30 November 2012

Everything is Just Fine, Honest

by Andy McKellar | CRO Deputy Editor

The creation of the Scottish Premier League was said to have “heralded a new dawn in the history of Scottish Football with the top clubs taking control of their own destiny to drive the game forward on and off the park and deliver a brighter future”, at least according to its website. And to be fair, the SPL produced some remarkable league championships and witnessed some outstanding talents from across the continent ply their trade in our country. Sadly though, those days are but a distant memory.
In theory, this breakaway from the original Scottish Football League would drive our national game forward, making it richer, more exciting and bringing more quality to supporters and viewers alike. In actual fact, the reverse of such an effect resulted as a promising start gradually faded into the dark and harsh reality that it on show today.

The SPL, quite simply, is a failing product and fans have turned away in their thousands from the top-tier as high quality football from England & Spain has become more readily available to your average household. There has been no response to this in our country. There has been no innovation. There have been no big ideas. We have allowed our game to stagnate and we are now seeing the consequences of such apathy in abundance.

Neil Doncaster though apparently disagrees. Today he was on the record as saying that everything was just fine in the Scottish Premier League, that attendances were up for half of its member clubs and that the banishment of Rangers has had minimal impact on proceedings thus far. He also claimed that “Scottish football is renowned worldwide in a very positive light; renowned for its passion, drama and excitement”. It’s a shame football fans in this country don’t see things the same way, isn’t it, Neil?

Mr Doncaster’s attendance claims are of course aided by the fact that there were two new clubs promoted into the league, which naturally increases the crowds of any club moving up a division. He does however fail to mention the estimated £30M lost to the game in broadcasting revenue alone through the decision to omit the country’s biggest club from the top-flight. What a surprise.

Doncaster also appears to be completely oblivious to the current financial crisis at Heart of Midlothian FC and the various financial losses recorded by clubs in their most recent financial year, when incidentally Rangers were still a member of the league. The accounts for this season should certainly make interesting reading in about twelve month’s time. Bank managers across the country may already be getting rather edgy as it is. I suspect Neil is already preparing his next round of excuses or mistruths for when that time eventually arrives.

There has been a lot made about the competitiveness of the SPL since Rangers’ departure however this seems to have had little or no effect on attendances or viewing figures whatsoever. In fact, the League is reliant upon 15 games involving a certain Third Division club to prop itself up, at least temporarily. What does that tell you?

Even the current SPL Champions can’t be bothered to turn up and watch this newly exciting and competitive league. A conservative estimate would probably account for a drop of twenty-thousand people at Parkhead each and every game in comparison to last season and that in itself tells a hugely concerning story for everyone connected with the top-tier. Even more so when you consider the biggest attendances and largest viewing figures lie with Rangers in the Third Division. And don’t even get me started on “Sell-Out Saturday”.

I’m afraid that Neil Doncaster must surely have joined Peter Lawwell, the master puppeteer, in his parallel universe somewhere far beyond the reality of Scottish football. He cannot be oblivious to the failings that lie in front of his very eyes and he is insulting the intelligence of every supporter in the country with his claims that all is hunky dory in the Premier League.

There is a very good reason that league reconstruction is being pushed to the forefront of discussions at this moment in time. The fact of the matter is that changes have to be made, particularly at the top end of our game, if we wish to revitalise and improve the standards in this country. What is unfortunate however is that incompetent idiots like Regan & Doncaster are involved in such talks and, in all honesty, both should have been shown the door quite some time ago.

A couple of weekend’s ago Rangers hosted Peterhead at Ibrox Stadium in front of a crowd of 48,500 people, the biggest crowd in Scotland that weekend yet again. There were four SPL games played on the same day and the combined attendances narrowly scraped over the 16,000 mark. Rather embarrassing for a supposedly thriving league, wouldn’t you say?
If Neil Doncaster wishes to continue to ignore the facts which are unavoidable for most supporters in this country then he can be my guest. I hold no sympathy for the Scottish Premier League or its member clubs. I hold no sympathy for the fans who urged their chairmen to vote the biggest asset out of the competition.

They have made their bed, now they must lie in it.