Today Scottish football’s reconstruction efforts have been curtailed by the SPL; as a vote to proceed with the proposed 12-12-18 league structure went against the proposal. Ten teams voted for the proposal, and two against, namely Ross County and St. Mirren, and with the SPL’s farcical requirement of an 11-1 majority to push through any such measure, the new league setup is looking further away than it has in years.
As much as reconstruction is required, which it desperately is, today has been a victory for Scottish football in several ways.
For starters, the idea that two clubs can block the will of the entire league has been widely criticised in a way that hasn’t before – as the “big” clubs in the SPL, such as Celtic and Aberdeen, have succumbed to the will of the smaller clubs instead of the reverse. [Edit: As unfair as the voting system is, what is perhaps even more unfair is the reports that the clubs tried to change the voting system to bypass the concerns of the two teams after they’d voted against the proposals.]
Secondly, it is a triumph for the democracy in Scottish football. The only two SPL clubs to hold a fan consultation on the issue of reconstruction were Ross County and St. Mirren, whose fans both vehemently rejected the new setup. 95% of Ross County fans voted against the measures; and I doubt that any such vote at any other SPL club would have been much different.
Changing the league at this stage of the season would also be a massive mistake. Teams who have fought for almost nine months to reach playoff places in the lower divisions will see their efforts completely wiped out by reconstruction. At least if any new proposals are adopted, it’ll be done at a time when (hopefully) teams have not put any progress into a league campaign that could prove worthless.
Reconstruction is needed to add vitality to a dying game in this country, but the rushed (in Scottish football terms) way in which this 12-12-18 idea was taken to a vote is surely not the way. Many of the issues at hand, that were included with the new league structure, need to be approved desperately. These issues are that of a single governing body, the return of terracing, a pyramid system at the bottom of the league, fairer distribution of revenue and such.
However, the qualms that Ross County and St. Mirren had are perfectly valid, and I would expect they’d be understood by the majority of supporters. Can you justify spending hundreds of pounds on a season ticket, when you don’t know which league you’ll be playing in after January? Can you justify the 9th placed side in the Premier League being on an even playing field with a team that finished 4th in the “Championship” after perhaps being only a few points behind the top teams (as was the case at the 22 game point this year)?
Exciting as though it’d be, it’s an unfair system on both clubs and supporters, which leaves serious failings in terms of the competition. The mid-season split does nothing to promote the footballing side of the game, with the pressure of staying in the top division giving less incentive to field young players, or play football that is good to watch.
A bigger league would do this, and along with the other proposals suggested around the restructuring of the league, would give Scottish football a better chance at improving itself. A 16-team top division, as used in Portugal, would be competitive at all levels of competition – with enough change at the bottom of the table to provide the excitement required, but also leaving a mid-table where young players could be played to help the future of the game. There would be no unfair split, season tickets could be sold with fans fully aware what they’re buying, and teams would not be pitted against each other four times a season, as they are now.
Where things go from here are unsure. Reconstruction efforts should not be halted because one system was rejected. There have been many other proposals on reconstruction that can be more successful, and will address the concerns of clubs and fans alike. But for now, in typical Scottish style, nothing has been decided, and we will have to wait many more months before any progress is achieved.