24 July 2013

SPFL: The Revolution That Never Was

by Andy McKellar | Deputy Editor

The Scottish Professional Football League: the future of our national game. This is the end result of weeks and months of laboured endeavour as clubs gathered and put together a rescue plan to halt our acceleration down the slippery slope of mediocrity and beyond. At a time when we should be celebrating the beginning of a new chapter in its history, we instead find ourselves watching on, rather embarrassed, at the lame rebranding efforts in the knowledge that nothing has really changed at all. This is the latest entry into the peculiar diary of Scottish football.

Neil Doncaster is rather shamefully still the CEO despite his best attempts at appearing like an incompetent buffoon. The board is weighted heavily in favour of the top-tier with the same people who performed so admirably in building the toxic brand of the SPL. The league structure is unaltered. There is no sponsorship. There is a reduced broadcasting deal, hidden under lock and key. Welcome to the exciting, new SPFL.

Still, maybe we should all be thankful that we at least managed to avoid the unthinkable abomination that was the Frankenstein’s monster of league reconstruction: 12-12-18. That was truly awful.

So there we have it. We’ve managed to boldly move sideways in an ambitious attempt to prevent our game declining any further. There was a chance to be brave and to make changes to benefit the whole of Scottish football, not just certain clubs who saw the pound signs flashing before their eyes. The lack of effort is perhaps epitomised by the fact that nobody could even be bothered looking for a new chief executive when it was clearly needed. But sadly the apathy and lethargy doesn’t stop there.

Today was the eagerly anticipated “grand unveiling” of the new “SPFL brand” where the best thing on show would probably seem to have been Graeme Souness. The task of rebranding was always going to be likened to polishing a turd, however it appears that even minimal effort went into making things look half-decent. It was amateurish at best.  

The logo itself depicts a lion alongside the initials of the new organisation. It’s a bit of a throwback to the old Premiership equivalent if memory serves me correctly and it certainly isn’t likely to have too many people staring in awe.  The lion we were informed suggests that we will be “strong and dominant” and I can only assume that the journalists present were forced to stifle their laughter upon hearing such a ridiculous declaration. I certainly couldn’t help but chuckle. But, anyway, I digress.

Then of course we had the leagues themselves. For appearances sake it was perhaps important to change their names however I’d have expected more than two minutes to have been spent in coming up with some fresh alternatives. We now have the Premiership, the Championship, League One and League Two. I’m sure I’ve seen these somewhere before but for the life of me I just cannot remember. Don’t worry; I don’t think anyone else noticed anyway.

The game as a whole is of course still suffering from Rangers’ demotion to the bottom-tier. As a direct consequence of our absence from the top-flight the proposed and heavily boasted about broadcasting deal was hastily shredded and replaced with one of less value. That certainly won’t have helped anyone and the problems have just been heightened by the fact that nobody is willing to sponsor the new SPFL.

Neil Doncaster though tells us not to worry; sponsorship “only” accounted for 20% of the SPL income last season. The game is obviously in such rude health that such a drop won’t even be noticed. It’s not as if clubs are struggling financially, teetering on the brink and having to sell players to keep themselves afloat. Everything is fine. Honestly.

At Rangers we have enough problems and concerns of our own with which to occupy ourselves. Indeed I had hoped that by now we would be building towards returning to the top stronger than before. But what will be left when we get there?
The game is steadily declining and it is unlikely to get any better in the coming years when the top league is won before a ball has even been kicked. That’s not entertaining. That’s not exciting. In truth, it’s embarrassing. But this is what they voted for. This is what they wanted. They've made their bed and now they have no choice but to lie in it.

So there we have it, ladies and gentlemen. The bold and definitely new Scottish Professional Football League is set to launch into its first season. A few league names have been changed and a new logo produced. We’ve slapped some lipstick onto a pig and given it a fancy new title. Stewart Regan informed us that we needed a “revolution”. Perhaps someone would be kind enough to wake me up when it eventually arrives.

We’re often accused of being overly negative about our national game, of being pessimistic and defeatist. Maybe there is some truth in that. We certainly appear to thrive on negativity. In this instance however I find it hard to believe that anyone can be positive about our game moving forward under its current leadership. Competence should be the minimum expectation and it would appear that they can’t even give us that.
I think I need some cheering up. Perhaps I should dig out one of Charles Green’s old interviews and listen about his great plan to move Rangers to England. Ah, those were the days. Okay... maybe not.
SPFL lion
(shamelessly stolen from The Rangers Standard)