90 Minute Cynic Scottish Football League Reconstruction Proposal

We at 90MinuteCynic regularly discuss how football can be improved in Scotland; while the debate is wide-ranging, the topic of “League Reconstruction” in Scottish Football is the one that generates most discussion. Last week we recorded our weekly podcast which focused specifically on the debate surrounding League Reconstruction. Highlighted during that podcast was our own proposal for change. That proposal is detailed below. 

 

It’s easier to critique than create. This is an attempt to do both. There are many things that need improving in Scottish football and while a more sensible competition structure and match calendar is only one of these; what is in place now is just not working. This is not written to drag up the usual, however justified, complaints or throw up random, often unrealistic thoughts about might work instead.

This is a detailed, serious proposal on how Scottish football should be organised. It’s full of compromises and it’s not an idealised version from a ‘traditional’ fan perspective. Instead it is a proposal that could have a realistic chance of being adopted by the clubs, intransigent as they can be; while still being a clear improvement on the current set up, giving Scottish football a better platform from which to improve from.

As said, it is easier to critique than create, but feedback and challenges are also essential in improving this proposal. That’s why we want people who are interested in, and care about Scottish football to suggest any improvements that we might not have considered. We have recorded a designated podcast on the proposal, in which we discussed it, argued about it and finally agreed on a suggested way forward.

Before we go into the main points of the structure, there is one issue that the proposal does not cover; the fact that through Junior football, Scotland has a whole ‘subsection’ of football teams, often surrounded by enthusiasm and local interest, that is not tied into official senior football in any sort of league structure. Other than advocating a stronger presence of Junior teams in the Scottish Cup, this proposal does not delve into this further, but it is something that Scottish football must address at some point in order to harvest its full potential.

Detailed outlines of the different aspects of the Scottish domestic competitions can be found below – including how it would look with the current set of teams – and with a full fixture calendar over two years.

 

The Headlines

 

The Scottish Football League will have three tiers comprising of 56 teams in a 16-16-12/12 structure:

Scottish Football League (SFL) Premiership with 16 teams.

SFL Championship with 16 teams.

SFL Highland and SFL Lowland divisions, each with 12 teams.

Non-league pyramid structure into existing Highland and Lowland leagues (called ‘Highland and Lowland Conference’ in this proposal).

 

The Scottish Cup will have 64 teams in the first round:

All the 32 teams from the SFL Premiership and SFL Championship.

Top 10 teams from the SFL Highland and SFL Lowland league division (5 from each).

22 teams that have come through two qualifying rounds containing teams from SFL Highland and Lowland divisions, Highland and Lowland Conferences and the three top Junior leagues.

No replays, semi-final at a neutral venue outside Hampden.

Final at Hampden.

 

The Scottish League Cup

Initial group stage with 40 teams; all 32 teams from SFL Premiership and SFL Championship, eight teams from SFL Highland and Lowland divisions that have come through two qualifying rounds.

Group stage to have 8 groups of 5 teams; each team play 2 home and 2 away games.

Eight winners of group stages go to quarterfinals (no replays).

Semi-final is two-legs home and away.

Final at Hampden.

 

Fixture Calendar

League winter break from 22/23rd December to 1st or 2nd weekend in February.

League cup final to be last weekend before winter break.

First 2 rounds of Scottish Cup to be played two weekends before league season starts after winter break.

 

Seasons after summer with no international tournaments (2015/16, 2017/18 etc.):

League starts 3rd weekend in July and ends 2nd weekend in May.

League Cup group stages start 1st weekend in July.

Scottish Cup start 3rd weekend in January.

 

Seasons after a summer with international tournaments (2016/17, 2018/19 etc.):

League starts 5th weekend in July / 1st weekend in August and ends last weekend in May.

League Cup group stages start 3rd weekend in July.

Scottish Cup start 4th weekend in January.

 

 

League Set-up Overview

 

In England the 43rd ranked team in the league structure is in the Championship, potentially only one good season away from the top flight. In Scotland the 43rd ranked team is currently not even in the league and would require four promotions to reach the top-flight. Bigger leagues will both cut out the repetitiveness of the current structure and create a system with more excitement, where one good season can suddenly put your team up among the elite.

