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No-one likes a thorough examination. It could be a test for English, it could be a check-up at the dentist. God forbid, it could even be the prostate exam from an overweight medico with fingers like fairtrade bananas.

 

This week saw the appointment of that bogeyman figure for many Rangers fans, Peter Lawwell, to the Professional Game Board of the SFA. Leaving aside the hilarious irony of anything connected with the game in our country having the sheer balls to call itself 'professional' - the name of the new league was, for me, the highlight of the summer, an act of self-mockery and criticism not seen since the Red Guards were touring the Chinese countryside in the 1960's - you'd think the raising of another Celtic employee to another administrative role ought to have aroused some examination.

 

As things stand now with the SFL gone, the SPFL Board consists of Steven Thompson of Dundee Utd, Eric Riley of Celtic, Aberdeen’s Duncan Fraser, Les Gray from Hamilton, Mike Mulraney of Cowdenbeath and Bill Darroch of Stenhousemuir plus CEO Neil Doncaster.

 

Even Celtic fans must realise Mssrs Riley and Lawwell's various roles raise some interesting questions. Is it good for the game, or their club? Is it good for them, personally? Can they avoid conflicts of interest, and can they operate best with a work-load of this nature? What does it say about the structures which oversee the much vaunted reconstruction of the game in Scotland?

 

Gersnet poster Brahim Hemdani sums up the bemusement may feel when he said "Quite why the other clubs think that having two represetatives from one club in the top echelons of power is appropriate is beyond my comprehension but that is the state of play that we have to live with."

 

I ask these questions because they will affect us, like every other club, and because the overall coverage of the move has been muted to the point of fearful censorship. Tom English has taken refuge in slating OF fans for being loonballs rather than look at the appointment itself, while no-one else seems to have mentioned it at all.

 

Maybe no-one is a little concerned that one club looms quite so large over the landscape (you may recall Kenny Shiels swift demotion by the ever sensitive Pacific Quay from colourful entertainer to highly suspicious proto-bigot when he touched on this subject), or, more likely, maybe they're worn out by all these saga and don't care anymore.

 

Dangerous attitude, if true. We need to care.

 

My own view is that no-one from either Rangers or celtc should be on any governing body, nor anyone with a connection to them. Rules out a hell of a lot of people, doesn't it? But look at the history! Since the mid-1980's, the Old Firm have more or less run the game. First them then us have been, during that time, complete basket cases. Prior to that, with faceless, anonymous men who enjoyed the benefits, yes, but were primarily upholders of the game as a concept - that is, as a sport - Scotland actually did not too badly, certainly by comparison with its later, hideous self.

 

Of the two potential scenarios - well meaning if possibly bumbling amateurs, or corporate OF types - one would have to be a follower of either side to support the elevation of the latter to the running of the game. If that maybe sounds like accusations of bias toward the media, maybe it is - given the outrage we saw over such issues as contentious capitalist contract practices and internal SFA inquiries, surely they would feel the make up of game boards also need a revolution?

 

No? Happy to carry on as we have for thirty years, are you? Thirty years of continual decline and failure? Quite content to see the setup which has brought the game to the laughable stance of not even having a sponsor - bear in mind, this is a league which reaches both Rangers and celtc fans every week, that's market penetration many a company would give their right arm for; you are looking at well over 2,000,000 potential customers on a more than weekly basis being exposed to your product - and think this is a suitable plan for the future?

 

Well, fair enough. Everyone's entitled to an opinion. But you can hardly be surprised when people raise a quizzical eyebrow, and wonder quite what the reason is for your optimism. celtc's current dominance is the reason put forward, I guess. That ignores their two decades of shambolic behaviour since the early 1980's; no doubt our period of insanity will be as quickly forgotten. It also forgets the wasteland that the rest of the game is; perhaps a momentary lapse in memory by our writers, or again, perhaps they just don't care.

 

The game desperately needs diversity, in terms of cup winners and media coverage. We're unlikely to see the latter, since the media is as self interested as the next man. I can't see how having the people from the top club running the leagues will help create that diversity; the logical outcome will be a set up which favours that leading club. Cravenly avoiding the fairly obvious self interest inherent in this move, and whining about how Old Firm fans are loonies while you pretty much cowardly refuse to actually examine the move, won't impress anyone.

