The SPL fiddles as Football Burns.

Last updated : 04 January 2011 By IAATP

The SPL has tentatively given its collective backing to a 2nd division, bringing 20 teams under the Premier League banner in two leagues of ten sides. Any change of course is subject to a successful vote by SPL members but it’s interesting to read some of the reasoning behind Neil Doncaster's vision for the future of our national game.

The biggest thing to come from this announcement is the perception that increasing the top flight is simply not an option. It’s difficult to see this as anything other than a snub to clubs like Dunfermline and Falkirk who have the stadium in place to host SPL games but who will be denied the opportunity to do so for at least another year. The success of Caley Thistle following promotion this summer should give those running the game hope that promoted clubs may well be able to hold their own. The financial problems suffered by Gretna and Livingston, along with Dundee’s fight for survival, would obviously encourage caution but is Scottish football so weak that a larger top flight would be unsustainable? We've seen first division sides mount impressive cup runs in recent years – is it really beyond the realms of possibility that those sides could at least be competitive in the top flight, if not successful?

This is protectionism plain and simple, dressed up as ambition. What are the attractions for a 10-team league? Four Old Firm games a season for television to showcase and four visits a year from Old Firm fans ripe for exploitation by unscrupulous chairmen. The financial argument that the TV deal couldn't support a restructure to be spread even more thinly may struggle when an SPL 2 will naturally demand a bigger slice of revenue than the SFL currently affords clubs. Scottish football abandoned a 10-team league because it had become uncompetitive, with clubs in the lower half of the division so terrified of the consequences of failure that they simply shut up shop and played not to lose. Is that really what we want to return to?

88% of fans have made it quite clear that it isn't. Supporters Direct are one of the few organisations who have asked fans for their views on league reconstruction. Fans don't want negative football. We don't want to pay top money to see the same sides half a dozen times every season. We're tired of being used as cash cows by Steven Thompson and other SPL chairmen and we're tired of watching sides play not to lose. Scottish football has lost its sense of occasion and never has the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” been quite so appropriate. We're on course to play Kilmarnock five times this season and with the greatest respect to a Killie side who are performing far above expectation, that's simply not going to attract fans to the game. Is it enough that we put up with the endless dross simply to protect four old firm games and the occasional challenge from Edinburgh?

That's what's so damning about this current announcement. Fans have been given very little consideration. Sure they want us to turn up and pay our money but what do we get in return? Do we get ambitious clubs trying their best to make their way in the game? Do we get teams going for the win without fearing the consequences of failure in every game? Or do we go back to a format that football itself admitted was unsustainable? There are no guarantees with league reconstruction and there can be no promises that a bigger top flight would lead to a stronger top flight. What can be guaranteed however is that going back to a failed model that restricted the ambition of provincial clubs will do nothing to repair our broken national game and may well do enough to consign it to the margins of the league of Ireland or Estonia's Meistriliiga. Scottish football is at a crossroads and a 10-team top flight does little beyond taking us down the same dead end road we've travelled before.