The two top flights will have 16 teams, each playing each other home and away for a total of 30 games. That’s it. No split, no play-off. The biggest obstacle in implementing this is the reduction in league games from 38 to 30, each team losing 4 home games worth of revenue. The 32 teams in the top two leagues are partly compensated by having four more guaranteed games in the new League Cup group stage structure, including two home ties. The ‘missing’ revenue from the remaining two home games will need to come from increased attendances in what is hopefully a more appealing ‘product’ to ‘consumers’; a more varied and exciting league.

For the top teams that go to the semi-final of the league cup, there is another home game guaranteed, in addition to an added round of games in the Scottish Cup for teams that go far in the competition.

From the SFL Premiership, 3 of the 16 teams will be directly relegated, replaced by the two top teams in the SFL Championship and an additional team from a play-off contested by the 3rd to 6th placed teams in that division. The SFL Championship will also have 3 teams directly relegated, which means that 9 out of the 16 positions in that league will ‘mean something’, either through promotion, relegation or entrance into a play-off.

On the third tier, two regional divisions are created with 12 teams each. The initial thought was to have 16 in each but this would pretty much disseminate the current Highland league, making it almost impossible to have it as a ‘feeder’ division into the football league. This third tier – SFL Highland and SFL Lowland divisions – is also meant to be a stepping stone from non-league football into the more ‘full-blown’ professionalism of the two top leagues; there would be less demanding requirements for stadium facilities and with regional divisions there should be less of an impact on smaller clubs in terms of both travelling costs and time commitment for what will be semi-professional players at best.

The two divisions on the third tier will have a split after two thirds of the season, with a total of 32 games. It’s a compromise and not an ideal league structure, but it will at least only see 3 and not 4 games between some of the teams.

The winners of the SFL Highland and SFL Lowland divisions will go up to Championship, joined by the winner of a play-off contested between the teams placed 2nd and 3rd in each of the two divisions. Relegation will follow a similar pattern; bottom team directly relegated into their respective Highland and Lowland Conferences, with the teams placed 15th in each division going into a relegation play-off, the loser relegated.

These three teams will be replaced by the winner of the Highland and Lowland Conferences, in addition to the winner of a play-off consisting of the 2nd team in each of these conferences.

Depending on which teams are promoted, there might need to be a slight change each season in the teams that compromise the SFL Highland and SFL Lowland divisions, depending on the 12 teams that are most northerly and southerly (in the league structure example below the decision actual had to be made on alphabetical grounds, as Stirling University and Stirling Albion would be tied for the 12th most northerly team as they share a stadium).

 

League Set-up at a Glance

 

Three tiers 16-16-12.

Top two tiers with 16 teams each, professional and semi-professional.

Third tier: Two parallel divisions with 12 teams in each, semi- professional and amateur.

 

First Tier: Scottish Football League Premiership

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 17.58.35

 

Second Tier: Scottish Football League Championship

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 18.29.31

 

Third Tier: Scottish Football League Highland and Scottish Football League Lowland

Unknown

 

Fourth Tier (Non-League): Highland Conference and Lowland Conference

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 19.34.56

 

Cup Competitions Overview

 

This proposal tries to create a cup structure that both compensate the 32 top clubs for a reduced number of league games and creates two more distinctive and entertaining cup competitions. There is more detail around the calendar aspect of this under that respective chapter below, but in terms of the pure structure we’ve tried to inject some common-sense; no replays in the knock-out rounds of either the Scottish Cup or the League Cup and no semi-finals to be played at Hampden (neutral one-off game in the previous and two-legged home and away tie in the latter).

In the Scottish cup, 16 Junior teams are invited to participate in the qualifying round, with 8 teams going into first round proper. 7 teams each from the non-league Highland and Lowland Conferences are also entered into the qualifying round. As all of these teams will only be one round away from potentially facing on of the top teams in Scotland; it creates the potential for big upsets and romantic underdog narratives from the first round.

