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Oh, Hell

SP Hell.

I see the proposals for a reconstruction of the Scottish football leagues have advanced to the point they are now to be voted on.

I haven’t commented up to now as I’ve been resigned to gloom all season. The 4-3 at Falkirk and 3-0 at Morton did cheer me up, though.

The proposals would see a merger of the SPL and SFL with a top league of 12 clubs (as now; so no change at all!) The second tier will also have 12 clubs (an enlargement of 2.) The third tier will have 18 clubs (effectively a merger of Divs 2 and 3 of the SFL minus 2 clubs.) The fourth tier disappears (but there is a mooting of introducing relegation to/promotion from a pyramid below it.)

There is in addition to be a “split” after the top two Divs have played 22 games (home and away against each other) with the 24 clubs divided into three sections of 8,8 and 8 where again there will be home and away games against each member.

There is an air of indecent haste about this as it seems to be envisaged that this will start in season 2013-2014. That would mean changing the finishing post halfway through this season (and also effectively kybosh the play-offs for this year.)

As far as the top two “new” Divisions is concerned how is this different in essence from the SPL 2 which was shot down in flames about a year ago?

And I wonder how many promotion/relegation places will there be between the third and the second. Not enough I would suggest.

It all sounds to me remarkably like a way to hike Rangers up to tier 2 a year early. They will undoubtedly win Div 3 this season and I can see the argument running that they won their league; so deserve to be promoted. The Div 2 winners (Queen of the South?) would be going up to the second tier anyway.

In this regard it would be nice to have Rangers saying that if their promotion to the second tier in one go was advocated they would refuse to accept it – but I can’t see them making that refusal: even if they have described the plans as an abomination.

By all means have a merged league – provided there are equal voting rights across the Divisions. (Otherwise how long will it be before the top two Divisions vote away the lower completely?)

Very few fans, however, want to keep the present system where clubs play each other 4 times a season. The proposals do not really address this point. Under them 20 clubs will still be doing exactly that.*

The main trouble is that Rangers and Celtic are too dominant within the Scottish game. I have frequently said that unless and until the gate income is once again shared between the two competing clubs, along with more equal division of TV monies, no other club will have a hope in hell of challenging the big two.

I do know one thing though. Whatever and whenever league reconstruction happens Dumbarton will be demoted. That’s what always happens.

1922: third bottom Div 1. Three clubs relegated to adjust division sizes. Previously only two clubs had been relegated. It took us 50 years to get back up.

1975 : fifth bottom Div 1. Only the top 10 clubs stayed in the first tier. It only took us 8 years to get up to that level (for a brief one season visit.)

1994 : fifth bottom Div 1. Three Divisions rearranged to four, bottom five in Div 1 demoted to new Div 2. Promotion the next year saw us then have our worst season in living memory (and beyond) before tumbling down the leagues. 16 long years later we finally got back to Div 1.


*Edited to add. The 24 “top” clubs will all play four times against at least three teams.

Ramsden’s? Cup

Yet another round of alphabet soup in Scottish football. Not only is the League Cup now to be called the Communities Cup but apparently the Challenge Cup (in which Dumbarton have the worst record of any of the teams which have ever competed for it; so don’t look for progress beyond the first round this time either) is now to be known as the Ramsden’s Cup.

Ramsden’s apparently have a presence in a lot of towns with SFL clubs and peddle financial services such as pawn-broking and payday loans.

Hmm. Not much of an inspiration, is it?

It’s East Stirlingshire, by the way, at home on 23rd July.

What? No Morton?

The Death of Scottish Football? 4.

I see the changes those in charge of the SPL wish to push through seem to be closer to coming to pass.

The only difference to what most fans have overwhelmingly rejected?

That the SPL 2 will have 12 teams instead of 10.

Is that not just entirely typical of the cynical nature of these proposals?

What could be the reason (the only reason?) for increasing the projected number of teams in the SPL 2 in this way? Surely it can only be to try to persuade the present SFL Div 1 clubs to vote for it.

It would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic, nor so transparent.

These bullies still appear to maintain that only a top ten is financially viable.

Well; it was tried before and found wanting. It will be so again.

With the same stale old suspects on display time after time with four games against the same opposition every year, not including possible cup ties, attendances will continue to fall, the “product” (the football on offer) continue to decline in quality – even the much vaunted Old Firm games, the last one I hear was very poor; I had not the slightest interest in watching it – and the attraction of the SPL to TV companies will wane. Then the top ten will be stuck in a deeper bind than they are now.