 

Maybe, when this blows up in the face of Scottish football (as OF people running the game always will, in my opinion), those who have airily seen it through on the nod will have the guts to examine their own role in it. I won't be holding my breath, though. As the dire Neil Doncaster happily points out "“The relationship between the SPFL and the SFA is a good one and I think a much better one since the reconstruction’s completion on the 27th June.”

 

This is unsurprising when the same people, two of whom are from the same outfit, sit upon these boards. If blissful happiness and an end to dissent is the aim, I can see the point. If running the game in a progressive and accountable way is the aim, it becomes rather more questionable. But questions are good, in a healthy democracy. We need our media writers to question, to examine. Their current craven obedience will be just something else we will all come to regret.

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Great article Andy and spot on in my view.

 

There are two fundamental changes required to the way Scottish league football is run which those involved in the recent SPFL negotiations lacked the vision to grasp. The first is to move to a more democratic voting structure. The second was excellently articulated by Richard Bath in the Scotsman last July. I'd love to see Rangers show the type of leadership which made us "Scotland's club" in the first place and suggest the re-introduction of gate sharing. Here's Richard's article in full:

 

 

RANGERS’ likely expulsion from the SPL is that rarest of opportunities to change the status quo, and it should be grabbed with both hands.

 

Rangers’ disappearance from the top flight means that the Old Firm no longer have an inbuilt veto, and if all of the other clubs – the so-called “Gang of Ten” – can come up with something that is in the long-term strategic interest of the game in this country, then they can no longer be stymied by the combined votes of the two Glasgow giants.

 

The “something” they should now be considering is a measure to make this a more competitive, vibrant league with the capacity to grow and strengthen. That something is abandoning the current system where each club keeps all of its home gate receipts and season ticket revenue. Instead, as with the Scottish Cup, they should be shared: ideally equally, but if not then with maybe 60 per cent going to the home team and 40 per cent going to the away team. Any income earned by the entity of the SPL – such as television revenues and the sponsorship of the League itself – should also be split evenly between all 12 teams.

 

Although all clubs except the Old Firm would benefit (at least on the basis of the 2011-12 attendance figures) any idea that this would produce a level playing field is well wide of the mark. The Old Firm would still have huge sponsorship deals, lucrative merchandising and their own in-house publications and online TV stations. And, of course, every other week they would still have half the income from a full Celtic Park or Ibrox. Last season almost two thirds of the gate and season ticket money spent by supporters of SPL teams was spent by those two clubs’ supporters, which means that, even after a 50-50 split was implemented, the Old Firm would retain an income which would be a multiple of that enjoyed by all the other SPL clubs, allowing them to retain a huge inbuilt advantage over the ten make-weights.

 

And make no mistake, make-weights is exactly what the other ten clubs are. Apart from Hearts coming second to Celtic in 2006, the Old Firm have finished first and second in the SPL in each of the 14 years since its inception in 1998.

 

Even worse than the Old Firm’s domination is the fact that the situation is gradually getting worse. The long-term, 50-year picture is of shrinking attendances across Scottish football except at the Old Firm (where their unfettered dominance has seen average attendances at the two grounds rise from 66,353 in 1967 to 94,272 today) but even in the era of the SPL there has been a steady but unmistakeable decline among the top clubs. The average total attendance across all 12 SPL clubs in 2001-2, for example, was 187,901, which by last season had shrunk to 162,064, a drop of almost 14 per cent. Of the nine clubs who were in the SPL in both seasons, only Hibs and Hearts have seen an increase in average attendances.

 

Nor is it just about attendances. Although many of the developments that have conspired against Scottish football – primarily the rise of pay-television, which favours leagues in countries with bigger populations – it’s worth thinking back to where we were in 1967-8. In that season, Celtic were European Champions and Rangers were European Cup Winners’ Cup finalists, but it wasn’t just the Old Firm who were doing well – Scotland were fifth in the UEFA coefficients partly because there was so much competition in the domestic game and because several clubs from outside the Old Firm had done so well in Europe. Kilmarnock were Fairs Cup semi-finalists, Dundee United beat Barcelona home and away on their European debut and Dunfermline lost in the Fairs Cup on away goals to eventual winners Dynamo Zagreb. Thanks partly to a virtuoso performance by Jim Baxter, massive underdogs Scotland had just beaten World Cup winners England at Wembley.

 

It is surely no coincidence that the most successful post-war era for Scottish football was one where the league was genuinely competitive, and one where gate receipts were split equitably. Back then the Old Firm’s support still dwarfed that of the other ten teams, yet within the previous 15 years Motherwell, Clyde (three times), Falkirk, St Mirren, Hearts and Dunfermline (twice) had all won the cup (indeed there was one ten-year period when Rangers won just one cup and Celtic none). It was the same in the league, with Kilmarnock, Dundee and Hearts (twice) all winning the title in the decade leading up to 1967.

 

The point is simply this. That genuine competition improves the product, which in turn puts more bums on seats, sells more merchandise and persuades broadcasters to part with more cash. Instead of the dreaded downward spiral, where kids – and, let’s face it, tomorrow’s fans always follow winners – continually migrate towards the Old Firm or just shun the game entirely because they don’t want to identify with their local team of perennial also-rans, there would at least be a chance of a virtuous circle.

 

There would, inevitably, be howls of indignation from Old Firm fans at such a proposal. So far the SPL has been run largely for the benefit of the two superpowers, and neither they nor their fans would appreciate a change to that status quo (although there should also be other changes, such as a mandatory youth structure and the banning of the practice of charging Old Firm fans through the nose at away games).

 

Yet to be successful every league needs genuine competition, which is a point that even those free-marketeers in the American major leagues such as the NFL and NBA understand, which is why their franchise system is backed up with a whole raft of measures (such as the draft and salary cap) to ensure a playing field which is level enough for their leagues to remain competitive.

 

And before any fans complain that it’s morally wrong to take the money spent by one club’s fans and give it to another, that’s exactly how general taxation works: we effectively take from the rich and give to the poor in the interests of a fairer and more cohesive society because this benefits everyone. So why the fuss about a more equitable division of the SPL’s resources? After all, without another ten clubs strong enough to at least occasionally upset the Old Firm, there would actually be no Old Firm.

 

Therein lies the point. The game in this country is gradually atrophying. The dominance of the Old Firm is, bit by bit, strangling the SPL – but it doesn’t have to be this way.

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That's a good piece.

 

Why the other clubs didn't seize their chance to really shake up the game for the better - after all, they have bleated about Old Firm dominance for long enough - I will never understand. It looks like the chance has completely gone now, and we face another couple of decades of declining product watched by fewer and fewer people.

 

Horrah for Scottish football!

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I'm not sure how other countries officiate things but I've always thought it is a conflict to be governed by a select group of individuals who already have a conflicting interest in events.

 

That being said, other countries obviously do operate this way in some regard. I can't recall exactly who, but I think it is a Dortmund president/director who basically runs German football.

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That's a good piece.

 

Why the other clubs didn't seize their chance to really shake up the game for the better - after all, they have bleated about Old Firm dominance for long enough - I will never understand. It looks like the chance has completely gone now, and we face another couple of decades of declining product watched by fewer and fewer people.

 

Horrah for Scottish football!

 

Short-termism & self-interest on Aberdeen's part. I'm sure they saw an opportunity to increase their influence & share of future income by siding with Celtic in our absence. It certainly wasn't a decision based on the long term vitality of the game in Scotland.

 

Unfortunately, you may be right that the moment has gone, but I'd still like us to show some thought leadership on the subject. Apart from anything else, it would be great to watch our friends across the city squirm as the try and reconcile saying "no" with their "egalitarian" heritage!

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There are two fundamental changes required to the way Scottish league football is run which those involved in the recent SPFL negotiations lacked the vision to grasp. The first is to move to a more democratic voting structure. The second was excellently articulated by Richard Bath in the Scotsman last July. I'd love to see Rangers show the type of leadership which made us "Scotland's club" in the first place and suggest the re-introduction of gate sharing. Here's Richard's article in full:

 

Interesting article Crawford and there were a number of these types of pieces written last year, but I still haven't read one yet where the author fully considers the implications of more wealth distribution and in particular, the implications of league gate sharing.

 

Instead, the writers tend to take a handful of fag packet or beer mat facts & figures and roughly fit them into their idea of how such a model could work. They try tell to us it would be better for the game as a whole, while Rangers & celtic would still be the wealthiest, so it would all be fine and roses would start blossoming in the driech garden of Scottish football again, but they almost always miss some important points of consideration.

 

One of the most striking flaws in that article by Richard Bath, was when he wrote: "And, of course, every other week they would still have half the income from a full Celtic Park or Ibrox". Now, that line is massaging the truth even before you start considering the implications of gate sharing.

 

After you start thinking about how attendances might very well drop significantly when a certain percentage of fans decide they're not willing to help fund squad and stadium/facility upgrades for opposition clubs an entirely different picture begins to emerge.

 

How would it affect season ticket and individual match ticket sales when the fans know a hefty chunk of their ticket cash is going to be given directly to opposition clubs and go towards improving their squads at the cost of reducing the quality of our own?

 

It needs to be considered that we're talking about opposition clubs who over the years have struggled to bring more than a few hundred fans to a big game in Glasgow. In fact, in many cases you're talking about relatively big Scottish clubs only managing to bring a hundred to two hundred supporters to Ibrox, sometimes less.

 

Rangers fans already donate massive amounts of money to good, worthwhile charitable causes, but when it comes to the football and the ticket money in particular, I think a lot of fans would be literally disgusted at the thought of our opponents essentially becoming football charity cases and strengthening themselves from the donation of Ibrox ticket sales. The implications would be catastrophic if ticket sales plummeted and that could cause an unprecedented knock-on/snowball effect.

 

Richard Bath wrote "The Old Firm would still have huge sponsorship deals, lucrative merchandising and their own in-house publications and online TV stations". I would say in reply to him that the "Old Firm" would have nothing of the sort if idealists with utopian dreams of ways to improve Scottish football for the better are listened to and the systematic destruction of the Glasgow giants begins.

 

And it would be a systematic destruction because ticket sales at Ibrox & the tattiedome would indeed drop significantly and when combined with the already diluted revenues league gate sharing would bring, what would happen to the 'lucrative' TV & sponsorship deals when the teams on the park are of even poorer quality? What would happen to our chances of having a team doing well in Europe and all the revenue that brings in?

 

Maybe the issues I've raised which Richard Bath and others who've written similar articles haven't addressed are exactly why such notions aren't considered viable options.

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Zappa, I'm sure your views would be shared by many, but Alex Smith for one believes the decision to end gate sharing marked the start of the decline in the Scottish game. There's certainly no evidence that when it was in place fans gave two hoots about the other team getting some of the benefit from their money.

 

When anti-Rangers fans of other clubs blackmailed their boards into voting Rangers out of the SPL last summer, many of us struggled to understand how they could deliberately damage their own team, just to ensure that we were "punished". I honestly don't believe our fans would decide not to go to a home game because of the gate distribution.

 

Nor do I believe that it would make THAT big a difference to Rangers overall income in the top flight. In the same way that reducing the Income Tax rate can increase the overall tax take, I think it would raise the general standard of football, bring the crowds back to other clubs, make TV and sponsorship deals more lucrative and therefore increase total income for the game as a whole.

 

For me it comes down to whether we want to take an ever larger slice of an ever shrinking cake, or whether we believe that a more competitive league is necessary for our own long term sustainability. There isn't exactly a queue of businesses looking to sponsor the one horse race that is our Premiership, is there?

 

Rather than viewing it as charity or a donation, I think gate sharing would be an investment into the long term future of the game. Surely when we talk about the product on the pitch, we mean both teams? Is the recipe for healthy crowds at Ibrox or Celtic park really to watch one sided humpings each week, or have teams parking the bus to keep the score respectable? I'd much rather teams had the ability and confidence to come and play open, expansive football and where the result of the game and the season wasn't a foregone conclusion.

 

To paraphrase Cecil Rhodes (founder of Rhodesia) i'd describe it as "Philanthropy plus 5%".

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Why should hard working Rangers fans be forced to fund a more competitive league though Crawford?

 

Then there's the factor of what the 10 SPL clubs did to us last year and the fact that a fair number of our fans will never forgive those clubs & the SFA for the way we were treated and cast out from a league our club has been helping to keep afloat for decades.

 

Sorry, but all things considered, I just don't see how league gate sharing could possibly work. Are there current working examples in European football?

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