So what do you do with a “dead parrot” (© Turnbull Hutton)? Well, as anyone familiar with the Monty Python sketch (and if that doesn’t include you, go watch) will tell you, you need to admit that the parrot is, technically an ex-…
As soon as you have widespread acceptance of this fact, your problems appear far less intimidating
When I say “you”, I don’t really mean you, unless you are one of the 11 chairmen or controllers of a Scottish Premier League club. In fact, we can probably narrow it down a bit more. As far as Ross County are concerned, this is a boom time! Their Highland neighbours will cope with whatever tomorrow brings, St Mirren and Motherwell are both morphing into community-owned-and-run clubs, infused with the kind of endeavour that got the sport of the ground a century ago.
The people who need to accept that the parrot is dead are in charge of Celtic, Aberdeen, Dundee United, Hearts, Hibs, St Johnstone and Kilmarnock.
Once this conclusion is reached, and before we dive off into new league structures, we should really pause and ask the important question, what do we want from our football?
I haven’t really heard much about this question in recent months, so here’s my ideas:
The solutions to our problems has to benefit the entire game, not just Celtic and/or Newco. It has to offer a real and substantial future for Dundee United, Aberdeen, Hibs, Hearts and all the others who have been economically disenfranchised in recent decades.
SPL clubs have been good at developing young talent in recent years but most of them are swimming against the tide. Dundee United lost Paul Dixon to Huddersfield Town last week while Aberdeen have spent most of this year contorting to hold 19-year-old Fraser Fyvie when there are around 80 clubs a few hundred miles away with higher wage budgets.
If these clubs emerge from the changes as paupers, unable to develop and retain talent in the face of Huddersfield Town, we have failed.
I want to see competitive football played in front of full stadiums. Uncompetitive football in front of low crowds is another failure.
I want to see our top clubs compete in Europe, which is different than just participating in Europe. Again, any plan which cannot deliver this is not good enough and should be rejected.
There are people across Scotland willing all of us who support SPL clubs to fail. Collectively, you, me, Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen, United and other fans need to use the unique momentum for change to ensure our clubs become unrecognisably successful.
There are others in positions of power within our game who are dis-incentivised to think grand enough to deliver what fans actually want when they buy their season tickets or pitch-up to see their team.
For the past decade or more Celtic and Rangers have tried to shoehorn themselves into the English Premier League. This would have been good enough for both of them but there was little consideration given to other Scottish clubs.
If we are to invoke structural change in our game, we need to allow everyone in the league to fulfil their potential. We need to stop clubs from the lower leagues in England plucking the best talent from teams who previously competed in European finals.
The solution is simple and achievable. Scotland is not big enough to support competitive top-flight football where its clubs can develop and retain talent, but it has a league with many well-run clubs, who are more than able to match the resources of the likes of Wigan Athletic.
Our game should be reorganised along the following lines:
We retain our national team and Association. We retain the Scottish Cup and Scottish Football League, funded by an improved solidarity payment. We admit we cannot support top-flight football and ask to fold the SPL into the bottom of the English League structure.
In time we will all find our level. Celtic will rise to the top but there is no reason for half of the SPL to achieve the same as Wigan Athletic. The smaller SPL clubs will double or treble their income, no matter what heights they scale in the English system. Scottish Football League clubs will be able to achieve meritocratic advancement through the system. We will all flourish.
This is plan is deliverable. It would benefit the entire game. Our clubs would be able to retain talent as effectively as they did in the 1980s. Football would be competitive as each club would find and compete at its level, stadiums would fill and commercial income rocket. The giants of our game would be giants of Europe.
Instead of contemplating insolvency or social unrest, let’s agree on what we want from our sport and, with the cross-club grassroots movement we have, set about getting there.
It sure beats managing decline while others say, ‘told you so’.