|A Once In A Lifetime Opportunity For The SPL|
|A Once In A Lifetime Opportunity For The SPL|
|Written by Pablo567|
|Tuesday, 21 February 2012 21:27|
Much has been written and talked about in the last few months and years about ways to reconstruct the top flight game in Scotland so as to generate more interest. I’ve heard all the arguments and I’ve tended to come down on the side of keeping things as they are. In my opinion, the current arrangement, especially the split, is a fairly good way of maximising the best of the league (the big games) and using that to sell the product to TV and sponsors.
As far as I can tell, there are two schools of thought about SPL reconstruction. There is an argument that we need to have more teams so we play less often. It is argued that a stagnant, uncompetitive product is putting people off. The converse is that to maintain any kind of standard, we need to concentrate the strong teams and the money they bring in to distill a higher quality of football than we would have if we went to a twenty team league where you’d swap two Celtic vs. Rangers games for two Celtic vs. Queen of the South games. It’s not hard to see the logic in that argument for me.
However, with Rangers hopefully about to depart the scene, the idea of using this opportunity to rearrange how we conduct the SPL has made me think very hard about whether it’s possible to engineer a bigger league where teams would get roughly the same number of visits from a top two team, where there would be more competition and where Sky get their four Celtic vs. Rangers games (imminent demise of Rangers notwithstanding of course...)
The most competitive sporting league in the world in my opinion is the NFL. The structure of this sport involves thirty-two teams in two conferences, each with four divisions of four teams playing sixteen games. As well as multiple other mechanisms to even the financial and scouting playing fields, they don’t play the same sixteen games, but have a schedule which is adjusted depending on how they finished the previous season. In other words, if you finished bottom of your division, you get a pretty easy time of it compared to the team who won. I appreciate I’m in very alien territory to most Scottish football fans right now, and if the split makes you feel queasy, you had better sit down...
What if we expand the SPL, so there are more teams, but stratify the number of times teams play each other to allow us to concentrate the standard of play at the top, delivering some competition and those all important four Celtic vs. Rangers games, but requiring the top teams to play the bottom teams less and less often so as to allow them to play each other more and give them more chance to push up the table and keep it interesting.
Say you invited the seven top SFL Division One teams into the SPL. That would give you nineteen teams. It would also give you a dull, dull league if Celtic had to entertain and visit each and every one at the cost of third and fourth games against Rangers, Hearts and Motherwell. What if you varied the number of times teams had to play each other on the basis of the previous season’s finishes?
You would play the three teams nearest to you four times, the four beyond that three times, the next five twice and the remaining six just once. This would total out at forty games. These extra two fixtures could very easily be accommodated by scrapping of the split to allow the scheduling of games around the Scottish Cup semi final weekend and the midweeks adjacent.
This would mean Celtic’s schedule this season would have been something like:
Home and away twice: Rangers, Hearts, Dundee Utd
Home twice, away once: Motherwell, St Johnstone
Home once, away twice: Kilmarnock, ICT
Home and away once: Aberdeen, Hibs, St Mirren, Hamilton, Dunfermilne
Home once: Falkirk, Partick, Morton
Away once: Raith, QOTS, Dundee
This would make for a very interesting season and really levels the playing field below us in my opinion. Yes, the teams in third and fourth place will have a harder time than those in the section below, but will have the benefit of European money to pay for it. You could argue that there are teams who might have been in the top six of the current system who will lose out on a fourth pay day when us or Rangers visit, but in that situation, they would be far more likely to earn a European place from one of the teams above the following season given their more arduous schedule.
You would reverse the system for the bottom teams, so they’d have a less difficult season and more chance of staying in the SPL.
The teams in the middle would play most sides home and away once, with a differing number of games against teams around them in the league. Their season would be much more competitive and hopefully you would see lots of relatively close mid table games.
Click on this spreadsheet here to explain the system in its entirety with the numbers of games for each team:
When we’re faced with mounting calls that Scottish football is a poor, uncompetitive, unattractive business, we’ve got to look at what we have and maximise it. There’s no getting away from the gulf in standards as things stand, but maybe it’s not a bad thing to think about bringing more teams on board while looking after the bigger ones. Maybe the bigger ones ought to be given a tougher time?
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 21:49|