Monday, April 18, 2011

SPL: Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Here come old flattop he come grooving up slowly
He got joo-joo eyeball he one holy roller
He got hair down to his knee
Got to be a joker he just do what he please

Beware. The SPL's very own old flattop fool hoves into view once more.

Neil Doncaster has been keeping a low profile of late, consumed as we have been with summits and spats, songs and suspensions.

But today Donny roared back to centre stage.

As you'll no doubt remember he's been beavering away these past few months selling our footballing dystopia his green and pleasant land of a ten team SPL.

The fans haven't embraced this idea with the warmth Doncaster had hoped.

It is, he keeps telling us, the only way to help our top flight clubs.

This argument has been rendered somewhat impotent by the SPL clubs themselves failing to wholeheartedly back the plan.

But Neil, despite looking like a travelling salesman with a Mondeo boot full of cheap cleaning products and a glove compartment full of even cheaper porn, is made of stern stuff.

Another SPL meeting today passed without consensus being found.

Going on the offensive, Doncaster's come over all Alistair Campbell on our sorry arses and unleashed a sexed up dossier on Scottish fitba.

And he's stuffed it full of 45 minute claims.

The BBC report that the 100 page strategy document includes plans for:


  • The national team's Fifa ranking to improve from 66th to 15th within five years
  • The SPL's coefficient ranking to improve from 16th to 10th in five years
  • Investigating the creation of a British League Cup
  • Broadcasting revenues to increase by 50 percent in five years
  • The Scottish Football Association to make payments to clubs when players are on international duty


To which I channel the power of Fred Dinenage and cry "How!"

So Scotland will become a top 15 nation? A top 15 nation under the auspices of an SFA neutered and financially weakened by the a show of club power demanding compensation. The Good Lord Doncaster giveth and the Good Lord Doncaster taketh away.

The SPL to become a top ten league? We all want this. But wanting and getting are not the same. Especially when many fans are of the strong opinion that the ten team SPL dream is one destined to weaken not strengthen the majority of our top flight clubs.

Investigating a British League Cup? At which point the never ending debate over a British Olympic team would seem to flop down in the middle of the road as a rather ugly obstacle to cross border cooperation. Add to that the tepid response of English clubs to the great "Old Firm should relocate" question.

A British Cup is a rather quaint idea that will get fans going in hypothetical pub chatter. But I'd quite like to investigate the possibility of relations with Anne Hathaway. If she doesn't want to know then I'm basically just a sad stalker sitting in my underpants in a poster plastered basement.

TV revenues will increase by 50 percent? An old fave of Mr Doncaster this one. And an argument he never fails to make without falling back on meaningless bluster. It's a grand claim - it's the silver bullet - and it seems to be based on nothing more than a wing and a prayer.

It ignores the seemingly negligible impact of our current TV deal on the wider audience, it ignores the narrowing of the media field that will reduce the chance of a bidding war, it ignores the fact that televised sport itself is evolving and the future remains unclear.

And it ignores the rather startling worry that if the ten team idea is a miscalculation then Don-King-caster will be trying to raise an extra 50 percent on, and here I shudder at the thought, a diminished product.

Maybe he could pawn his brass neck.

Still, the SPL have taken 100 pages to breathe life into their fantasies, flesh out their headline grabbing revolution by bullet point into something more substantial.

Did the Bard Doncaster write them all himself? Or did he call in outside help? Jeffrey Archer? Ken Follett? The Brothers Grimm?

Look, maybe I'm wrong and Doncaster is actually our hero, riding out of the sunset to clear the town of cattle rustlers and corrupt sheriffs, strike oil in the morning and find gold in the afternoon.

Maybe. But he's failed to convince as he's hawked these ideas round. Failed to convince not just the fans but also, crucially, some of the SPL clubs themselves.

A 100 page strategy means nothing if your strategy is crap. Sex it up all you want. But it's still just 100 pages of crap.

It won't offer much of a parachute if Scottish football follows Neil Doncaster as he jumps off a cliff.