Saturday, November 19, 2011

Blogathon: Pyramid selling

So it's 8pm. And I'm still going strongish. Big kicks this hour to all my mates at the Hibs Club for the support - financial and alcoholic - they've given this venture. More than just a club and going strong since 1955.

This suggestion came in from @thecoldend in the last hour.

Does Scottish football need a pyramid system?

Before I start I have to share this nugget from Jim Spence's BBC blog during the week:

"During the Scottish Junior Cup glory years after the Second World War Irvine Meadow attracted huge crowds.

"They were watched by 77,650 in a match against Petershill in 1951 - testimony to the pulling power of the game at all levels in those football-mad days."

My mind duly blown, I'll begin.


Right, that was simple. Next question?

Seriously though, I do think a pyramid system would offer some benefits and, in the case of a lot of Highland League clubs, it would open up the Scottish leagues to a lot of untapped potential.

Let's strip this down to basics first.

SFA, SPL, SFL, Highland League, East of Scotland League, Juniors.

That is a labyrinth of utter madness to negotiate in a country of our size. It's crazy.

And largely it's a messed up system of too many chiefs that survives because of the vested interests and bad decision making that hammers Scottish football at every turn.

The problem is, to remedy that situation, we'd have to overcome the obstacles of vested interests and bad decision making that's got us there in the first place.

And in a sport where tinpot dictators abound that would not be easy.

I've heard suggestions that some clubs outwith the SFL structure wouldn't be keen on a move up. They're pottering along quite happily and there's no guarantee that the opening of the pyramid would enhance that happiness.

I'm not sure how widespread that view is but it's one worthy of consideration if we're going to advocate top down change.

There might also be daft directors in the SFL but none, perhaps, so daft as to make like turkeys voting for Bernard Matthews as Santa.

If - and I'd strongly suspect this to be the case - there are clubs that can survive only if they cling to their membership of the SFL, well, why would they want to open the trap door?

One answer to that might be that we have too many clubs for a small country to sustain. Create a pyramid and jettison the weak, the poverty stricken and the needy.

Which is simple and might carry some truth but is far too glib. Even a club with a small support and a big overdraft inspires loyalty. I've stared down the barrel of my own club's demise and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

There is also a regional aspect to the debate. A pyramid sounds absolutely dandy. And then Brora have to travel to Annan in December and it looks a bit silly.

So regional leagues? How would that work, who would take a ruler to the map of Scotland? Would it offer, apart from an outside chance of progression up the pyramid, any benefits to the situation we have just now?

So there are reasons why it would be a difficult idea to implement and perhaps an even more difficult idea to sell to the people who would need to vote it through.

Yet I think it is worth persevering. Of finding a way to navigate through choppy waters.

Firstly the streamlining of the organisations involved in the game is long overdue.

And that includes getting rid of the idea of the SPL as an organisation outside of the rest of the league structure.

We also need to ask why we stick at this game? Is it so clubs can limp along on meagre attendances and paltry rations?

That's not the positivity we need right now.

Changing the structure, flinging open the doors of our league set up is needed to blow the cobwebs away. And much as it pains to me say it, if that includes an element of the survival of the fittest then that might just need to be the way it is.

Because we have to something healthier than we have now. We have to reinvigorate or footballing ecosystem.

We need to make sure that there are players good enough, managers competent enough, even administrators skilled enough, to move through the divisions, to make a positive contribution, to keep some of what little money there is circulating in our game.

We need clubs to be in harmony on youth development, we need to explore what treasures can be unearthed anywhere that the game is played in Scotland.

For me that includes the introduction of a pyramid system within a streamlined organisational structure.

But, you know, I'm still pretty stumped as to how I would manage to implement it.

> Today was a chance for some non-league teams to strut their stuff against SFL opponents in the Scottish Cup. A mixed day. But Culter did manage a draw with Partick Thistle.

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