Pyramid

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Alan McCabe
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Pyramid

Post by Alan McCabe » Mon Jul 04, 2005 9:30 pm

I'm wondering whether other users of this forum share my scepticism of the oft-quoted "Scottish Pyramid" system? It seems to me that the people who regularly champion its case seem strangely detached from the realities of non-league Scottish football. While a few of the larger and well-supported junior clubs could theoretically survive in the senior game, most (if not all) would seem to prefer being a big fish in a small pond as opposed to a small Scottish League club. With all the bureaucratic requirements that league membership would bring (eg policing / stewarding costs, ground improvements, floodlighting), would Pollok, Linlithgow Rose or Auchinleck Talbot not prefer the more lucrative and much less costly junior surrounds that they've graced for many years? Would Albion Rovers, Montrose or East Stirlingshire offer better fare than their supporters currently enjoy? It is doubtful!
And when you move into the senior non-leagues (with the obvious exception of the Highland League which could easily be absorbed as a Third Division North presently), the scenario is indeed very bleak. Few EofS League clubs draw even triple figure attendances with many grounds little more than glorified public parks. The picture is even worse in the SofS League where attendances are virtually non-existant at some grounds with the better amateur clubs regularly opting to jump into this 'pseudo-senior' set-up rather than annually lose their best players.
When I read all those proposals about merging the EofS and SofS leagues into some kind of 'southern conference' I really wonder what planet these people are on. We have already demonstrated our vastly-inflated illusions of grandeur through the creation of the all-singing all-dancing SPL debacle without repeating such calamitous errors with the lower end of our professional game. David Taylor's vision of every club in the country, regardless of status, getting the opportunity of a route to the top is, alas, more romantic than realistic. We should be more concerned with pruning the Scottish League than increasing the lesser-lights! As many junior clubs continue to teeter on the brink of collapse, the last thing the many dedicated committee members need is increased travelling to remote villages that have unfortunately lost the football bug many generations ago.

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Post by Scottish » Mon Jul 04, 2005 11:12 pm

I think you're right that there's an element of 'fantasy football' that goes on in some of the reconstruction schemes dreamed up and that the points you make are all perfectly valid.

Nonetheless I don't see anything wrong (and can envisage a lot of benefits) from giving clubs the OPTION of progressing through the ranks. If the Polloks and Talbots are happy where they are nobody would force them to move. But I can think of at least one junior club that would grab the chance of league football and indeed is aiming specifically at that objective. And that's CLYDEBANK . And the juniors themselves have shown they want a higher level of football at the top of their game with the introduction of the regional superleagues.

Of the five clubs admitted into the League since 1994 four of them have won promotion with one in the SPL and another in the 1st. Yet none of those clubs won their place on merit. Think what might have been achieved if there was a pyramid system in place.

Similarly, is it any coincidence that the bottom two clubs in the Third Divison last season are the only two clubs to have been continuous members of that set-up since it was introduced?

It really is a farce for the same team to finish bottom year after year yet never be in any danger of losing their place.

And the separation of 'juniors' and 'seniors' is an anomaly which needs sweeping away. In practice its already been challenged. Inverurie Loco went from junior to senior and Girvan made the opposite move, both without any difficulty.

What really annoyed me was the non-league senior clubs voting down the modest proposal to allow a few junior team to enter the Qualifying Cup.

I don't think a pyramid needs a radical restructuring. I'd have four teams playing off for one place. One from the West (incorporating the South), East, North and the bottom 3rd division side. Let the Highland League winners meet the North junior winners, East superleague winners v EoS champions and West Superleague winners v SoS champions in eliminators to decide which three would come through.

I think the SFL are going in the right direction with the play-offs and the tentative moves to think about replacing the bottom club if they become too embarrassing but the bottom line is that progress of any kind is almost impossible as long as there are three governing bodies all sharing the same floor at Hampden.

