STEPHEN MACLEOD, 19, a HeraldScotland reader who hails from Carloway on Lewis but is currently studying planning at Dundee University, says a radical revamp of the League Cup should complement changes to the league set-up
Scotland’s national game is currently in a mess, with a contentious debate going on over much-needed reconstruction to replace the stale 12-10-10-10 model.
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Attendances have been dwindling. One reason for this could very well be the economic climate hitting Britain, but not primarily in my opinion.
Supporters, including me, are simply tired of playing every club four times a season respectively and as a result, fans are starting to lose interest.
Based in Dundee, I regularly go to Dens Park and Tannadice to watch football, even though I don’t support either club. I have no problem, as a student, paying £10 to watch a football game in Scotland.
Fair enough, some people might argue that the product on the park is not worth that. But to go and watch a game of football, I don’t mind paying a tenner.
However, I do mind when student ticket prices are raised to £12 on some occasions, and I have seen supporters, mainly the youth, turn away from the gates simply because they don’t have the spare change and aren’t going to bother taking an extra tenner out of the nearest ATM. Dundee United has a habit of doing this, while neighbours Dundee keep their prices the same for every match.
Money, a wicked term in football, obviously appears to be in the minds of many club chairmen in the Scottish game, especially revenue that is generated from TV coverage.
In reality, Sky are only interested in the Old Firm encounters and because of this chairmen see a bigger division reducing TV revenue, with fewer Old Firm games on show. (Ok, Rangers are currently in the bottom division but inevitably they should work their way back to the top division).
Coming back to the chairmen’s concerns over TV revenue, it’s a fair point…but there could be another way around it.
Coincidentally, other than the current league model itself, the Scottish League Cup is also experiencing dwindling attendances and is in need of some sort of change.
I would suggest that the League Cup format be changed to a regionalised one, with clubs split into eight groups of four based on their geographical location.
The teams would play each other twice and only the top, and second-placed if necessary, team in the group would progress and play the winning teams of other regional groups in the last 8 (or 16). If a region includes too many teams, there would be pre-qualifying based on league status.
Perhaps the champions of Highland League and both the East and South of Scotland Leagues could also be invited to participate in the competition preliminary group stages?
So, for instance, Glasgow’s four teams - Celtic, Rangers, Partick Thistle and Queen’s Park - could be in one regional group, along with near neighbours St Mirren, Dumbarton, and Greenock Morton.
After all, derbies guarantee attendances but, mainly, it would mean at least four Old Firm games every season (two in League Cup, two in SPL, eventually) – and that is something which meets the demands of Sky.
Here’s my suggestion of the possible regional groups, based on current standings. The teams marked with an asterisk would have to participate in the preliminary knockout rounds to qualify for the group stages:
Queen of the South
Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Our football authorities, who are currently negotiating a new TV deal, could ask Sky to show the Scottish League Cup games that would potentially give them an extra two Old Firm encounters?
Surely they would at least receive the same amount of revenue from Sky/ESPN as they did for the previous five years for showing four Old Firm games in the SPL.
Sky could also be offered Scottish Cup matches: if they’re lucky, they could get another Old Firm encounter in it.
In this diverse world, we all have different views on the way forward for Scottish football.
But please think about the economic and social aspects of a regionalised League Cup that could make up for the two Old Firm games that would go with a bigger top league set-up.
I believe my compromise meets the demands of not only the broadcasters but also the supporters.