Scottish football – A shadow of its former self


Just six years ago, Rangers were playing in the UEFA Cup Final (now known as the Europa League). Five years earlier, Celtic narrowly missed out on the same trophy.

Prior to that, Rangers blew the Scottish transfer fee record away with the £12million purchase of Tore Andre Flo and three years previous arguably one of the greatest strikers ever to play the game, Henrik Larrson first walked through the doors at Celtic Park.

It wasn’t just the Old Firm who made the headlines; Hibernian once boasted Champions League winner and coveted French international Franck Sauzee in their ranks and Dundee had a World Cup runner-up in the form of Argentina’s Caludio Caniggia.

Going even further back you can look at Aberdeen and Dundee United’s European exploits and of course Celtic becoming the first British team to win the then European Cup. While the latter may seem like a lifetime ago, the former highlights are still fresh in the heads of Scottish football fans.

Today Rangers find themselves plying their trade in the lower divisions of Scottish football and Celtic managed to get eliminated from the Champions League qualifying stages. Twice. Edinburgh giants Hibernian and Hearts also managed to get themselves relegated and in a worrying comparison the combined transfer spending of Scottish clubs last transfer window was almost half of what Adnan Januzaj received as a signing on fee as part of his new Manchester United contract.

With these in mind, the question has to be asked; “What has happened to Scottish football?” I will boldly, and ironically, put money on the reason for the downturn of Scottish football being simply, money. Or to be more accurate, a mismanagement of money and unreasonable expectations.

Many people’s first thoughts would move towards the 2012 demise of Rangers – when they were sent tumbling out of the Premier League and into football obscurity – being the catalyst for the decline of Scottish football, and they wouldn’t be wrong per se. With the loss of regular Old Firm games, the league has arguably lost much of its appeal, at least to the neutral (although there perhaps isn’t such a thing as a neutral football fan in the west of Scotland).

With literally millions of football fans the world over regularly turning in to watch the battle of the green and blue in the past, Scottish football really did rely on these games to enhance their reputation, but now that it’s gone, with it went its allure, the sponsors and the money.

Today’s game is driven by big business: they’ve snatched up the rights to anything with a football shirt on its back…anything to get their names out there. When it comes to Scottish football sponsors, though, this simply isn’t true anymore.

Scottish football, at least in regards to the top flight, has always attracted credible sponsorship, but after its long running partnership with Clydesdale Bank ended at the close of the 2012/13 season, and the Premier League cannily morphed into the Premiership, the list of potential sponsors for Scottish football dwindled down, way down.

The league Cup is currently in the same lonely boat, despite having previous sponsorship deals with global giants such as Coca Cola. The Scottish Cup is now the only major competition up here with a backer, with beloved bookies William Hill paying for the right to display their names on the cup’s ribbons. Any bets on that continuing?

Now, with major competition sponsors pulling the plug on endorsing the Scottish game no more Old Firm games for at least 4 years you would assume that the television money would have been the next thing to go. If you did assume this, you would be wrong.

“Sky to cover Rangers’ Third Division games as part of new TV deal” screamed the headlines a matter of weeks after Rangers’ demotion. Okay, it might only have been five matches, but it was part of a 30-match deal with the broadcasting giants that would cover the top flight of Scottish football as well as Rangers’ quaint away trips to football outposts such as Peterhead and Elgin. And if that didn’t convince you that the television channels weren’t scared off by the lack of Old Firm games, then the new £56 million, four-year deal that the SFA has recently agreed with Sky should.

Now, if these giants of broadcasting are showing 30 Scottish games a season, for the next four years, fixtures that will include Rangers as well as Celtic AND with the possibility of a mouth-watering, money-spinning Old Firm clash in either of the cup competitions, why is no one willing to put some cash into two of the three major Scottish competitions?

Admittedly, the situation isn’t as healthy as it once was, but the opportunity to have your name broadcast on Sky television to potentially millions of viewers should still attract more suitors than it apparently is at the moment – which is zero for those who haven’t been paying attention.

Neil Doncaster, the league’s chief executive, is the man behind the phantom plan to attract some fancy new sponsors.  It’s only been a year or so (sarcasm alert) since the deal with Clydesdale Bank expired, so where was Plan B? Mr Doncaster surely must have had a good idea that the bank weren’t going to extend their deal? Apparently not, but while he hasn’t managed to find sponsorship for the League and League Cup as of yet, what this tireless worker has managed to do is somehow convince Irn Bru to become the ‘Official Soft Drink’ partner of the Scottish Premier Football League (SPFL).

