10 Years of the SPL - Progress?

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SebGevers
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10 Years of the SPL - Progress?

Post by SebGevers » Mon Jun 16, 2008 9:04 pm

The 2007/2008 season was the tenth since the SPL came into existence. I'm putting together a small piece for my website to see if the SPL has met the objectives it set out when it was founded.

The only problem is that I can't find out quite *why* the SPL was founded, other than for its members to retain more of the revenue generated by the game (an objective I am not sure it's met). I was wondering if there was, or is, a document (a charter or constitution) that describes the reasons for founding the SPL and what the objectives it set where.

thanks,
Seb.
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Scottish
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Post by Scottish » Tue Jun 17, 2008 12:21 am

I'm sure there were noble sentiments expressed about encouraging youth by the U-21 subs rule and the U-21 league replacing the reserves. Also about helping the national side and a winter shutdown. But I'm also sure the real reason was the one you outlined above.

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Post by the hibLOG » Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:04 am

scottish wrote:I'm sure there were noble sentiments expressed about encouraging youth by the U-21 subs rule and the U-21 league replacing the reserves. Also about helping the national side and a winter shutdown. But I'm also sure the real reason was the one you outlined above.
Notable that both the U-21 subs and U-21 league have bitten the dust, mainly because they didn't suit the Old Firm. As for the national team, since FIFA and UEFA designate their international schedules well in advance now the national team has the same room to plan as everyone else. The first time someone actually postponed a game 'to help the national team' they proceeded to moan their tits off about the consequences for the rest of the year, so I won't hold my breath for any similar generosity of spirit.
Fraser

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Post by bobby s » Tue Jun 17, 2008 12:45 pm

Do you still need to have 2 under 21's in the matchday squad?

Also

in 10 seasons we've had 9 1/2 old firm finishes. I'd wager there is not another league in Europe that is so predictable.
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Post by SebGevers » Wed Jun 18, 2008 8:10 am

bobby s wrote:Do you still need to have 2 under 21's in the matchday squad?

Also

in 10 seasons we've had 9 1/2 old firm finishes. I'd wager there is not another league in Europe that is so predictable.
Rosenberg have won the Norwegian league since around 1992 I think ...

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Post by lbb » Wed Jun 18, 2008 8:39 am

Depends on whether the SPL promised to end the Old Firm domination in their constitution - has anyone found it yet? The size of the Old Firm relative to the rest means they will almost always be near the top of the Scottish league. I don't know how you fix that.

It's a catch-22 for the rest of the clubs. Their only hope of competing is to develop their own talent but, the size of their club, means it's difficult for them to hold onto the players long enough to mount a challenge. If Hibs had retained the likes of O'Connor, Brown, Riordan, Thomson, etc. who knows what might have happened. But it was never an option for them to retain them. If Hearts didn't have a lunatic chairman who knows what might have happened in 2005-06.

The SPL was simply, in my view, an attempt to rebrand the league and make it more 'exciting' but whilst retaining the same teams and the same structure. It failed. The English had managed in 1992 to, almost overnight, transform mundane First Division fixtures into must-see Premership matches. It was an incredible achievement and owed a LOT to Sky TV. The SPL tried something similar in 1998 and it didn't work. The fixtures remained as uninteresting as they were before. We needed some of Sky's magic dust to rub off on us and it didn't.

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Post by Scottish » Wed Jun 18, 2008 8:42 am

SebGevers wrote:
bobby s wrote:Do you still need to have 2 under 21's in the matchday squad?

Also

in 10 seasons we've had 9 1/2 old firm finishes. I'd wager there is not another league in Europe that is so predictable.
Rosenberg have won the Norwegian league since around 1992 I think ...
Rosenborg won 13 successive titles 1992-2004 inclusive. Skonto Riga also won 13 in succession in Latvia during the same seasons. Their tally is actually 14 if you include the final season of the Latvian League as a constituent part of the old Soviet Supreme League.

But in both cases several different clubs finished as runners-up

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Post by SebGevers » Wed Jun 18, 2008 9:24 am

Between 1947 and 1965 the Scottish league was at its most competitive, when 5 different teams, other than the Old Firm, won the league (Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen, Dundee and Kilmarnock).

See http://insideleft.wordpress.com/2008/06 ... -all-that/ for more details ..

What was different then to now? I suppose no TV coverage, meaning people went to the games. Lower ticket prices?

I emailed the SPL a week ago asking them to send me on the business plan (or constitution or charter or whatever ..) for the league, but so far no response, hence the question here.

The solution to the problems facing the SPL (ie lack of competition, lack of revenue) does not easily come to mind. I am not even sure if a solution exists. Letting Celtic and Rangers leave to go to England would certainly open things up, but aside from the loss of revenue in not playing the old firm, Scottish football without the Old Firm just isn't Scottish football anymore ..

Getting people back into the stadiums will only happen if people think their teams have a chance of winning something, and/or there are exciting players to come and watch. A full stadium increases revenue, but turnstile prices would probably have to be lowered to encourage crowds back to the terraces.

There has been talk of increasing the SPL from 12 to 16 and 18 teams, which may well increase revenue for the smaller sides, but the bigger teams would probably lose out (Clyde v Celtic would be financially good for Clyde, but Celtic v Clyde is probably not that good for Celtic in a half empty Parkhead). Secondly, you'd probably just end up with the same thing we have now: a top 2 points ahead of the rest, a chasing pack of maybe 3 teams and then the rest. And then we're back to where we started.

As an Aberdeen fan, I'm resigned to never winning the league. That's fine, I'm happy with that. As long as we beat United, Hearts, Hibs and all the rest, I'm happy to finish 3rd, because 3rd = Europe and 3rd = best team in Scotland outside of the Old Firm. Twisted logic perhaps, but football is a funny game.

[edited to remove strange double posting]
Last edited by SebGevers on Wed Jun 18, 2008 10:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by lbb » Wed Jun 18, 2008 10:03 am

The Old Firm going to England has two problems. The first one is obvious - it's difficult to see any league in England that would take them. Secondly, if people think that media coverage of the Old Firm is excessive now then Rangers or Celtic playing Arsenal or Chelsea every other week would relegate the SPL to minimal coverage in its own country. This would do little to enhance the SPL.

I think pricing is an issue. Tickets in excess of £20 per person are unacceptable when the standard, at times, is deplorable - and that's including the Old Firm. Entertainment is an issue. Fans will accept a lot if they're at least being entertained. There are clubs in England who have no chance of winning the league down there but still pull in good crowds because they're watching a good standard of football.

The players and coaches have to take responsibility for the lack of entertainment. There are Scottish players in the SPL picking up thousands of pounds a week when they can't even master the basics of the game. The collapse in the SPL's finances did mean that a lot of dud foreign players left the game. The sad thing is they've only been replaced by dud Scottish players, in a lot of cases.

There needs to be something done about the technique and development of young players in Scotland. There's a lot of excitement at Rangers about some of the young players coming through but 6 of them - including the much-hyped John Fleck - featured in the Scotland U-17 team that lost all three matches to Holland, Turkey and Serbia & Montenegro in the recent European Championships. And without scoring a goal. Maybe they're not as good as we think? And I'm sure that story can be repeated throughout the SPL with clubs bringing through young players who disappear without trace or never get beyond mediocre SPL level. We seem very insular. The answer doesn't always lie with foreign coaches, etc. but there is a reason why countries like the Dutch produce talented footballers more than we do. We have to find out what it is.

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Post by Scottish » Wed Jun 18, 2008 10:08 am

SebGevers wrote: I emailed the SPL a week ago asking them to send me on the business plan (or constitution or charter or whatever ..) for the league, but so far no response, hence the question here.
Good luck, Seb. I'm still waiting for responses from six years ago
SebGevers wrote: Clyde v Celtic would be financially good for Clyde, but Celtic v Clyde is probably not that good for Celtic in a half empty Parkhead
As long as the OF can sell 95% of their seats to season ticket holders they're not that bothered how many actually turn up. This has been one of the most successful marketing campaigns ever undertaken (not just the OF but the entire English Premiership) in that it has persuaded people that in order to be guaranteed a ticket for the really big event that comes along perhaps two or three times a season they have to fork out - in advance - for games they are either unable to attend or have no intention of attending.

Take Aberdeen as an example. They've played 19 league matches at Parkhead since the foundation of the SPL. Only one of those games has had an attendance of less than 57,000. In over 100 such matches prior to the establishment of the SPL only two games produced crowds greater than 57,000.

Celtic v Aberdeen has not been transformed into a more entertaining or important fixture since 1998. But the odds against a Celtic fan being able to obtain a ticket for an OF or big European encounter have lengthened significantly in that time. Therefore the Celtic fan has to make sure he has paid to watch Aberdeen in order to stand a chance of watching AC Milan.

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Post by SebGevers » Wed Jun 18, 2008 11:05 am

lbb wrote:There are Scottish players in the SPL picking up thousands of pounds a week when they can't even master the basics of the game.
Tehee, that made me laugh.

I've always thought that the youth system is the secret to our success in the long term, but this is a world where a quick return is preferred over a long term investment . We see it with managers, and we see it with young players. James McCarthy, the Hamilton 'starlet' (i hate that word) is probably one of the most exciting talents to come through in years, but he's already talking about wanting to play in England. I dont blame him, but it's a shame that the talented youngsters coming through dont have that much to look forward to.

I was excited about the 6+5 rule, thinking that making clubs play home-grown talent would be a way to encourage development of young players in the game, until I discovered that most clubs in Scotland already meet this criteria anyway and we're still having the same discussions.

It all sounds very negative and hopeless (and it is!) but despite all that, I love Scottish football. Having seen a fair number of EPL games, as well as taking in Dutch football, I wouldn't swap it for anything in the world. There's just something about the atmosphere, the grounds, the teams and the history that I find lacking in other leagues i've encountered. I just wish we could make it more competitive ...

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Post by the hibLOG » Wed Jun 18, 2008 11:45 am

The last time there was a serious and sustained challenge to Old Firm domination was in the 1980s with Aberdeen and Dundee Utd. The possibility of that challenge being repeated was eliminated by two things: Bosman and the financial awakening of the Old Firm.

Aberdeen and Dundee Utd were able to sustain winning squads by paying them enough to keep them happy whilst knowing that they could not leave except for a fee. Some did, but many didn't because (infamously at Tannadice) they were on very long contracts. Freedom of contract now means that a player can leave more or less when he wants to. The only way of keeping them is to match the wages on offer elsewhere, and since Rangers and Celtic woke up to the power of their earnings potential that is simply not feasible for anyone else (even Hearts).

In the 50s and 60s I'm guessing that the wage differential between the OF and the rest was also small. The OF were only in the market for the best players within Scotland and only needed to pay a little over the odds, but even then would be limited by the need to pay a fee, and the length of players' contracts. This meant that there was a more even spread of talent around Scottish clubs.

The other factor at play in the modern game is an important one known as 'the good manager'. Celtic reasserted Old Firm dominance from the mid-60s under Jock Stein, with Jock Wallace taking up the challenge for Rangers. The advent of the 'New Firm' was very much down to Ferguson and McLean. Since the advent of Bosman the only thing that has enabled anyone to even split the Old Firm has been severe managerial incompetence/turmoil at one or other of them. Hearts had a genuine chance of exploiting incipient mediocrity recently and taking the league to the non-OF wire for the first time since 1991, but decided to have their own managerial turmoil instead.

That's the only way I see anyone challenging the Old Firm now: lashings of outside money, ship in a team of quality mercenaries, hire a decent manager and do it when either or preferably both the OF are a bit shaky. It's not something any club can sustain however. And even the short-term rewards of success would be unlikely to repay the debt incurred. What's the point?
Fraser

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Post by bobby s » Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:03 pm

Hibs finished in the top 3 5 times in the 10 seasons up to the formation of the premier league in 1975. In the 32 seasons since, we've managed the same feat 4 times.

A move away from playing each team 4 times a season would close the gap - it's football we're playing not world series baseball.

Also, it would be very beneficial to produce young players of sufficient quality faster than you can be plundered for them - which is tied into financial viability. It probably also makes sense to have close ties with a feeder club or two as well.
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Post by lbb » Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:06 pm

SebGevers wrote: We see it with managers, and we see it with young players. James McCarthy, the Hamilton 'starlet' (i hate that word) is probably one of the most exciting talents to come through in years, but he's already talking about wanting to play in England. I dont blame him, but it's a shame that the talented youngsters coming through dont have that much to look forward to.
I've never seen McCarthy so I don't know how good he is. Hamilton have been trumpeting their youth system for the last couple of years so I hope it works out for them.

Fraser articulates the point I was struggling to make. The only way forward for most clubs is to develop their own players but, unfortunately, it's next to impossible for them to hold onto them like they used to. I'm sure, though, Hibs attendances went up in the Mowbray years and the money they gained through sales will surely go to their new training ground. They didn't win the league but they've made progress as a club and it is definitely the way to go for the rest.
SebGevers wrote:I was excited about the 6+5 rule, thinking that making clubs play home-grown talent would be a way to encourage development of young players in the game, until I discovered that most clubs in Scotland already meet this criteria anyway and we're still having the same discussions.
The basic problem is that not enough of the young players are of a good enough standard. Too many Scottish players are happy to take a professional contract without the responsibility of being professional, imo. Anyone can give a debut to a young player but the development of such a player is more difficult than that. It's clear that we still struggle in this area.

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Post by SebGevers » Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:23 pm

bobby s wrote:It probably also makes sense to have close ties with a feeder club or two as well.
It's a cynical view, but are most of the SPL teams not feeder clubs for the Old Firm anyway?

Fraser, you're right, there's no point incurring more debt. We've already had four clubs go into administration since the SPL started and most of our clubs are managing debts; the returns are not worth the risk.

bobby s, playing four times a year is a bit much. Would you be in favour of larger leagues, if only for the variety? Say two divisions with 16 teams, play each other twice, with the bottom 3 relegated, top 3 promoted from each league with a pyramid structure underneath that (Highland league, east of Scotland, south of Scotland) ..?

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