What’s Next For Scottish Football?

By Brad Eveleigh ( @Brad_Eveleigh )
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In recent times the Scottish Premier League (SPL) has taken a few crucial blows resulting in some big backwards steps for both clubs and the League, which molds the question: Is the SPL a healthy league?

This is not an opinion piece to potentially persuade readers either for or against but rather placing the topic up for debate for the millions of interested football fans around the globe.

Before I go into why I think this is even a topic I shall start by explaining the structure of the SPL as it’s not your common “everyone plays everyone twice” type set-up. I have extracted the explanation from Wikipedia where it is best described and it is as follows:

There are currently twelve clubs in the Scottish Premier League. Teams receive three points for a win and one point for a draw. No points are awarded for a loss. Teams are ranked by total points, then goal difference, and then goals scored. At the end of each season, the club with the most points is crowned champion. If points are equal, the goal difference and then goals scored determine the winner.

A season, which runs from July until May, is divided into two phases. During the first phase, each club plays three games against every other team, either once at home and twice away or vice-versa. After this first phase of matches, by which time all clubs will have played 33 games, the league splits into a ‘top six’ and a ‘bottom six’. Each club then plays a further five matches against the other five teams in their own section. Points achieved during the first phase of 33 matches are carried forward to the second phase, but the teams will compete only within their own sections during the second phase. After the first phase has been completed, clubs cannot move out of their own section in the league, even if they achieve more or fewer points than a higher or lower ranked team, respectively.

At the beginning of each season, the Scottish Premier League ‘predicts’ the likely positions of each club in order to produce a fixture schedule that will ensure the best possible chance of all clubs playing each other twice at home and twice away. These are known as the league seeding and are based on clubs’ performance in previous years. However, should a club not finish in the half where it was predicted to finish, it faces the possibility of playing an unequal number of home and away games; for example, one club may play another three times at home and once away.

The bottom placed SPL club at the end of the season is relegated, and swaps places with the winner of the Scottish First Division, provided that the winner satisfies the league’s entry criteria.

This split format can cause a little confusion for the average punter, for example: Hibernian (51 points) and Aberdeen (48 points) finished 7th and 8th overall, BUT, 1st and 2nd in the bottom half of the split table. Both teams finished on more points then Dundee United (47 points) but Dundee finished 6th overall. Hibernian will not be bothered; they claimed a Europa League spot from 7th on the table. As shown below.

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This format in itself has come under some heated criticism from high levels within the SPL.

Scottish football has been known in the past for the dominance of Celtic and Rangers. For the average football fan here in Australia, you only really heard news of the SPL when there was an Old Firm Derby being played.

In the last 48 years Celtic and Rangers have shared the League title on 44 occasions. Aberdeen won the league in 1979-80 / 1983-84 / 1984-85 and Dundee United won it in 1982-83. So it’s pretty much always been a 2 horse race.

Domestically, Rangers have won more leagues and more trebles than any other club in the world, but, in 2012, Rangers FC became insolvent and were forced to enter administration, resulting in liquidation.

An agreement could not be reached with its creditors, business assets (including Rangers FC) were bought out, the clubs Scottish Football Association membership was transferred, eventually, so that the club could “relaunch” in the Third Division in 2012 (they won that league and have since been promoted to League 2).

With Rangers now out of the SPL international interest seems to have dwindled somewhat as that 2 horse race in now dead with some people referring to the league as the Celtic Premier League.

Celtic won the 2012-13 title 16 points clear of Motherwell, which places most interest on the challenges from 2nd onwards.

Is this a good thing for the league? Is 1st place just resigned to Celtic and other clubs aim for the 2nd and 3rd spots which European qualification is an acceptable achievement?

Another backwards step for the SPL occurred just yesterday as Heart of Midlothian FC (Hearts) entered administration with accountancy firm BDO taking over the running of the club.

Hearts have debts of up to £25m (AUD$41.74m), owed to companies formerly owned by Vladimir Romanov, who invested in the club back in 2005.

What is the solution to all of this? Does there even need to be a change? Are things fine the way they are? These are the type of questions I’d like to see discussed.

The always-present debate of Scottish teams entering the English Leagues never die off. Would this be a better option for the SPL clubs with all this grayness?

I’m sure 99% of Scots would tell me it’s a bullshit question and tell me to jog on but it’s always a point of conversation. I’m not promoting the move at all; it’s just a question.

If your answer is yes, they should join the English Leagues, how would they join? Take into consideration that clubs from both England and Scotland must not be demised. You must put the shoe on the other foot as some would say.

I don’t think it would be possible to place SPL clubs into the top tiers as this would disrupt promotion and relegation.

Would it be beneficial to create a League 3 constructed of all SPL teams and have Blue Square competition winners make up the remaining numbers? I don’t think so.

Going from the SPL to League 3 in England would be a slap in the face for the clubs, not to mention loss of revenue etc etc. Plus, the EPL team would buy the decent players and they would all be stuck in the pits of English football.

I would love to see Celtic play in the English Premier League, but how would they (and other SPL clubs) be injected?

The responses I’ve come across in the past have always been interesting. What are your thoughts? Change or no change? If so, how?

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