Rather impressive when you think that it’s a bit like selling vodka to the Russians; it’s being consumed regardless of whom or what they sponsor, so they’ve essentially just given the SPFL money for nothing. I don’t know what is more remarkable here, the fact that Irn Bru failed to see this, or that Doncaster managed to convince them that it would be worth their while.

On several occasions when confronted about the sponsorship, or lack thereof, he has responded with claims of there being ‘no rush’, and that he’s waiting for the ‘right fit’. He claims:

It is important not to put timescales on this. It’s important to work with the various brands that we are talking to and, in time, be able to announce the right brand and the right fit for the SPFL.

Perhaps Mr. Doncaster is neglecting the fact that the SPFL itself should be the brand in question, and its losing respect due to its failure to find a sponsor, and not just from a credible company, but any company at all. This makes me think that it’s down to money rather than finding the ‘right fit’. Looking for this ‘right fit’ seems to be creating more problems than solutions – by not addressing the problem that he has been charged to fix correctly, he is actually lending weight to the problem itself.

Scottish football does not have as much pull as it used to, and Doncaster needs to accept this as simple fact. Rangers certainly don’t have the draw or power they once had, and aside from Celtic’s valiant efforts in the Champions League a few years ago, it is clear that Scottish football can’t cope with the big boys of European football.

He should be seeking out a company or companies willing to sponsor the League and League Cup; one with at least respectable financial backing for a decent amount of time, and invest this money in the teams themselves. Undoubtedly a percentage of the Sky television money has went to the clubs, it must have. If it didn’t that would just be plain, old fashioned robbery. However, either way, there clearly isn’t enough money being injected into the clubs.

The clubs need this money to invest in things such as their youth systems. While Dundee United have managed to export a couple of their young talents in Ryan Gauld and Andrew Robertson, gone are the days of selling home-grown players for large fees much like Craig Gordon and Aiden McGeady left their respective clubs for. The clubs also need to reinvest in their current squads in order to be at least competitive in Europe.

Celtic progressing in the Europa League is the last hope for Scottish football in the current season, but after being knocked out of the Champions League twice as previously mentioned, the outlook is not so bright. The old saying goes ‘you need to spend money to make money’, but unfortunately Scottish football, at the moment, doesn’t seem to have any money to spend.

The task of rejuvenating Scottish football and returning to the glory days has no easy or quick fix. By looking for this supposed ‘right fit’ in terms of a sponsor, teams that should be due a percentage of sponsorship money, have missed out on at least two season’s revenue. And by not properly reinvesting the television money back into the clubs, Scottish football appears to have lost its fight.

I feel that ultimately Doncaster is trying to do the best for Scottish football, but just in the wrong way. Stop looking for big money from a big name. It doesn’t exist right now. The appropriate steps would be to take what they can get, build on it accordingly, and hope that in due time, Scottish Football will again attract the sponsors that they once did – then we can start moving forward.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will this new era for Scottish football. That is, if it is ever built.

The Author

Chris Smith

Football. Sports. Money. Sarcasm. Sports news accompanied by Money Saving Advice. This is Spend It Like Beckham!

17 thoughts on “Scottish football – A shadow of its former self

  1. Sky TV and subsequent broadcasters bankrolling English football has killed the Scottish game.
    When the team finishing last in the EPL gets £80M at the same time as the Scottish champions get £2M , its not hard to see where the problem lies.
    The huge tv revenues have pushed wages to a point where a huge club like Celtic cannot compete with Championship clubs, let alone EPL clubs for players.
    While I realise the Scottish game is not on the same level as the EPL as far as popularity, the cash we receive is still totally disproportionate to its worth.

  2. There is no hope for the Scottish game imo. I don’t see what could possible happen within Scottish football to see the game ever get remotely close to what in once was.

    As a Celtic fan i hope our future lies outwith the minuscule confines of the Scottish game

  3. I have very itchy bollocks.

    I tried putting deep heat on them yesterday, that was a mistake that i am unfortunately still paying for, although the sensation has sensation has somewhat subsided from the infernal fires that burned within my scrotal area yesterday afternoon.

