempts to introduce Rule 68, in their perception getting rid of the “minnows” was the cure all. They continued with their legal attempts and gained the right to introduce the rule through the courts. The “5” appealed but the original decision was upheld. Further protracted action through 1966 stalled Rangers but the “5” were losing hope mainly due to spiralling costs. It looked as if the bullying tactics would win out. However Celtic’s chairman, Robert Kelly, was always against Rule 68 and became increasingly more vocal in speaking out against the proposal. This in turn led to a weakening of support for Rangers and more and more clubs became uncomfortable with the manner in which reform would take. Throughout the months of 1967, clubs started to withdraw their support for Rangers in favour of the “5”. Finally in November 1967 when it became clear that Rangers would not be able to secure a two-thirds majority to introduce Rule 68, they withdrew their court action and proposal. At a Special General Meeting of the League in April 1968 the “5” secured their status as League members and thus ended arguably one of the most shameful periods in league history.
Some 50 years on, there is a certain amount of irony given the name of the club at the forefront of the action. Rangers wanted to liquidate the company (the League) in order to dissolve the membership (the Club) to be able to create a new company and membership. Strange that today having suffered a liquidation event themselves, continue to insist they are the same club. Furthermore the targeted 5, Albion Rovers, Berwick Rangers, Brechin City, Stenhousemuir and Stranraer, to my knowledge have not suffered liquidation.

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

Re: League Reform 1945 to 1967 (16-16)

Post by Alan McCabe » Fri Jul 17, 2015 2:38 pm

I remember reading that the 1955 proposals for three divisions included a Grangemouth club created by the merging of junior duo Grange Rovers and Forth Rangers.
As the port was at the forefront of the future oil industry boom, the thought was that a league club could survive.

BMCCOLL
Posts: 1046
Joined: Sun Oct 16, 2005 12:48 pm
Contact:

Re: League Reform 1945 to 1967 (16-16)

Post by BMCCOLL » Sat Jul 18, 2015 4:58 pm

I remember an article in the SFH by Tom Cockburn stated that a proposal from Stirling Albion in the 50s/60s was for a 39 club single division. Can anyone elaborate?
http://scottish-football-historical-archive.co.nf

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

Re: League Reform 1945 to 1967 (16-16)

Post by the hibLOG » Mon Jul 20, 2015 4:15 am

Aten wrote:This was an explosive attempt to bulldoze through reform yet surprisingly the press gave Rangers an easy ride over the proposal.
Surprisingly? Perhaps succulent lamb was on the menu long before Minty Murray's lunch club outings.
Fraser

Aten
Posts: 142
Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:59 pm
Contact:

Re: League Reform 1945 to 1967 (16-16)

Post by Aten » Tue Jul 21, 2015 9:33 am

There may have been various ideas floated in the local press but none seem to have been actually put before the League Management Committee or raised at League AGM’s. The main theme between 1945 and 1955 was to trim the membership to 32 that the “big” clubs felt was the optimum number. The problem was how to find an amicable solution to satisfy the “minnows”. Any application to increase the numbers was always thrown out. In many ways Stirling Albion’s admission was extremely fortunate and had their application for admission not been made at the time they did, it is quite likely that would have been thrown out too.

Some saw Grangemouth, during the 1950’s and early 1960’s, as fertile ground in that an expanding industry and expanding town had the potential to attract decent crowds if a league team was based there. (Indeed Grangemouth was one of the options considered by the Steedman brothers for the relocation of East Stirlingshire before the move to Clydebank). But with even long established clubs having difficulty in gaining entry as a league member, a newly created club stood no chance.

The proposal suggested by Stirling Albion is a new one on me and sounds rather bizarre. I too would love to find out more about that one.

EastJunior
Posts: 72
Joined: Wed May 27, 2015 10:25 am
Contact:

Re: League Reform 1945 to 1967 (16-16)

Post by EastJunior » Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:50 am

Alan McCabe wrote:I remember reading that the 1955 proposals for three divisions included a Grangemouth club created by the merging of junior duo Grange Rovers and Forth Rangers.
As the port was at the forefront of the future oil industry boom, the thought was that a league club could survive.
The clubs did merge and formed Grangemouth United who remained in the Edinburgh & District Junior League where both clubs have played. 1956-57 was their first season, they then flitted a season later to the Fife League for a while before returning and folded at the end of 1965-66 season.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests