Monday, 31 January 2011

Change For Change’s Sake

As tiresome and as boring as it was, the dance between the SPL and its member clubs in trying to formulate some sort of change to the set up of the SPL did see some questions unanswered.  Like why?

To put it bluntly, Scottish football is terrible, fans are voting with their wallets and staying away from “the national game”.  One of the normal scapegoats for the lack of talent is the size of our top division, which has fluctuated between 10 and 12 since it was cut from 18 in 1975.  While there are other factors at play for the diminishing amount of technically good young Scottish players coming through, the current system does not encourage the “hothousing” of young players.  The current system, where teams play each other up to four times a year, only encourages stagnation.
For the same reasons of boredom, the fans have already expressed a dissatisfaction with the current set up, with Supporters Direct publishing results from a poll which show that 88% of fans polled are against plans for a 10 team league.   Many fans, including myself, are in favour of a 16 team league.  Teams would play each other twice, and we would also be able to re-introduce the winter break – which was such a success, it was scrapped in 2000.  So why are we not heading towards a larger to league?

The resistance towards these proposals have come from those running the SPL.  Neil Doncaster, the SPL Chef Executive (pictured above with the SPL Trophy) has stated that each club would lose £1million in revenue if the league was set at 16 teams.  What went unspoken was that BSkyB are effectively paying for the rights to broadcast 4 Old Firm matches a season, which like it or not is the only Scottish fixture that pulls in a substantial audience. As a result, their position as the paymaster of Scottish football would possibly become vacant.

Interestingly enough, and with a possible eye on the future, the SPL have commissioned IMG Media to look into the feasibility of launching their own television channel.  We have of course been here before, the SPL’s first chairman Roger Mitchell proposed SPL TV as far back as 2002,before the idea was firstly defeated and then Mitchell was ousted from his job by an Old Firm addicted to the Murdoch shilling.  When the idea first surfaced 9 years ago, I thought that it was a good idea.  Not so much with domestic broadcasters (where rights could be sold on to BSkyB, ESPN or even BT Vision via the proposed company), but more so with overseas markets.  In particular with the Scottish diaspora that reside in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and America.

The problem with the current talk of reconstruction is that it seems to be about change for changes sake, as opposed to a motive based change.  The supporters want change to drive up the standard of Scottish football.  The SPL is looking for change to look as if it is making changes, while preserving the revenues from their broadcasting deals.  The truth is, the ghost of Setanta still stalks the SPL and their powerbrokers, and has spooked the SPL away from change for the better.

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