15 November 2012

Who's Next?

by Shane Nicholson | CRO Executive Editor

I've got to be honest: I haven't watched minute one of an SPL match this year, read a single match report, even looked at a league table before I sat down to write this, and the only reason I did that was because I had to prior to pulling up attendance statistics on the SPL's website. (By the way, Hibs? Really?! That sort of shit didn't happen when we were around.)

Some of the numbers are pretty shocking, especially at the east end club, who are nearly 25% off their mark from last year. We've heard the excuses, from school uni's to the world economy. Mr Lawwell may be a believer in the Reagan-era theory of trickle down economics, but the effects certainly haven't reached his turnstiles. They're just not showing up, home or away, although we're led to believe they're gearing up for a second half bonanza! Right after they finish crossing the names off their Christmas shopping lists.

Outside them there are gains to be seen across areas of the board, mostly modest sums. The only clubs showing a substantial improvement over last year are the sheep (+1200 a game or so) and Dundee Thompson, who have upped their body count by nearly 1700 a game, although no word on whether those 1700 were made to pay twice to see the same fixture.

Beyond that, the gains are much more subtle, a few hundred or so here and there. Still, credit due: some sets of supporters have answered the bell however small the boost has been. Good on 'em.

Then comes what has to be costing some chairmen and directors sleep at night, the group of diddy clubs that have shed valuable supporters in the seats, and it's mostly the ones we thought this summer could hardly afford any loss of revenue this year in order to survive.

Hearts we'll give a pass to. They've got it bad enough without us noting they're down almost 1300 tickets a game on last year, a little shy of seventy-percent capacity on the season. In fact, over 2000 fewer fans are turning up at Tynecastle for SPL fixtures than two years ago. Not a good indicator for a fan base clamoring to save their club, although it's a bargain of a buy if I ever saw one. That property has to be worth double what the adminstrators and liquidators would eventually part out the club for.

There's Killie, who had players ringing up fans at home to come on down and buy up some season books. They're down fully 500 fans a game, a ten-percent decrease from last year. This after Chairman Johnston was reported as saying the club needed to gain 1000 fans per home date to offset the loss of Rangers in the SPL.

And then comes my personal favorite, Cash Converters FC themselves, Motherwell. Some of you may recall that it was the Well who cut loose with a board report pinning a number on the loss of Rangers supporters rolling through their turnstiles. You'd expect when over thiry-percent of your walk-up gate disappears there will be consequences.

Remember, it was club director Andrew Wilson who told us that Motherwell "must challenge their fans to step up, and they will." He cited their solid improvement over 2010/11 of ten-percent more people in the seats, and even offered me "luck...in finding redemption" for the sins of Messrs. Murray and Whyte. Top man that one.

So how has the support at Fir Park responded to the challenge laid down by their own board? A challenge raised from the very people who knew their club stood to lose at the bare minimum eight-percent of revenues without us simply coming through the doors twice a year, and this after turning a loss of £500,000 the year before. Not to mention a scaled-back television deal and sponsorship dollars bleeding from their insolvent league. 

All that taken into account, surely the Well fans would be packing out their ground, yes?!

Nah. That ten-percent gain last year has been handed back, and this for a club that was celebrating "Champions League" football coming to their home just a few months back. (Just a note: No one calls it the Champions League until the group stages, at least no one who's used to their club playing in it.) On top of that, they got to come to Ibrox for their yearly rogering.

This is the SPL in a nutshell, the busted flush of a top flight that Doncaster and Regan are trying to do everything within and outwith their powers to save.

So who's next? One has to hope it's the men in charge of the game in Scotland, if there is anything resembling a merit-based system to their performances, or balance to the universe. Regan's reign at the SFA is on par with the worst joke you ever heard, except the person telling it keeps fucking up the punchline and starting over again.

The SPL has been an abject failure, and their fans by-and-large are turning away. Even at the home of its marquee club, the one that promised to save all the rest from themselves by going mobile to every ground round the league, the empty seats can't be hidden by clever camera work.

Love ain't for keeping, and neither are these two cunts at the helm of our game for any longer.

Thankfully there's a new bird on the scene just now getting in tune. David Longmuir and the SFL as a whole have been a breath of fresh air. Packed grounds, better TV ratings than the big SPL derbies, and forward minded plans for our game. You couldn't draw a starker contrast to the SPL than the amazing scenes and ideas emanating from the lower tiers of Scottish football this year. Replacing Lawwell's wonder twins at the top may not be so difficult after all, especially when nearly seventy five-percent of league football clubs in Scotland are on the side of logic, not blind idiocy.

So barring Neil and Stewie's heads on a platter (Not literally. It's sad that I have to clarify this to prevent being flagged by the NUJ's crack investigative team.), I'll go ahead and put a tenner on Motherwell. Why not? They're just as good a bet as any of the other half-dozen or so clubs teetering on the brink. Just wait until they discover Clydesdale Bank's not coming back next year! One assumes since they have such a difficult time analyzing their own books they couldn't be bothered what's going on in their wee world at large.

Of course sponsors who pay money to put their names on products so people will throw money at them in return probably haven't even noticed we're gone. Or that a team drawing over 45,000 a game has been replaced with one drawing less than 5500. Or that the must see side in the league is down 12,000 sets of eyes a game over last year. Nope, as we were told over and over, our fans and their pounds meant nothing to the rest of the SPL all those years.

That could still very well be. A broken product that has failed upward - or at least sideways - for 15 years somehow may survive, and the insolvent Scottish top flight filled with soon-to-be insolvent clubs may prove everyone wrong yet.

As for us, well, as Big Chuck said, we won't get fooled again. In the eyes of our CEO, much the same as our fans worldwide, in the SPL's case the song is over.

Shane is the founder and executive editor of the CRO. He can be found on twitter at @ofvoid and via email: shane@thecoplandroad.org