THE CRUCIAL HOLYROOD TALKSDate: Wednesday, 27th May 2020
Way back in 1992; the talk of a Scottish Super League or SSL was the focus of hundreds of articles and letters in Scottish Newspapers.
The idea was that Scotland would have a separate League made up of the biggest clubs. This meant clubs with all seated stadia, under soil heating, high quality floodlights, a youth academy, a sizeable support and, of course, full time players.
It would have meant far more income coming into the Scottish game as broadcasters, sponsors and advertisers would be attracted by Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, New Firm derbies and, yes, Dunfermline v Falkirk. Dunfermline were, naturally, invited but the dream collapsed and a huge opportunity was missed.
To some fans, the concept was heresy because football must be a meritocracy. That has left us with SKY having to show the likes of Hamilton Accies v Ross County on a Tuesday evening in the rain with a 1,600 Gate, one dog and rain teeming down. An English League 1 game is far more attractive.
As a result, the four Scottish Leagues, Scottish FA Cup and Scottish League Cup currently have no sponsor.
On the Pars Fans Forum the inequitable income distribution is frequently a source of comment. It is bad enough that the Scottish Championship receivers a derisory indefensible 11.7% of Broadcasting income but laughable when we share out 11.7% from the Friday Night "Championship Sportscene". The fact remains that the game desperately needs more money. Just two months ago not one Scottish Club was in financial distress.
Ever since 1992 we have all been well versed in the case for and against League Reconstruction. We will know this week if 14-14-14 will find acceptance.
It is a waste of breath and News print discussing a League of 16 or 18 as SKY TV have made it abundantly clear they will not countenance that. Let us make no mistake that what is happening to Hearts, Partick Thistle, Falkirk, Stranraer, Edinburgh City and Kelty Hearts is deplorable.
The First Minister has outlined Phase 4 of her Routemap which includes the resumption of mass gatherings but, unlike the other three phases, has no date attached. On Friday 29th May, at Holyrood, Neil Doncaster SPFL and Ian Maxwell SFA will meet with Sports Minister Joe Fitzpatrick and Professor Jason Leitch, the Clinical Director.
On the agenda are the prospect of the Premiership starting in August behind closed doors but the Championship starting in October with a percentage attendance eg a third. What that means for Dunfermline is that, in a 14 team Championship, in the company of Raith Rovers, Dundee and Falkirk; we would normally anticipate an average Gate of probably 5500 but it would have to be scaled back to say 4000.
Fans would pay to watch Pars TV eg on the Ipad too, with Season Ticket holders receiving a discount. The experience of the Premiership will provide us with a learning curve.
What of the friendly community clubs of fond memory in Leagues 1 and 2 who, probably, did not deserve the criticisms by Gordon Strachan?
The reality is that most could be mothballed for six months as their main expenditure is on the Manager and Ground staff. Yes that would not be the solution for Falkirk or Partick Thistle, but a 14 team Championship resolves that.
Normally the hopes of League Reconstruction are torpedoed by the self interest of St Mirren, Ross County and Hamilton Accies but in these unusual times only St Mirren, publicly, are standing by their former position.
Finally, the Sports Minister will come under pressure to emulate the £16m given to English Rugby League. Scottish Football last year brought £214m into the Scottish Economy. They will also discuss the prospect of multiple games played over a weekend at a large stadium. More clarity will be required on the cost of testing.
Optimism is rising with incidence of Covid 19 in decline, the Louisa Jordan empty, and Hospital and ICU admissions in steady decline. In the early 17th Century William Shakespeare was criticised as he never mentioned plagues in his plays.
"The Two Gentlemen Of Corona" was never commissioned.