Here’s a thought. Why don’t they just cut their coat according to their cloth, balance their books and forget about trying to compete with the top European clubs? We, and they, live in a small country on Europe’s periphery. Scotland is no longer a football powerhouse. (That it once may have been is a historical accident.) It’s time the SPL, especially the Old Firm, came to terms with that.

Note we have no indication of what promotion/relegation arrangements there will be between the new expanded SPL and the rump SFL the changes will leave behind.

Rest assured the access to the new SPL from the SFL will be restricted. The SFL clubs will be left to wither on the vine.

The SPL 2 clubs may wither faster though.

Come on SFL. Tell them to stuff it.

The Death Of Scottish Football? 3.

I’ve posted about their sheer damned nerve before. Twice over in fact.

But now we see it in all its naked self interest.

These proposals are not to the benefit of Scottish football as a whole.

They would do nothing – absolute zero – to improve the national team’s efforts to qualify for major championships.

They would do nothing to further the development of young players – quite the reverse: their appearance in first teams would be much less likely.

Neither would the base of the game be widened and strengthened. It would almost certainly mean the demise of the current SFL clubs who have little chance of ever reaching Division 1, far less the SPL. By and large these clubs live within their means and on occasion turn up players whom the bigger clubs have missed. They also have dedicated fans (albeit in small numbers) who are passionate about their allegiances and would be lost to the game if their clubs were to go under.

Any clubs who aspire to SFL membership will not gain from this either as very shortly there wouldn’t be an SFL to aspire to. The new SPL2 won’t let the likes of Spartans in, you can be sure of that.

What the proposals might do is ensure that the Old Firm continue to receive the lion’s share of television exposure – and monies – and entrench the current imbalance that is the true source of Scottish football’s malaise. (Two teams win most of the competitions and the rest barely get a look in.)

They will also make sure that the SPL1 and 2 is in fact a closed shop.

The SPL says it has canvassed thousands of Scottish fans about these proposals. Well; nobody asked me.

A discussion on the fan site Pie and Bovril did direct me to a survey ( after the proposals were announced, but this isn’t connected to the SPL, I believe. Just in case it is I urge you all to access this and opt against anything similar to an SPL1 and 2.

And as for regionalisation below the SPL, that would largely deprive me of the chance to watch my team as I no longer live in its area. At the moment I can attend lots of away games; under regionalisation that would probably change. From being a frequent attender at matches, I would become more or less a stranger to Scottish football.

The suggestion that SPL reserve teams should play in the regionalised league below SPL1/2 is simply outrageous. They had a reserve league of their own and disbanded it. Let them set it up again or else loan their reserves out to gain experience. Do not sully a totally different competition with teams you can’t be bothered to cater for otherwise. Foisting them on someone else is more than high-handed. It smacks of bullying.

I can’t tell you the despair that these proposals have engendered in me. Quite simply, without the prospect of promotion and relegation throughout the Scottish football system – I am by no means against a pyramid coming into being provided that there is a suitable league for demoted SFL clubs to play in – but, remember, for most of those located in West and Central Scotland there isn’t at the moment – then there is little point in carrying on.

The main things that would free up the current arrangements and lessen the staleness that abounds are either

1. immediately increasing the available promotion spots from SFL1 to the SPL, or

2. getting rid of playing teams four times a season (in other words increasing the size of the various divisions.)

That last would probably mean only one SPL league and two SFL divisions.

I do hope the teams at the top of the SFL Div 1 won’t be seduced by the mere possibility of games against the ugly sisters that they will go for this.

In fact, they’re probably going to do better in attendance terms if they are doing reasonably well in the SFL than if they were struggling in the SPL.

The response of the SFL to all this ought to be, “Two words; seven letters; three of them ‘f’.”

Dumbarton 1-3 Brechin City

League goals against predictor:- 150

SFL Div 2, The Rock, 25/9/10

League goals for predictor:- 18.

What can you say?

All but two of the teams in the league played, only one win and one draw to show for it. Add in a humungous negative goal difference and the fact that we’re at the bottom of the division again.

We’re doomed.

Alloa Athletic 0-0 Dumbarton

League goals against predictor:- 150

SFL Div 2, Recreation Park, 18/9/10

League goals for predictor:- 18.

