12-12-18? No Thank You

So, the new plan to ‘save Scottish Football’ has emerged from the dark dungeons of the SPL and SFA. Obviously oblivious to the fact that the SFL have a huge voting majority of Scottish football teams, the SPL have suggested their own ‘improvements’ to the football setup in Scotland, adopting what has been described as a ‘continental’ model. This is true; the system being proposed by the authorities in Scotland is indeed based upon models which used to be in place in such footballing big-hitting nations as Austria. ‘Used to’ being the crucial term, here. Indeed, as an interview with former SFA President George Peat revealed, the Austrian Football Association actually approached Scotland when this model fell apart, and little more than a decade later, we’ve decided to give their model a bash.

Sorry, perhaps some context is required. The SFA is the Scottish Football Association. They are the governing body of football in Scotland. The SPL is the Scottish Premier League, the top division in Scottish Football which for some reason, unclear to the footballing world both in and outside of Scotland, has a separate organisational structure from the rest of the footballing pyramid. The SFL are the Scottish Football League, the structure which encompasses the first, second and third division of Scottish Football. Whilst the SFA don’t officiate over the leagues on a day-to-day basis, they can tell the member clubs what to do, punish them for stepping out of line, and appoint officials to officiate all of their matches. Understand? Despite being a passionate supporter of a Scottish football club for all my days, I’m not sure I understand our structure at the best of times.

Around two years ago, Henry McLeish unveiled a report commissioned by the SFA into the structure, success and recommendations for the future of Scottish Football. Henry McLeish. Former interim-First Minister and amateur footballer Henry McLeish.  Now, I’m hardly claiming to be the man that the SFA should turn to when looking to shake things up with their goings on, but politicians and football mixing scarcely works out. On this point however, I must concede to Mr. McLeish, who’s report largely spoke sense, recommending dramatic overhaul of the system, merging into one governing body – finally! – and restructuring the leagues.

This brings us to modern day Scottish football. Following the unanimously backed – and largely logical – SFL suggestion that the current structure be replaced with a new structure of 16-10-16 (that’s 16 teams in the top tier, 10 in the second tier and a third tier of 16 teams for the uninitiated). However, the SPL created their own brainchild, the 12-12-18 league structure which would see the top two leagues splitting into three tiers of eight, with these sub-leagues deciding Champions, promotions, relegations and European qualification. Understand? Despite being a passionate supporter of a Scottish football club for all my days, I’m pretty sure I don’t understand this structure. At all.

Now, one of the biggest issues of this proposal is quite simply that it renders almost all of this season irrelevant. What difference would it make to, for example, Rangers sitting top of the third division and Stirling Albion sitting rock bottom? Both sides would still be playing in the same division next season under these proposals which rather oddly would come into force next season (rather than the obligatory through precedent of a few seasons notice). This essentially means that the vast majority of fans, players, managers and pundits have been looking on to what is essentially an empty season.

So with this I use my voice of every growing influence in the upper echelons of Scottish football to reconsider the proposal to save our game. Quite frankly, this would be the final nail in Scottish football’s coffin. I’m not necessarily proposing Rangers’ 14-14-14 structure, but should the Old Firm elect to up-roots, take their ball and leave home, it could be the blow that Scottish football never recovers from.

[Alan Compton]

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