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Post by bobby s » Tue Jul 05, 2005 8:22 pm

A pyramid would surely make sense, but it would need to be realistic:

I'd venture just two national leagues of 16 teams, and everything regionalised under that. The first Regional level could be North/East/South/West, and then East could be split into Lothians / Fife / Borders / Tayside.
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Level_Par
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Post by Level_Par » Tue Jul 05, 2005 9:04 pm

How would you work promotion/relegation into that? Four down from sixteen and regional winners promoted? Or fewer relegated and play-offs? Also, what size would the feeder divisions be? Even if all the regional winners were promoted that's still only one going up per division so you wouldn't want to make them too big. In which case you might end up with the regional feeder league clubs playing each other four times.

Here's an idea. With all the talk about the juniors joining the seniors, where does that leave the Junior Cup? How about keeping the name and letting all non-SFL teams, senior or junior enter it, giving Scotland the equivalent of the FA Trophy?

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Post by Lisbon67 » Wed Jul 06, 2005 11:14 am

All in favour of a pyramid but four feeders is surely one too many. I'd go for three - North/Highland, West/South, East/South. That makes for three down and the winners of the three feeders going up.

Under your proposals ten of the current 42 SPL/SFL sides would have to drop out. For argument's sake let's take the current Third Division.

The North/Highland set-up is easily resolved. Fifteen existing Highland League clubs plus Elgin. I know 16 might seem a lot for a feeder league but if it was say 12 that leaves a problem as to where the four bottom HL clubs go. There's not reason why feeder leagues can't be asymmetrical so I'd say that's the best solution - to go with 16. The North juniors are easily the weakest junior league so shouldn't have any complaints with that.

The other two pose more problems. Arbroath, Berwick, Cowdenbeath, East Fife and Montrose would go into the East/South region and Albion Rovers, East Stirling, Queen's Park and Stenhousemuir to the West/South.

OK, you can argue whether 'Shire and Stenny are in the 'west' but this will always be a problem once you opt for regionalisation.

That means you're looking for seven clubs for the east and eight for the west to make 12-club leagues which is more in line with what juniors are used to and leaves plenty of weekends free for local cup competitions and the Junior Cup.

Question is where do they come from. East and West superleagues is the obvious answer but what about the EoS and SoS? To me the SoS should just be a regional feeder like the Central and Ayrshire juniors are. That way the same clubs as now would still meet and only progress to another level if they wanted to.

The EoS is more of a problem but with a bit of goodwill the places ofr a pyramid could be allocated between the two junior superleagues and the EoS even if it meant perhaps a couple of currnet 'east' sides moving to the 'west.'

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Post by Gersman » Wed Jul 06, 2005 3:48 pm

First question to ask is which towns/areas of Scotland don't have existing league represenation? The biggest are the three new towns of East Kilbride, Irvine, and Glenrothes. All of these are close to existing SPL & SFL sides and all have a big Old Firm support. Support levels in the two new towns with league teams (Livingston and Cumbernauld) are poor and there's no reason to think it would be any different in the other three.

There might be a few junior teams capable of making the lower reaches of the SFL but that's it. Any pyramid would be aimed at clearing out some of the dead wood from the league and replacing them with ambitious juniors. But after five years max it would be job done. There would be no more junior sides capable of a league existence and all the dross would have gone.
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bobby s
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Post by bobby s » Thu Jul 07, 2005 8:55 pm

Gersman wrote:Support levels in the two new towns with league teams (Livingston
Do you think Livingston would attract more fans playing against Bo'ness, Lintlithgow and Bathgate in a pyramid structure?

Livi v Ross County, and Livi v Inverness might be realistic for SPL football; but for the 4th league in Scotland it's completely unviable, surely?
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bobby s
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Post by bobby s » Thu Jul 07, 2005 8:57 pm

Gersman wrote:There would be no more junior sides capable of a league existence and all the dross would have gone.
Is 42 teams too many? If we had just 32 "senior" teams would that make a difference?

