To Stewart Regan, Neil Doncaster, Mark Wotte and anyone who will bloody listen.
Last year’s restructuring of the Scottish league system was a real chance to make some genuine, meaningful change that could reshape our national game for generations to come. To be fair to the authorities, some of the measures introduced were progressive, such as the new pyramid system. However, the radical change which was required was not forthcoming. Regrettably, most of what we got was the predictable deckchair arranging aboard the Titanic.
The symptoms that Scottish football suffers from are clearly visible to the public eye, and the solutions seem almost too obvious. Scottish football, and this is evident even more so in the national side, suffers from a real lack of quality football players. The days of being able to buy cheap foreigners who papered over the cracks in domestically-produced quality are now gone, and the game is in rapid decline.
The solution? Emphasis has to be placed on two things, firstly, youth development. It is clear to anyone that producing good young Scottish talent can only be to the benefit of the game and raise the standard of football. Secondly, the redistribution of wealth has to be far more equal than in previous years. This would serve to help create genuine competitive interest in the game and help to keep struggling smaller clubs afloat. And amazingly enough, should the Hampden hierarchy still be reading this, I have stumbled upon a solution that would provide both these benefits in one fell swoop.
Rangers and Celtic Colts entering the league system were briefly discussed during last summer, but roundly dismissed as it was feared both sides would try to use this as a launchpad into England. However, these concerns aren’t really justified. One, English Premier League teams would never have it, as Rangers and Celtic would be near-certs to be good sides capable of Champions League qualification. Two, the fans of the two clubs wouldn’t accept it. I’m sure the internet loyal will say they would, but the fact is the actual match attending spectators much prefer to socialise with other Scots and visit other Scottish grounds, where they can have a bit of a laugh over results and enjoy the atmosphere with friends and colleagues, as opposed to visiting far-flung places like Southampton which offers none of these things to the Scottish football purveryor.
But instead of having to counter the negative case, it’s important to state the positive case for the inclusion of Colts in the league system. With Auchenhowie and Lennoxtown, Rangers and Celtic have two state-of-the-art facilities that every season produce at least three or four very talented nineteen year olds. The problem however, is that these nineteen year olds often struggle to make the step up into their respective first teams. It is a big step to make, playing in an under twenties game one week, to a league game in front of fifty thousand people the next. A Colts side in the lower leagues would allow these players to develop much better and stand a much greater chance of making it in football.
Ah, you say, but that doesn’t help the other forty teams in the league pyramid structure. Well, this is where the second part of the Colts idea comes into play. Every week Rangers and Celtic are away, the Colts get to play at Ibrox and Parkhead respectively. Therefore the fans who can’t get tickets to watch their team away, will go and watch the Colts instead. This will attract good crowds, given the relatively miniscule away allowances given in the SPFL. And in order to achieve the redistribution of wealth, introduce gate-sharing for league fixtures. The big two won’t lose out on money, as they get half the revenue, but twice the matches. This means that smaller clubs will receive significantly more money each season. If that were to be spent on infrastructure and youth development, they’d be able to produce their own good players, which would raise the standard, increase the transfer fees received, which would see more investment… And all of a sudden, wealth is created.
It almost seems criminal that this idea wasn’t even considered as part of restructuring proposals, and it is yet another damning indictment on those proposals. For the good of Scottish football, these ideas must be implemented. It is the only way to ensure prosperity in not only our domestic game, but in our national game too.
Yours in blind, ill-justified hope,
The average punter