A grand guest today from Garve, a middle-aged website programmer based in the Highlands, passionate about Scottish independence, Ross County FC and open government. He’s very annoyed that some numpty took the Twitter handle which is rightfully his, but doesn’t use it, and that he’s had to resort to @G4rve.
The recent release of an SFL document prepared after talks with the SPL and SFA, which crudely both threatens and bribes Scottish clubs to ignore any niggling remnants of the integrity they might once have possessed in order to vote a new club into SFL Div 1 simply confirms my belief that the entire system is broken and corrupt.
Take one issue. I’m convinced that every single person involved in Scottish football agrees that one-up/one down between the SPL and SFL1 is wrong, and that at a minimum, playoffs should be introduced. What do you call a system where for years everyone agrees something is wrong, where it would only take a vote to change it, and yet nothing happens? Broken. Why is this the case? Because those who can vote are also those who gain or lose through the result of their votes. Corrupt.
If I were to create a new structure, it would be run by people whose allegiance was to the sport only, and not to individual clubs. They’d be tasked with making the game entertaining, promoting youth development and pretty much nothing else. They’d do so without any thought for the preferences of the big clubs or the television networks.
What would be possible under such a structure? Well, just about anything. We’re constrained by the rules on the pitch, which is fine, but off it we should use our imagination. Most fans agree that the current league structure is often dull and far too predictable.
I’m only one supporter, but I’ve got a dozen fantastic ideas to improve things. I say fantastic in that 95% of them are fantasy, crazy and unworkable, but 5% would be great improvements. Unfortunately I don’t know which is which, and up to now there hasn’t seemed to be any chance that they could get voted through the current moribund structure anyway.
But the crisis brought on by Rangers’ failure may have changed that. It’s clear that the decision of many SPL clubs to vote no to a newco claiming a place was brought on by fan power, until now a fluffy, feelgood concept which the clubs were happy to pay lip service to, but never believed would really matter to them. If fan power can do that, is it time to take it a step further and use it to force through a complete revamp of the game? If it’s ever going to happen it needs to be now.
So here’s a fanciful program for change. A fan’s forum collects enough signatures to credibly put the footballing authorities on notice that a new structure is to be developed for the start of the 2013/14 season, with boycotts to ensue if it’s not accepted. A month is taken to allow fans to submit all the crazy ideas that have for a new system, then 100 people from all over the country are elected to take these and turn them into a workable structure and competition. This is released before Christmas to be simulated, tested and commented on for a month, a further month is taken to incorporate those findings and the plan is finalised by the end of February. Until then, clubs won’t know if they are playing for promotion or fighting relegation, because the league structure of the next season is unknown, if it’s a league structure at all.
What about my fantastic ideas then? Well, here are a few.
- Start with clubs having no representation within football’s authorities whatsoever.
- A national 16 team league with a pyramid structure beneath it formed of 3 regional 16 team leagues. 3 up/3 down, with a further 3 play-off places. Relegation from the regional leagues to local feeders, giving a route for any club to make its way through the system.
- A new cup for the top league and teams which finish in the top half of the regional leagues, which also invites teams from Northern Ireland, the Republic, Wales and one each from the Faroe Islands and the Isle of Man.
- Two franchise places in the league system for London Scottish and Manchester Scottish teams. UEFA won’t stand for it? Have we ever asked them?
- 50% of money raised by the authorities through sponsorship or TV rights is distributed equally to clubs throughout the game to increase competition, with the rest paid in prize money on a sliding scale. No club can receive this money unless they have an active youth and women’s football setup. Part of this money also withheld from clubs which don’t have a certain level of fan representation on their boards.
- All players to have a registration record which holds information about the clubs, league and non-league, which they played for or trained with until they were 18. A proportion of any prize money their later clubs earn goes to the clubs which developed them, along with other payments. For instance, if Cowdenbeath develop a player who eventually plays for Scotland, they get £1,000 each time he (or she) is capped.
Dumb ideas? I’m only one fan, and out of a thousand dumb ideas there will be lots of great ones, enough to be the structure of a new, more exciting setup for Scottish football. If Iceland can crowdsource its new constitution, perhaps we can do something similar.