While the League Cup is a compromise in terms of the structure – introducing a group stage – it at least creates a distinctly different competition than the Scottish cup, while still almost guaranteeing some proper ‘underdog matches’. For example, in the proposed set-up below a team from the Highland or Lowland team will face an away game at Celtic, with clubs like Inverurie Loco Works, or East Kilbride potentially getting maybe the biggest game of their history.

 

Scottish Cup

Unknown

 

League Cup

Unknown

 

Fixture Calendar

 

To summer football or not to summer football, that is the eternal question in Scotland. It was a serious consideration in setting up this proposal, but in the end it just doesn’t add up; so much of the summer months are taken up by the preparation and actual execution of international tournaments every other year that any move to summer football would have to be made on the assumption that Scotland would not qualify for them, that foreign players that do qualify with their national teams will not be available for some of their clubs’ league games, and that some of the fixtures will have to be played during these tournaments. In the end, it was viewed as not being sustainable.

What is equally not sustainable is for Scotland to copy the fixture calendar of England. While the distance between clubs in the two countries can be small they can also be huge, with distinctively different climates. There is also more money in the English games, allowing even clubs further down the divisions to have a better playing pitch to keep and training facilities that are of a higher standard year round.

Instead, we propose that the football season in season still have an autumn/spring structure, but start as early as possible in the summer and ends as late as possible the following year, while introducing a break in competitive games of over a month and around six weeks for league games.

This proposal also removes the traditional Boxing Day and New Year’s Day fixtures. The reasoning might not receive much sympathy from fans but it does intend to gain Scottish football a competitive advantage, however small; A winter break means that player’s summer break will be smaller and to compensate for this players will get Xmas and New Year completely off. The last league game will be played no later on 23rd December and players will not need to attend any training or club commitments before/after New Year’s Day.

While most professional footballers – even in Scotland – are compensated enough to demand certain sacrifices of them, do not underestimate the appeal of having a ‘normal’ holiday season with family and friends. If it can persuade some players of good quality to sign for a Scottish club, it will be worth it. It will also be beneficial for the current players in the league, who will easier accept a short summer holiday for quality free time around Xmas and New Year.

A competitive break in most of January will also give players a chance to recuperate from small niggles and injuries, perhaps have training camps in warmer climates and hopefully mean players are able to give better performances throughout the season and not experience a dip in form and fitness as the tolls of a long, hard season properly sets in during the final weeks.

It will also reduce the risk of cancelled games due to weather (although you can never fully predict when the harshest conditions will set-in) and give grass pitches a much-needed break, allowing groundkeepers to undertake work on, and protect their precious turf.

There are also significant changes to the set-up of the cup competitions; the main one is to move the league cup to the first part of the season, the final being the last weekend before the winter break. By using the first two weekends of the competitive season for the two first match days of the league cup group stages there is also a ‘soft’ start to teams after a shorter summer break. For the top teams these games could be used as almost competitive friendlies to try out formations and new players, while still being games with consequences they need to achieve results in.

The first round proper (i.e. where all the top teams participate) of the Scottish Cup is moved back to its ‘rightful’ place as the first fixtures in a new calendar year, although with a twist; the first two rounds is to be played on consecutive weekends after the extended winter break. Again, it’s a ‘softer’ start for the bigger teams to regain its competitive instincts after a longer period of just training and maybe friendlies.

The last thing to note about the fixture calendar is the attempt to ‘group’ cup and league fixtures together as much as possible. One example is the above mentioned first two rounds of the Scottish cup, another is placing League Cup and Scottish Cup games before and after international breaks, wherever possible.

This will hopefully help create more of a ‘momentum’, especially in terms of media attention, for these tournaments, avoiding the ‘start-and-stop’ of the current set-up. It also allows teams who have players on international break to again have a ‘softer’ start after these breaks. These clubs then won’t have players coming back from travelling just before important league game, with no chance of drilling formations and tactics in training. Since many clubs often use cup games for rotation they could be afforded more opportunities to rest international players before they go off with their national teams, which can help them avoid injuries and fatigue in the long-run.

Fixture Calendar at a Glance (Full Match-day Calendar In Appendices below)

 

Odd Years (2015/16)

Season start after ‘free’ summer and end before an international tournament.