    Does anyone on here have a remedy for this? I sometimes wish i had a third hand so that i could solely use for this scratching of the balls.

    Maybe Judge Judy would know.

  4. What a load of utter drivel! What sort of an article is this supposed to be, all you’ve done is pick over news and reports from years ago and pick parts out to make a new article. Wow, journalism at its best, yet even though copying and pasting other people’s work you STILL managed to miss out a lot of key and important factors, the biggest being the multi million pound deal that the SPL at the time signed with Setanta sports! Did that slip your mind or did you just miss out copying any of that information???
    Most of the surviving chairmen from that time all point to that being a major turning point in Scottish football so your copy/paste job was correct about money being the issue but with no mention of the biggest deal that crippled our game.
    The club’s at that time (foolishly) spent all the money that had promised to them over the term of the Setanta TV deal, Setanta then went bust and no payments were made to the club’s hence they were paying massive wages and had structured deals over a period of time for the payment of new players that had to be honored, add to that the running costs of a club and nearly every single team in Scotland were bringing in much much less than was due out, making it impossible and inevitable that administration and trouble was on the cards for many teams.
    That one deal with Setanta was the main cause of how Scottish football is where it’s at just now, only in the past season or two have clubs managed to get back on an even playing field financially, in Dundee United’s case it was only 2 months ago that they could finally state themselves 100% debt free.
    If you’re going to write articles or just do what you did here with the old copy and paste job at least try and remember to include some relevant facts, missing out one of the largest reasons for the state of football here in Scotland (An admission made by the chairmen of many Scottish clubs, not just my opinion) is pretty inexcusable and embarrassing!
    Did you win your job via a raffle or something, on journalistic merit I wouldn’t let you write up a menu for my local cafe never mind a report or an article on anything relevant.
    This article should be deleted as it’s embarrassingly inaccurate!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Totally inaccurate. Celtic were not the first BRIT ish team to win the European cup. That honour is man u United.

    As we all know celtic are an irish club playing in Scotland. Their stance, not mine……. They hate everything British so I would disagree totally with your statement.

    Just wish they would piss off back across the water and ply their republican IRA beliefs away from my city.

  6. Its amazing eh Deco…rangers dead and Celtic, hopefully will be paying in another league soon. Its dream come true stuff

  7. Aye hopefully back in Ireland . We are very much alive and kicking. 140 years of history. Oh what about celtic football and athletic Co. Mm did they not go to the wall you clown

  8. Rangers died on Valentines day a few years ago Deco. It was Jelly and Ice Cream time. Do you not remember? Perhaps this video on the Tube of You will refresh your memory, of one of your more handsome supporters declaring that the ‘Big Hoose must stay open”

    Quality stuff.

    Oh and by the way Deco, time is ticking…..another meltdown is on the cards soon. Hows mike Ashley getting on? Hear he’s buying all around him in Sevco-land for a pound.

    The bottom line is Deco, Rangers died, and now we have this tribute act staggering around the lower reaches of the Scottish leagues as it’s supporters stagger around the lower reaches of society.

  9. Same as your “holding company” did as well . But you sweep that under the carpet, just as most things are at torrent towers. You had the sheer cheek to name a stand after jock “knew” stein bearing in mind he and your legend of a captain mcneil knew all about your paedophile ring and was advised from the very top of the chain to sweep sweep.

    Our holding company never won a record world titles as it was when we won it , the football club did. You were clearly educated at a very different school from me. What a waste of taxpayers money.

    That’s right you are probably a left wing socialist who has b early put a coin into society.

    So away and peddle our ‘our day will come piss’ with the rest of your rebel band. Traitors.

  10. Wasn’t Torbett one of your own Deco…….

    Any word why under age coach Chalmers hanged himself…………

    How’s Richard Gough these days? Hope he’s keeping his wandering hands to himself…

  11. “That’s right you are probably a left wing socialist who has b early put a coin into society.”

    Not the sharpest tool in the shed are you Deco.

    English not being your first language.

    Give us a wee taste o’ tha’ Ulstaar Scats , which seems to be your Mother Tongue. .

  12. Why do we hav english people in chrge of the scottish game. Get them to fuck and get ex scottish footballers running it for a start

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