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Number will soon be up for format the fans do not want

The architects of the proposed new league structure remind me of those who have read Stephen Hawking's A Brief History Of Time without understanding a blind word of what it was all about but nevertheless trying to persuade us that they do.

I take it on trust that Hawking knew everything about the complexities of the universe and black holes. But I cannot take it on trust that the purveyors of the scrambled-egg league which has been proposed are fully aware of the conundrums they are heaping on the public, and clubs whose future and very existence following a three-way split after 22 games could have as much relationship to ability and achievement as a gambler playing a one-armed bandit in Vegas.

If, as they say, the devil is in the detail then old Mephistopheles has had a field day with this one. I do not intend to go into the infinite possibilities of how a split of 8-8-8 could be achieved, nor what the consequences could be for any individual club falling on the wrong side of the split by virtue of an outbreak of norovirus or a crass refereeing decision, and then having to go back to start all over again, the slate wiped clean, as if they hadn't existed for a few months.

If it comes to pass, and such outcomes produce anger and incomprehension, then the acrimony we have experienced in the past few months in Scottish football will seem like a golden age of ecumenism. Of course it could all work, they say. All the bits and pieces could fall into place, all the different parts working for opposing purposes of relegation and promotion would synchronise, as if it was the handicraft of a Swiss horologist. Why am I finding that difficult to swallow?

My lack of trust in the winding of the watch from the top stems, wearily, from recalling a track record of inconsistency, and ultimately hypocrisy, through the years. You find yourself desperately seeking a figure among the suits who brings a sense of overall command to the most trenchant of tasks, the way Ernie Walker did at the Scottish Football Association. Instead the supposed central figures offer portraits of men on the fringe of action rather than central to it. Stewart Regan of the SFA and the Scottish Premier League's Neil Doncaster seem to have a sense of direction more akin to that of Hansel and Gretel than to Scott and Amundsen.

Roger Mitchell, yesterday, offering some astonishment and indirect praise to them for what emerged, misses the point about these figures. It was events, dear boy, events. The proposals for a unitary body which will preside over a new league and the greatly welcome redistribution of some revenue came about because of the elephant in the room during talks: Rangers.

Celtic's welcome largesse in this matter was because of where Rangers have now ended up. It was Peter Lawwell who realised that, if he did not relent on this, there would have been no deal at all. Celtic, free of the twinning encumbrance with Rangers, could act independently. They could not afford to be seen as an isolated stumbling block and at the same time could act to cement his club's great rivals even more securely to where they now are. Methinks Roger has forgotten something about the DNA of the Old Firm.

And we cannot overlook the fact that essentially nothing is changing. It's about money, about the number of home games they can count on, especially against Celtic. It's an old refrain that not even David Bowie could make sound fresh. The 12-club league – which was for so long considered an anachronism and led to the familiarity, which bred contempt, that moved on to boredom and staleness among the public, and was considered dead and buried in any historic evaluation – has been exhumed, even before it became deceased. It is an awesome feat that reduces the Lazarus story to insignificance.

But if they really are so desperate to be able to have the top clubs finance themselves to offer the best talent they can afford, then, by that notion, the logical step would be to invite that new cash-cow of the under-privileged called Rangers back into the fold again at the top. You can take it that idea would be lower down the agenda than inviting a transvestite team to become one of the 12.

So let us not be too carried away by the pleading of why they have to inflict this rigmarole on the public in their intent to ring-fence talent. They have opted for self-limiting solutions and have to live by them. In any case, since the start of this present season the clubs – Celtic excepted – were supposed to be entering a new era of modest self-sufficiency, and even without a platinum television deal. They would all struggle through, using as much of indigenous and youthful talent as passed muster. That seemed an invigorating challenge to everybody.

Perhaps it was that mood of "bliss was it in that dawn to be alive" which aroused the terracing surge for a top league of 16. Radicalism was in the air. Here was the great chance to renew our marriage vows with the game. Instead of a new ring we are being handed a wee poke for a Lucky Dip.

Equally, that very uncertainty is being lauded as something valuable, worthy of a try, since there are no options, especially not a revenue-weak league of 16. It's a format I have supported since the days of Muffin the Mule, though, and I am not giving up on it now. Perhaps Scottish football could stand up to television and deliver a message that the vast majority of supporters, who also pay subscriptions for viewing, are demanding a specific format and that, aided and abetted by sponsorship, any shortfalls in revenue would be made up by them.

The odds might be stacked against such an initiative but surely it is worth a try if the new unitary controlling body of football wish to develop trust with their public. Other than that, we will see the new format unveiled to us with all the incandescence of a shooting star. And you don't need to read Hawking to know that these phenomena burn out very quickly.

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