League Cup Start: 1st weekend in July

League Start: 3rd weekend in July

League Cup End: Last weekend before winter break

Winter Break: As close to 23rd December as possible (weekend or mid-week)

(All players on leave until 2nd January)

Start Scottish Cup: 2nd last weekend in January

Start-up League: 1st weekend in February

League Last Round: 2nd weekend in May

Scottish Cup Final: 3rd weekend in May

 

Even Years (2016/17)

Season start after an international tournament and end before a ‘free’ summer.

League Cup Start: 3rd weekend July

League Start: Last weekend July

League Cup End: Last weekend before winter break

Winter Break: As close to 23rd December as possible (weekend or mid-week)

(All players on leave until 2nd January)

Start Scottish Cup: Last weekend in January

Start-up League: 2nd weekend in February

League Last Round: Last weekend in May

Scottish Cup Final: 1st weekend in June

 

2017/18

Season start after ‘free’ summer and end before an international tournament.

League Cup Start: 1st weekend in July

League Start: 3rd weekend in July

League Cup End: Last weekend before winter break

Winter Break: As close to 23rd December as possible (weekend or mid-week) until end of January.

(All players on leave until 2nd January)

Start Scottish Cup: 2nd last weekend in January

Start-up League: 1st weekend in February

League Last Round: 2nd weekend in May

Scottish Cup Final: 3rd weekend in May

 

Time for Change

 

A perfect competition structure and an ideal fixture calendar do not exist and even if it did it would not address and improve all the issues that face Scottish football. Even so, the way competitions are organised and when we actually play our football is the foundation that needs to be in place for the national game to build itself up. It’s a system that needs to be pragmatic when it comes to the challenges clubs have and the demands of the broadcasters that fund such a large part of it, but it must also consider the interest and views of supporters to a much larger degree than what is the case today. While we are well aware that different sides of the debate will find plenty to disagree with in this proposal, we are convinced that if it was implemented it would be beneficial for all parties; fans, players, club management and the media alike. The current system isn’t working and it needs to be changed. This is our solution.

 

There you have our proposal for League Reconstruction!

Do you agree? What changes would you make?

 

Please leave a comment below or tweet us @90MinuteCynic.

 

You can follow Christian on Twitter @aHellofaBeating

 

 

*Appendix A

2015/16 Full Calendar:

 

July

Weekend 4-5th:                                     League Cup Group Stage Day 1

Midweek 7-8th:                   League Cup Group Stage Day 2

Weekend 11-12th:             League Cup Group Stage Day 3

Midweek 14-16th:              Euro Qualifiers

Weekend 18-19th:             SFLP Day 1

Midweek 21-23rd:            Euro Qualifiers

Weekend 25-26th:             SFLP Day 2

Midweek 28-30th:              Euro Qualifiers

 

August

W/E 1-2nd:                               SFLP Day 3

M/W 4-5th:                              Euro Qualifiers

W/E 8-9th:                                SFLP Day 4

M/W 11-12nd:                     League Cup Group Stage Day 4

W/E 15-16th:                          SFLP Day 5

M/W 18-20th:                        Euro Qualifiers

W/E 22-23rd:                          SFLP Day 6

M/W 25-27th:                        Euro Qualifiers

W/E 29-30th:                          SFLP Day 7

31 Aug – 8th Sep:                International Break

 

 

 

September

W/E 12-13th:                          League Cup Quarterfinals

M/W 15-17th:                        Euro Group Stage Day 1

W/E 19-20th:                          SFLP Day 8

M/W 22-23rd:                        SFLP Day 9

W/E 26-27th:                          SFLP Day 10

M/W 29-1st:                           Euro Group Stage Day 2

 

October

W/E 3-4th:                                League Cup Semi-finals 1st leg

(re-arranged SFLP games)

5th to 13th                              International Break

W/E 17-18th:                          League Cup Semi-finals 2nd leg

(re-arranged SFLP games)

M/W 20-22st:                        Euro Group Stage Day 3

W/E 24-25th:                          SFLP Day 11

M/W 27-28th:                        Free (re-arranged SFLP games)

W/E 31-2nd:                            SFLP Day 12

 

 

