Thursday, October 22, 2009

The death of Scottish football

All right, I admit it...the title is melodramatic at best, utterly inaccurate and ridiculous at worst. All I wanted was a bit of attention!

But considering that, in the last fortnight, Walter Smith has warned that "Scottish football is dying" (or something to that effect), the Old Firm have once more agitated for the opportunity to leave the old fashioned, no longer attractive SPL for the bloated whore that is the English Premier League, Rangers' grand humping at the hands of Unirea Urziceni could not have come at a worst time.

Despite all my moaning and groaning on this blog, even I didn't think it was as bad as this. But, despite my well-known hatred of all things blue and white, this writer was left with his head in his hands for most of the second half on Tuesday night, muttering various phrases which would have shocked and appalled his mother. The goals were a bit unfortunate, but the result was a fair reflection; Rangers were deservedly stuffed by a team with a name that sounds like a sexually transmitted disease, whose home gates are comparable with that of Caley Thistle. I had lambasted Smith before kickoff for playing with only one up front against what appeared to be a diddy side, but who knows - maybe this defensive mentality saved Rangers from a bigger thrashing!

All this in a season that has seen Falkirk knocked out by a team from Liechtenstein, Aberdeen concede five at home to a mid-table Czech side, and Celtic struggle in the Europa League. Not to mention the travails of the national team. I'm not sure whether it is a justifiable metaphor to claim a sport has "died", but let's face it; the patient is not exactly running marathons here - in fact it is wheezing for breath at the effort of putting on its dressing gown.

Everyone associated with Scottish football is at least in agreement for a change - it is a mess, and needs changing. The trouble is that no-one will take a modicum of responsibility for changing it. At domestic level, the repetitiveness of it all is turning off the fans, big style - Rangers and Celtic have swaths of empty seats for most home league games, while I note the attendance for Aberdeen-Hearts last Saturday was 6,000 less than when I went to a game between the two of them at Pitodrie in 2004. As I've said a million times before, when you're playing the same teams four times a season, and most sides are too worried about relegation to risk playing even vaguely entertaining football (I'm not looking for Matrix-type entertainment, I'll happily settle for Terminator Salvation or even Saw VI-type entertainment). But no-one except Rangers and Celtic would agree to expanding the top division, as they'd lose a home gate against one of the big boys. It hasn't occurred to the likes of Aberdeen that their fans tend to come out in huge numbers when they're on a good run, so they might actually get 15,000 in Pittodrie if there is a prospect of them stuffing Queen of the South 5-0.

So they keep twiddling their thumbs, while the Old Firm, in the unique position of being able to exert some power and authority, with the chance to put pressure on the others to make compromises for the good of the game, instead keep going on like a stuck record about abandoning it all for the cash cow across the border. But that ship has long sailed now; the English Premier League is unlikely to be any more marketable with two more big teams, especially when the standard of Rangers and Celtic has fallen to the point where it is comparable with the likes of Hull City, at best. All the Old Firm could bring to English football is sectarianism and a set of demolished city centres (just ask Mancunians). And an Atlantic League? I'll save a rant about that daft idea for another time.

So, in conclusion, the idea of Scottish football "dying" is a ridiculous concept, but it's difficult to remember it being at a nadir such as this. And it's difficult to see how it can bounce back unless somebody involved grows a pair.


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