Chalk and cheese.

We were unrecognisable from the team that succumbed at New Bayview. The defence looked as if they had talked to each other. We ran, blocked, covered and played for each other.

Mind you we were also unrecognisable as a team that would score a goal; but first things first, a little at a time. I think the Alloa keeper only had two saves to make and only one of them troubled him – and that was by accident.

Michael White had one good and one excellent save for us and handled well throughout which helped the defence stand firm, I’m sure. If Stephen Grindlay gets the nod next week it’s a disgrace.

Alloa were much the better team and had much more of the ball but couldn’t really break us down. Chappie had us set out in what approximated a 3-5-1-1 with Scott Chaplain just behind Ross Campbell. At least it made us difficult to beat.

30 more of these and we’ll end up with 34 points.

It it keeps us up, fine, but Arbroath finished last season with 40.

Dumbarton 1-0 Stenhousemuir

League goals against predictor:- 210

SFL Div 2, The Rock, 11/9/10

League goals for predictor:- 18.

I thought I’d conquered it. That I’d given this season up for dead. It’s been a fortnight since New Bayview after all.

But there it was at three this afternoon. That small wriggling worm of hope.

And finally getting round to checking the score at 4.40, the nagging worry.

1-0, but time not up. Stenny would equalise, or worse.

Then the sending off. Was it a penalty?

Agonising seconds waiting for the final score.

A WIN! Three points!

And a clean sheet. How on Earth did that happen?

We’re not even bottom of the table any more.

It seems Michael White was in goal. About time.

No Ben Gordon in the starting line-up. He’s been poor this season it has to be said. Maybe giving him the captaincy wasn’t a good idea. Was Chissie in central defence as this team list suggests?

The result is welcome but it’s not enough for me to change the goals for and against predictors though.

And since son number two now has a flat in Alloa, within walking distance of the ground, I’ll be there next Saturday.

(I would have gone anyway.)

East Fife 6-0 Dumbarton

League goals against predictor:- 210

SFL Div 2, New Bayview, 28/8/10

League goals for predictor:- 18.

Dreadful. Simply dreadful.

The back four looked like they hadn’t met, the midfield didn’t track runners, the forwards failed to link and had no service. And the goalkeeper fails to inspire.

Apart from that everything was fine.

At least the under 19s can win a game.

We could have done with Chissie out there today. At least he makes some effort. Too many times an East Fife player walked past one of ours as if he wasn’t there.

We had three efforts on goal – all in the last three minutes when it was totally pointless.

During the game I was trying to think if this was the worst Dumbarton team I had ever seen. If it wasn’t then I’ve blanked the memory out.

Jim Chapman’s decisions about retaining (or otherwise) players at the start of the close season are coming home to roost.

Smith when he came on had a few nice touches. Gilhaney flattered to deceive, holding on to the ball far too long when he ought to have passed or crossed. Wilson didn’t do much wrong but was substituted at half time. Ditto McStay. But no-one did much right.

Grindlay is a worse goalkeeper now than he was in his previous stay with us. At the first goal he came for the cross and stopped, fell down, and so provoked a stramash in which none of our defenders thought to hack the ball away. Grindlay was still on the floor when the ball was booted in. He spilled a few straight-forward saves as well. The sooner Michael White is made number one the better.

On second thought let’s just start looking forward to a promotion campaign next season.

In Division 3.

Edited to add:- The only good thing about the game was that I finally met Simon Barrow of the blog Only Just Offside (see also my side bar.)

Ayr United 1-0 Dumbarton

League goals against predictor:- 140

SFL Div 2, Somerset Park, 21/8/10

Ho-hum. Not even a penalty goal today.

We did score, though. But it was for Ayr, not ourselves.

It was the only one we lost so I lowered the predictor a touch.

Looks like we might have had a left back in the side at last.

Dumbarton 1-2 Livingston

League goals against predictor:- 150*

SFL Div 2, The Rock, 14/8/10

I wasn’t at the game… but it’s not looking good.

From the BBC report it looks like another eccentric Chapman selection.

Four games in (two in the league) and we’ve scored only three goals – two of them from penalties. Old failings not remedied.

And two away games coming up.

*I haven’t changed this even though we only lost two today. Given last week goodness knows how many it might have been if they’d stayed at eleven men.

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