November

M/W 3-5th:                              Euro Group Stage Day 4

W/E 7-8th:                                SFLP Day 13

9th to 17th:                             International Break

W/E 21-22nd:                         SFLP Day 14

M/W 24-26th:                        Euro Group Stage Day 5

W/E 28-29th:                          SFLP Day 15

 

December

M/W 1-2nd:                             Free (re-arranged SFLP games)

W/E 5-6th:                                SFLP Day 16

M/W 8-10th:                           Euro Group Stage Day 6

W/E 12-13th:                          SFLP Day 17

M/W 15-16th:                        Free (re-arranged SFLP games)

W/E 19-20th:                          League Cup Final

M/W 22-23th:                        SFLP Day 18

 

Winter Break: 24th December – 22nd January

 

January

W/E 23-24th:                          Scottish Cup 1st Round

M/W 26-27th:                        Free (postponed cup games)

W/E 30-31st:                          Scottish Cup 2nd Round

 

 

February

M/W 2-3rd:                              Free postponed cup games)

W/E 6-7th:                                SFLP Day 19

M/W 9-10th:                           Free (postponed cup games)

W/E 13-14th:                          SFLP Day 20

M/W 16-18th:                        Euro Knock Out Round

W/E 20-21st:                          SFLP Day 21

M/W 23-25th:                        Euro Knock Out Round

W/E 27-28th:                          SFLP Day 22

 

March

M/W 1-2nd:                             Free (rearranged SFLP games)

W/E 5-6th:                                SFLP Day 23

M/W 8-10th:                           Euro Knock Out Round

W/E 12-13th:                          SFLP Day 24

M/W 15-17th:                        Euro Knock Out Round

W/E 19-20th:                          Scottish Cup 3rd Round

21 to 29th                                International break

 

April

W/E 2-3rd:                                Scottish Cup 4th Round

M/W 5-7th:                              Euro Quarter-finals

W/E 9-10th:                             SFLP Day 25

M/W 12-14th:                        Euro Quarter-finals

W/E 16-17th:                          Scottish Cup Quarter-finals

(re-arranged SFLP games)

M/W 19-20th:                        SFLP Day 26

W/E 23-24th:                          SFLP Day 27

M/W 26-28th:                        Euro Semi-finals

W/E 30-1st:                             Scottish Cup Semi-finals

(re-arranged SFLP games)

May

M/W 3-5th:                              Euro Semi-finals

W/E 7-8th:                                SFLP Day 28

M/W 10-12th:                        SFLP Day 29

W/E 15th:                                 SFLP Day 30

M/W 18th:                               Europa League Final

W/E 21-22th:                          Scottish Cup Final

W/E 28th:                                 Champions League Final

 

10th June – 10th July:        European Championship

 

 

*Appendix B

2016/17 Full Calendar:

 

July

M/W 12-14th:                        Euro Qualifiers

W/E 16-17th:                          League Cup Group Stage Day 1

M/W 19-21st:                        Euro Qualifiers

W/E 23-24th:                          League Cup Group Stage Day 2

M/W 26-28th:                        Euro Qualifiers

W/E 30/31st:                          SFLP Day 1

 

August

M/W 2-4th:                              Euro Qualifiers

W/E 6-7th:                                SFLP Day 2

M/W 9-10th:                           League Cup Group Stage Day 3

W/E 13-14th:                          League Cup Group Stage Day 4

M/W 16-18th:                        Euro Qualifiers

W/E 20/21st:                          SFLP Day 3

M/W 23-25th:                        Euro Qualifiers

W/E 27-28th:                          SFLP Day 4

29th Aug to 6th Sep             International Break

 

September

W/E 10-11th:                          League Cup Quarter-finals

M/W 13-15th:                        Euro Group Stage Day 1

W/E 17-18th:                          SFLP Day 5

M/W 20-21st:                        SFLP Day 6

W/E 24-25th:                          SFLP Day 7

M/W 27-29th:                        Euro Group Stage Day 2

 

October

W/E 1-2nd:                               League Cup Semi-finals 1st leg

(re-arranged SFLP games)

