The Death Of Scottish Football? 1

I never watch the SPL. I never will unless, by some miracle, Dumbarton rise all the way to play in it. (And, perhaps, not even then.) I don’t even watch its “highlights” on television. In short I couldn’t care less.

It’s a crabbed, all but closed shop, whose result is either of two foregone conclusions. As far as I’m aware, its product on the pitch is joyless and sterile. I very much doubt it has raised standards of football in Scotland. Its members have, in effect, built a fortress and pulled the drawbridge up after them and also shown a breathtaking lack of humility and solidarity.

And now there are plans afoot to complete the job and expand the SPL – to institute an SPL2 encompassing all those Scottish clubs that aspire to full time football. Quite apart from the horrible piece of textspeak the designation SPL2 emdodies this proposal can only lead to the severing of whatever clubs are graciously allowed admittance to the cartel from their roots in Scottish football in the wider sense. For how long would it be before this new league (of two premier divisions? – that is itself a nonsense) becomes like the NFL; an absolute closed shop, with what remains of the SFL left to wither on the vine? The SPLs 1 and 2 would hoover up any and all sponsorship monies, leaving the rest not much to survive on.

Yes, it would still be possible to meet SPL clubs in the Scottish Cup; but they’d make sure qualification to do so is as difficult as possible. I don’t think it would be long before the smaller clubs – each with their own proud (or otherwise) histories never forget – found the going too tough. Without the prospect of the odd promotion to a higher division, without its possibility, their endeavours would be rendered somewhat pointless.

Of course, in their money chase, some of the SPL might go to the wall too. Thought about that, lads? No really small, long-standing SFL club has gone out of business since I can remember (though Stranraer are now struggling) yet a biggish club, Motherwell, have been in administration. Of those that went out of business altogether Third Lanark wasn’t a small club; Clydebank were taken over; Airdrieonians went bust, but they were of medium size, had reached Cup Finals and played in Europe; Gretna were not long-standing and over-reached themselves by grabbing at the SPL – a lesson to us all. An SPL2 almost guarantees a lot of the smaller clubs will go in the end.

And would SPL2 football be any better than SFL Div 1 is now?
And, without relegation, the SPL2 competition would have no bite, no danger, no fear at the bottom end.

But, despite when the SPL broke away, SFL clubs in effect being told to eff off by the new independent league (for which, really, read the gruesome twosome* – you know who you are; the people you are not – the others grimly hang to their coat-tails) clubs at present in the SFL Div 1 just might go for this farrago in the vain hope that it will bring in some extra cash.

The proposal does not seem to be based on footballing merit – ground capacities and catchment areas have been mentioned as qualifying criteria – and as such goes against everything that makes football the glorious, daft game that it is.

Only eight years ago Dumbarton played against Hamilton Academical in the SFL Div 3. Less than five years ago, on 17/4/04, the two teams last played in the league, in the SFL Div 2. That day, as it turned out, if Dumbarton had drawn instead of losing to a scrambled last minute goal, they (if the remainder of that season’s games had ended the way they in fact did) and not Hamilton would have been promoted to Div 1.
Hamilton are now in the SPL, Dumbarton in Div 3. Five years ago. Only five years.

Had an SPL2 been set up eight years ago Hamilton would not have got a sniff at it. A few years earlier they didn’t even have a stadium of their own to play in!

There are clubs in the lower two SFL Divs which have in the past, made a fist of playing at a higher level, some even winning Scottish or League Cups. One, I hesitate to mention which, was the first outright winner of the Scottish League. Yet they could be cast to the winds.

If the SPL wants to expand let it take in all of the SFL.

Fat chance.

*Not Fran and Anna; but even more disagreeable.



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  1. Alan Findlay

    Great article Jack.

    You are so right.

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