Wednesday, November 16, 2011

1962: Hibs Move To End Relegation

Outrage reigned last month when the idea of removing promotion and relegation from England's top flight was discussed.

The Guardian reported Richard Bevan, chief executive of the League Managers Association, as saying:

"There are a number of overseas-owned clubs already talking about bringing about the avoidance of promotion and relegation in the Premier League, If we have four or five more new owners, that could happen."

Turning the English Premier League into a franchise model would guarantee income, make it easier to see a return on investments. Even if that meant raising the drawbridge.

There was a blizzard of derision in the face of this affront to what's left of the purity of the sport.

Wigan's Dave Whelan went as far to suggest that he'd take his club out of the EPL if this ever happened.

I've said before - and, cause I like to go on a bit, I'll probably say again - even in its daft ideas modern football is far from original.

So this passage from Tom Wright's new book Hibernian: From Joe Baker to Turnbull's Tornadoes jumped out at me:

"At that time attendances on both sides of the border were in steady decline which was proving of great concern to the authorities, and at the end of January [1962] all 37 Scottish League clubs were invited to a meeting with the SFA and Scottish League to discuss any positive action that might go some way in arresting the shortfall.

"At this meeting it was revealed that Hibs had recently mailed a bombshell letter to the SFA outlining radical proposals to reduce the number of clubs in the First Division.

"Among these proposals was the suggestion that the guarantee for visiting First Division sides be raised to £1000 per game, or alternatively that the home club keep all the gate money.

"[Harry] Swan also proposed that there be no automatic relegation from, or promotion to, the top division. Entry would be by invitation only, with provision made for financial assistance for the smaller clubs if necessary. A recommendation that an independent enquiry into proposals be arranged was agreed.

"Another suggestion from Hibs was that a new end-of-season tournament should be organised which, in time, could expanded to include clubs from England and abroad."

Harry Swan, the long serving Hibs chairman of the time, is lauded for his visionary belief in foreign tours, floodlit games and European football.

Seems his ideas on relegation also made him a forerunner of some EPL money-men.

And I'm sure somebody keeps banging on about a British Cup as well.

> Another Swan nugget:

"Edinburgh had been selected to host the 1970 Commonwealth Games. A major drawback for the organisers was the lack of a purpose built sports arena in the city.

"Never slow to anticipate anything that could be of benefit to the football club, Harry Sawn, with the backing of a local councillor, came up with the idea that an entirely rebuilt Easter Road would be an option worth considering.

"To Swan's disappointment, the site at Meadowbank was selected, although he remained convinced that the city fathers had missed a great opportunity."

History, like a bad meal, has a habit of repeating on us.

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