3th to 11th                                International Break

W/E 15-16th:                          League Cup Semi-final 2nd leg

(re-arranged SFLP games)

M/W 18-20th:                        Euro Group Stage Day 3

W/E 22-23rd:                          SFLP Day 8

M/W 25-26th:                        SFLP Day 9

W/E 29-30th:                          SFLP Day 10

 

November

M/W 1-3rd:                              Euro Group Stage Day 4

W/E 5-6th:                                SFLP Day 11

7th to 15th                                International Break

W/E 19-20th:                          SFLP Day 12

M/W 22-23rd:                        Euro Group Stage Day 5

W/E 26-27th:                          SFLP Day 13

M/W 29-30th:                        Free (re-arranged SFLP games)

 

December

W/E 3-4th:                                SFLP Day 14

M/W 8-10th:                           Euro Group Stage Day 6

W/E 10-11th:                          SFLP Day 15

M/W 15-16th:                        Free (re-arranged SFLP games)

W/E 17-18th:                          League Cup Final

M/W 23rd:                               SFLP Day 16

 

Winter Break: 24th December – 27th January

 

January

W/E 28-29th:                          Scottish Cup 1st Round

M/W 31-1st:                           Free (postponed cup games)

 

February

W/E 4-5th:                                Scottish Cup 2nd Round

M/W 7-8:                                 Free (postponed cup games)

W/E 11-12th:                          SFLP Day 17

M/W 14-16th:                        Euro Knock Out Round

W/E 18-19th:                          SFLP Day 18

M/W 21-23rd:                        Euro Knock Out Round

W/E 25-26th:                          SFLP Day 19

M/W 28-1st:                           Free (re-arranged SFLP games)

 

March

W/E 4-5th:                                SFLP Day 20

M/W 7-9th:                              Euro Knock Out Round

W/E 11-12th:                          SFLP Day 21

M/W 14-16th:                        Euro Knock Out Round

W/E 18-19th:                          Scottish Cup 3rd Round

20 to 28th                                International break

 

April

W/E 1-2nd:                               Scottish Cup 4th Round

M/W 4-6th:                              Euro Quarter-finals

W/E 8-9th:                                SFLP Day 22

M/W 11-13th:                        Euro Quarter-finals

W/E 15-16th:                          Scottish Cup Quarter-finals

(re-arranged SFLP games)

M/W 18-19th:                        SFLP Day 23

W/E 22-23rd:                          SFLP Day 24

M/W 25-26th:                        SFLP Day 25

W/E 29-30th:                          Scottish Cup Semi-final

(re-arranged SFLP games)

May

M/W 2-3rd:                              Euro Semi-finals

W/E 6-7th:                                SFLP Day 26

M/W 9-10th:                           Euro Semi-finals

W/E 13-14th:                          SFLP Day 27

M/W 16-17th:                        SFLP Day 28

W/E 20-21st:                          SFLP Day 29

M/W 23-24th:                        Europa League Final

W/E 27-28th:                          SFLP Day 30

M/W 30-31st:                        Free

 

June

W/E 3-4th:                                Champions League Final / Scottish Cup Final

5th                                              International break

 


Christian came to Scotland in 2001 and nobody have still managed to get rid of him. A native of Oslo, Norway, he was a huge fan of Ronny Deila before it was cool and still is now that nobody likes him anymore. Christian joined the Cynics in 2014 and is now website editor and infrequent podcaster. He has previously written for The Herald, Scotsman and has also contributed to STV (face) and BBC (voice)


'90 Minute Cynic Scottish Football League Reconstruction Proposal' have 4 comments

  1. June 30, 2015 @ 10:46 am Runcorncelt

    Great proposal for change and i really enjoyed what your thoughts were. I think the only thing that would concern me is the quality of teams coming up from the 2nd tier with only 6 of those teams in my lifetime being in the top flight, Morton being way back in season 87-88, however it could work if these clubs were run properly.

    Reply

  2. July 1, 2015 @ 12:50 pm Billy Adams

    Fantastic proposal. Very similar to what I have set up on my Football Manager game (will be making the tweaks on my editor to what you have!) League cup setup is a huge yes from me as well, would reinvigorate it IMO. In terms of the quality of the teams coming up, I would hope proposals like this would excite TV bosses enough to actually give enough cash to allow the game to grow, which in turn would allow these teams to compete, if managed properly.

