I’ve been an interested spectator today watching some of the fallout from the Rangers fans with regards to the Scottish Premier League (SPL) and Scottish Football League’s (SFL) merger and reconstruction. The Rangers fans are unhappy at the fact that there are proposals to create a new 3 tier system of a 12-12-18 league with a couple of proposals mooted, including a straight league system or the original proposal which was a top flight “Premiership” of 12 clubs, a 12-club “Championship” beneath and a third tier “National League” of 18 clubs. After two rounds of games, the top two tiers would split into three sub-leagues of eight teams. The top eight would contest the league title and European places with the middle eight settling promotion and relegation.
That middle league of eight, made up of SPL1’s bottom four teams and SPL2’s top four, would see their points reset. They would then play 14 matches, facing each other both home and away, with the four highest placed sides at the end of the campaign playing in the subsequent season’s top division. Confused? Don’t worry, I will not be asking questions!
Because of the reconstruction proposal, Rangers would technically remain in the bottom division of Scottish Football but still remain two promotions from a return to the top division which would be the case if nothing changed and they were just promoted up one league this spring as expected anyway? Their fans are saying that if the proposals take place they are seriously considering proposals to boycott all away fixtures in the newly created division as a protest against the other leagues clubs who’s votes would see them into the new lowest division.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Scottish Football and have been preaching for years about the honesty, integrity and passion of the supporters for years. I was involved with a Scottish Football League team for six years doing everything from the clubs media, Website, Match reports up to being a member of the clubs board and the passion of the supporters is unquestionable, if maybe a little misguided at times. I must admit I was viewed as an out-of-towner at the club I was involved in and like many supporters from outside the immediate ten mile radius you can fall foul of quips and comments about your location. It just beggars belief what has been picked up on by some of the local press over the last few days about the Rangers supporters intention to boycott the away games because they feel hard done by? I’m a casual “Ger” myself and I’m not too worried about it but fans seem to lose sight of the fact that if all goes to the original plan the club look set to cruise back up to the top tier, three promotions and by the time the club returns to that level their UEFA European ban would expire too.
The league system in Scotland has needed overhauling for several years now, the SPL experiment has not worked and there is an almost universal agreement between supporters, clubs and league hierarchy alike that something has to happen to shake the game up, make things more appealing to fans and potential sponsors. Anything that brings this change in with majority agreement has to be viewed as a positive for the mid to long-term future of the game surely? Rangers have been warmly received in the SFL, they have made friends quickly and of course the revenue the clubs receive from away supporters helps, the monies received from gates and sundries can keep a club going for 2-3 years, so why risk ruining this by alienating clubs? They are no worse off than they were before the proposals came out and will still almost certainly cruise the division next season.
It is an interesting story but I am hoping that the passionate and loyal supporters of Rangers see the bigger picture and not give protagonists reason for continuing the drama around the club and just move on with the same respect given and received that this season has shown. There are more important issues in the game surely such as shrinking attendances, development of the youth game…… the disappearance of pies from games? Ok maybe not the last one but you get the picture.