The Pete Seeger classic, “Turn, Turn, Turn”, proclaims that everything has its time. In Scottish football today, the concept whose time has come is change.
The buzz word is “reconstruction” … but how – and when, with so little time in hand after five months squandered in pointless, unnecessary navel-gazing over the Rangers “problem”, which, had it been handled properly, need not have been so tumultuous for our national obsession.
But that’s quite a different debate that I don’t intend to get into here.
We are where we are and the burning issue now is, where do we go from here? How do we embrace change and move the game forward, as it needs, with so little time and so little room for manoeuvre?
Well, we at 25thMay1967 believe that quite a lot can be done to revitalise our structure and the wow factor in Scottish football without doing very much at all. Indeed, simply by making the most of what we have but doing it a little differently, a little more imaginatively, competitiveness and interest can be re-injected into our football, almost at a stroke.
So, here it is.
One of the best things in football is getting one over on your local rivals – “Derby Day” regional bragging rights if you like. Admittedly, not so easy for Celtic at the moment, or for the foreseeable future; but derby games against local rivals make the game more meaningful and appetising to everyone, clubs, season ticket holders, pay-at-the-gaters and armchair fans alike.
Increasing the size of the league makes it more likely for all teams to have a regional rival, so it’s a no-brainer – in the longer term, a reversion to the historical “18-teams-playing-each-other-twice-a-season” format works for us; but there is neither the appetite nor the time for such a set-up in the SPL short term. There is, however, a subtle trick we could apply to give every team in the league a bit more to play for, make the earlier stages of the league more competitive and extend the interest factor further into the season – without really changing anything at all, just working with what we have … but more imaginatively.
Take the current twelve SPL clubs and split them into 4 regional groups of 3 teams, as follows, operating on the current system, with the end-of-season sprint-finish “split”:
The league is then scheduled as normal over the first 33 match days, in the process of which, everyone will have played each of their “regional” rivals three times, as well as the rest of the league. The head-to-head mini-group clashes would see the points gained added both to the overall league table and to the appropriate sub-group. This would effectively create regional mini-leagues within (but separate from) the main table, crucially, without adding any extra games to the current schedule.
When the teams in each mini-group meet, there would be more at stake: A) the overall title; B) the regional championship; and C) the localised bragging rights that come with victory. At the same time, games against clubs from the other areas would retain their edge, as the outcome would influence both overall league standings and mini-league hopes.
The season would then conclude with five post-split games to decide the eventual overall champions, European qualification, relegation etc, as at present.
Every season we would have the following honours up for grabs without the need to add any more games to the schedule:
1. Scottish League Champions
2. Regional Champions
3. League Cup Winners
4. Scottish Cup Winners
European qualification would continue as at present, within the strictures of the UEFA co-efficient system.
We see no reason not to give something like this a go to see how much interest it might generate, not only from fans but crucially, at this critical time, from sponsors and broadcasters. It could prove especially popular and exciting when it comes down to the matches that eventually decides the regional championships.
There are likely to be fewer meaningless games, both early doors and as the season unfolds and the micro- competitions come to a head. From a commercial viewpoint, clubs would likely not be shy in selling the “Regional Champions” t-shirts and other associated memorabilia!
All for no more than the cost of producing a few new trophies and medals – what have we got to lose?