    Reply

  3. December 8, 2015 @ 1:50 pm @FitbaTips

    This is an excellent, well worked out proposal although I do disagree with some of the assumptions. While I agree, in principle, with the notion of an expanded top league there have to be major concerns for any club that would drop out of the SPFL Premiership into a league that consists of, for the most part, part-time sides.

    For example if Dundee Utd were to get relegated this year to be replaced with Falkirk they would have a season of playing against clubs with 3 figure home attendances. It could be either disastrous for the relegated club, or be a cakewalk with the gap between Premiership and Championship level growing year on year. You could say that incomes (TV/Prize) get distributed evenly between the divisions to try and negate that but which of the turkeys would really vote for Christmas?

    For me there is only one way forward and that’s a big leap of faith into a spring/summer/autumn time table. I don’t agree with the international tournament objections. How many Scottish based players will be at the Championships this year? Only if Scotland qualify would that become a genuine concern and if current trends continue Scottish based internationalists are on the wane. Of course you could build in a break to the league timetable in a similar format as you have suggested for the winter break above to account for this with the two rounds of the Scottish Cup first after the break, allowing for the gentle start that you propose. The League Of Ireland takes a two week break in their summer timetable and you might find that the Scandinavian leagues do likewise.

    I have no hard facts to back up these assertions but from an anecdotal viewpoint the League Of Ireland’s switch to summer football looks to have been a huge success. From what I can see attendances have improved substantially. TV Coverage has improved and with it the finances of the league and individual clubs. The standard has improved exhibited by the improved European performances of the clubs. The current LOI champions are (again anecdotally) the best team ever to play in the league.

    But here’s a key one for me. Current Irish internationalists, who lets not forget did qualify for the Euros, have more representatives who have played in the LOI than ever before (I think it’s 7 or 8 of the current squad). It used to be the case that young Irish starlets were hoovered up by English clubs at a young age and either prospered or returned to the LOI never to be heard of again. Now a lot of those who return, or even start their careers there, are returning to England and forging strong and successful careers for themselves. There was even a major clamour this year for a couple of the Dundalk side to be recognised with international honours while playing in the LOI, a relatively unheard of phenomenon.

    Richie Towell, former Celtic youth and then Hibs, was the subject of a scramble amongst English clubs, eventually signing for Brighton and he could suddenly find himself playing in the English Premiership next season. This came about from him leaving Scotland and plying his trade in a, supposedly, sub standard league.

    The LOI is not of the same standard as the Scottish Premiership. It doesn’t have anything like the income through TV revenue, merchandising or international exposure and recognition. Yet since the move to summer football attendances at Dundalk, Cork, Shamrock Rovers perhaps even Sligo, St Pats and Bohs could rival any clubs in Scotland outside the biggest 6 or 7.

    Then, look at Celtic’s performances against Scandinavian opposition in Europe this year. Look at all Scottish team’s Euro performances year on year for goodness knows how long. Then look at the tiny club that is BATE Borisov and their amazing feat of qualifying for the UCL group stages in 4 of the last 5 years. Their league rins from April to November, I believe. Had Celtic met (or indeed do meet) them in qualifying they would have 10+ games under their belt and could give them a right good seeing to.

    We all want the standard to improve, we all want bigger attendances, we all want greater exposure and international recognition, we all want improved European representation. The best way to get it? Summer football, all the way.

    Now that my wee rant is over I would be delighted to see if someone could analyse the summer leagues, particularly in Ireland with their recent transition, to see if my assumptions are correct or just tinted. Just to be clear, I am not having a go at you guys. Genuinely impressed with your work here.

    Reply

    • January 5, 2016 @ 8:41 pm Adam

      I think this is a super proposal and one that should be look at by the SFA because at the moment the game in Scotland is dying and as we can see week in week out so are the attendances. The current system puts so many teams in danger of going down because of the amount of teams in the league we need a 16 team league at least to easy pressure on teams and also improve the game over all as a sceptical.

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