Football. It’s our national game. We turn out in droves to watch our national team play the finest teams Europe and the world has to offer. We sometimes win, we sometimes lose, but we remain loyal to following Scotland, wherever it takes us. We love our game.
So why is it in the shambolic state it’s in now?
Just yesterday, Dunfermline Athletic held a meeting to discuss how to save their club from crippling debts of around £8.5 million pounds. How does an SFL club get to having debts of that magnitude? Now I’m not a financial expert but that’s just screams “poorly run”. Dunfermline haven’t been the only club either who haven’t been able to balance the books.
We all know about Rangers’ problems (so much so that that’s all I’m saying about it. The details are on the net for you to find, if so inclined), Dundee have been in administration twice in my living memory and Motherwell have also struggled badly in the past. That’s not even mentioning the case of Clyde, who are rumoured to be moving to East Kilbride and renaming themselves to EK Clyde, for financial reasons. I haven’t even mentioned Hearts.
So can it be said that money is the root of all of our problems?
I’d say no. Financial mismanagement is. Most fans in Scotland are understanding of the situation we’re in. We’ve got the worlds biggest spending league on our doorstep in the English Premiership, and for a few years in the 90’s some of our clubs tried to compete on that level. It couldn’t last. To remain competitive against a VERY strong Rangers team at that time most clubs started to spend outwith their means a bit. Instead of strengthening our infrastructure, there were a lot of foreign imports. I don’t think our game has fully recovered from this time. How many international tournaments have we qualified for since then? I believe that’s part of the reason why.
However, I still think the future can be bright for our game, but I find it hard to believe we will ever be as strong as we were pre 1990’s. There are some clubs that in my opinion are going about the game in the right way. St. Johnstone, Saint Mirren, Ross County, and my beloved Inverness CT for instance make a point of living within their means. I also think it’s interesting to note that the two Highland clubs haven’t yet been in the league structure for 20 years but are both challenging for Europe now, with players from both clubs pasts having made names for themselves in Scotland or within the English Leagues.
(I find it interesting how Neil Lennon was grumbling about being a “feeder” team to bigger clubs. OK, he wasn’t really grumbling but he wasn’t happy he had to accept the reality. That’s how other Scottish clubs have felt for years.)
So what does the future hold for our game? At the moment anyway, it seems that league reconstruction is going to play a part. Reconstruction is inevitable, but we really need to make sure we do it right. The current proposal of 12-12-18 doesn’t sound like the way forward to me. It just doesn’t sound like there’s enough for fans to shout about there. Meaningless seasons become a possibility, which will lower gates and interest, which is the last thing we want. I personally would like to see something akin to the Portuguese league. Not the largest league, and also not the smallest, in recent years the standard of football there among the “lower” teams has risen. And they don’t play each other 4 times a season.
I hope common sense takes hold and the right solution for the future of our game is reached. However, this is Scottish Football, I wouldn’t be surprised if the league structure facilitates the ascension of Rangers so that the old status quo can resume and in another 20 years we’ll still be having the same conversation about how to change our game for the better.