What useful purpose do East Stirling serve? Albion Rovers? They might move between the 2nd and 3rd divisions...what's the point?
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Post by Sat31March1928 » Thu Jul 07, 2005 9:15 pm

bobby s wrote:....
What useful purpose do East Stirling serve? Albion Rovers?.....
8 purposes for

Sat 13 Mar 1920 Hibernian 0 Albion Rov. 1
Sat 10 Dec 1921 Hibernian 0 Albion Rov. 1
Wed 22 Feb 1922 Albion Rov. 2 Hibernian 1
Sat 26 Mar 1932 Albion Rov. 1 Hibernian 0
Sat 20 Aug 1932 Albion Rov. 2 Hibernian 0
Sat 13 Oct 1934 Albion Rov. 2 Hibernian 0
Sat 15 Aug 1936 Albion Rov. 4 Hibernian 0
Sat 11 Feb 1939 Hibernian 1 Albion Rov. 2

2 against

Sat 03 Apr 1920 Albion Rov. 6 Heart Of Midlothian 2
Wed 01 Mar 1922 Albion Rov. 2 Heart Of Midlothian 0
Jackson; James; Jackson; James; Jackson

bobby s
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Post by bobby s » Thu Jul 07, 2005 9:17 pm

Lisbon67 wrote: OK, you can argue whether 'Shire and Stenny are in the 'west' but this will always be a problem once you opt for regionalisation.
I'll miss out your other points, and come back to them, but this has not proved to be a problem with the East Superleague.

The bottom three drop out: if it's 3 fife teams, they go to the fife league; and one comes up from east, fife and tayside.

It might mean that the leagues in the feeders varies from 10/11/12 each year, and the composition of the super league varies, but it's fluid and not a great problem to deal with.
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Lisbon67
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Post by Lisbon67 » Thu Jul 07, 2005 9:37 pm

Sorry, maybe I didn't make myself clear enough. By problem I meant precisely what you're saying. The knock-on effects of a disparate relegations (e.g. three east teams go down) would have to be absorbed by the level below and wouldn't make any difference to promotion.

This is what happens in England at non-league level and happened in the League when there was a Third North and Third South. Occasionally a team had to move from on to the other. It's an inconvenience but one you have to have to make regionalisation work

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Post by bobby s » Thu Jul 07, 2005 9:56 pm

Lisbon67 wrote:Sorry, maybe I didn't make myself clear
It's more likely I'm too thick to understand :?
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Post by Ramalhete » Tue Jul 12, 2005 8:28 am

I agree with the idea of two national leagues (with 16) and several (possibly tree) regional 3rd divisions. With the exemption of England, all major championships have two national leagues and a reginalised 3rd tier. With the crowds and travel that a club has in division 2 and 3 is understandable why many Junior and Non League sides don't show interest in the pyramid or in joining the SFL.
I don't know where I would allocate this regional division 3: to be part of the SFL (members would double), create a new league (like the Conference in England), or to have 3 independent feeder leagues (maybe the Highland, the East and the West Juniors Super Leagues with some club changes). In both this two last cases the SFL would lose half of their members what I think that they wouldn't like...
For the pyramid to work it has to bring together the senior and junior non Leagues and the biggest problems is the stadiums: the entry criteria's in a new regional division 3 needs to be very well chosen to allow clubs to join without having to spend heavily in ground improvements. The example of the 10.000 seats in SPL shows that many of the football authorities aren't very sensible... Fortunately it changed. This is in my opinion more important than in which area/region a club would play, but I agree that those clubs should be all the excluded members of the current SFL set-up, the top Junior clubs, some of the Highland League clubs (not all), one from the SoS (Annan Athletic that currently plays in EoS) and 3 or 4 from the EoS. All the divisions should have the same number of clubs and leave some weekends off for several cup competitions.
Below this tree divisions the existing leagues should be placed accordingly to their location and possibly some could merge.

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Post by Gersman » Thu Jul 14, 2005 6:32 pm

You make a good point about grounds. It's not just the SPL that has certain requirements. A lot of the top junior sides don't have any segregation and at some junior grounds it's hard to see how they could introduce it as access is via a single set of turnstiles.

It would be very costly for any junior side to enter the League as it stands and any regional set-up would have to look again at entry conditions.
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