A Plea for a Scottish Football Pyramid
For now, we should be grateful, in spite of the ravages brought about by parachute payments, that movement up and down the divisions in England is a relatively fluid process and generally based on achievement on the pitch. Not so North of the Border.
Here, Niall Slater, a man who previously exposed the far right leanings of Paolo Di Canio a full two years before anyone in the mainstream media became interested and serves as front man of emerging beat combo and stars of the upcoming Truck Music Festival Dallas Don’t puts pen to paper having tired of bending people’s earholes in person on the subject of the Scottish pyramid – or lack of.
And he doesn’t support Celtic or Rangers…
Where could thrill fans look for the most exciting finish in Scottish football this season? Not in the Scottish Premier League, where Celtic won the league 16 points ahead and with a goal difference 41 goals greater than their nearest rivals.
Not in the Scottish Football League either, where each of the league champions finished with at least ten points to spare (and then some, in case of Queen of the South’s 25 point and Rangers’ 24 point margins).
No, if one was looking for a genuinely exciting season finale, you had to go to North Lodge Park in Pitmedden, Aberdeenshire to see Cove Rangers face Formartine in a heart stopping, winner-takes-all clash, with the victor being crowned champions. A fluke of the fixture list you might say, but certainly a darn sight more interesting that the winners of the professional leagues going through the motions at the end of this season. In the end Cove ran out 2-0 winners, leap frogging Formartine and stealing off with the title.
Cove have had great success in the Highland League in recent seasons, and have already been denied entry to Scotland’s top league ranks, losing out thanks to the archaic and ridiculous voting system that the SFL still maintains for new clubs joining the league.
And Formatine, who only joined the Highland League from the Juniors in 2009, are an ambitious club, clearly going from strength to strength.
And who do we find at the bottom of the third division? East Stirlingshire. A club that’s finished bottom of the SFL 6 times in the last ten seasons, over 10 points adrift and with a goal difference of minus 48.
Will they be relegated, so that they can find their appropriate footballing level and so their fans can see them challenging for silverware in a regional league where they’re on an equal financial footing with other clubs?
Nope, they’ll remain in the same place for next season, because of the insistence from the powers that be in the lower echelons of Scottish football, who are completely disinterested in footballing merit and are wholly focused on maintaining self-preservation, in keeping the SFL as a closed shop.
To clarify the situation in Scottish Division 3 at present: if a club finishes bottom for three successive seasons then they will have their full membership of the SFL suspended. The club will then play the next two seasons as a non-voting associate member after which the full members shall vote on the fate of the suspended club.
If you can make head or tail of this ludicrous set up, then please proceed to Hampden and accept your place on the SFL board.
The current system, as well as being mired in self-interest, see the election of new clubs only really being predicated on money, thus allowing for the regrettable situation in the mid-2000s with Gretna, who, bankrolled by a sugar daddy, rocketed up to the SPL, before ill health saw their owner withdraw his money and club quickly slid into liquidation. The election system certainly doesn’t make for sustainable success, any more than a meritocratic promotion system.
The proposed Lowland League for non-League football in the South and East of Scotland is a great idea and one that’s long overdue. A play off with the Highland League winners would be a fantastic event, pitting North v South and providing a real boost for non-league football in the country.
The inclusion of some of the best Junior clubs into a Lowland League set up would also increase the numbers of punters at matches, taking on the fantastic support that clubs like Auchinleck Talbot and Irvine Meadow command. And if the prize is to enter Scottish league football (whatever shape that might end up taking), then any one of a number of ambitious clubs could progress, boosting their footballing stock and their local communities in the process.
With the planned formal vote for the SFL clubs due to take place on 12th June, there’s every chance of certain Division 2 and 3 turkeys refusing to vote for Christmas and derailing the SLP’s planned reconstruction package, which includes the introduction of a pyramid system for the entire game in Scotland.
Some have said that it’s too difficult to create a pyramid to combine the different factions in the Scottish non-league games, but the German footballing authorities are able to oversee a pyramid system contain over 33,000 clubs and the English system currently contains some 6,500.
Surely creating at least a single level below the fourth tier in Scottish football is not beyond the management capacities of the SFA? Well, maybe. As one perceptive commentator recently noted ‘Egyptian pyramids were probably constructed quicker’.