Friday, March 23, 2012

SPL: Civil jaw-jaw

"It's not potential civil war. It's on."

So threatened an unnamed SPL chairman on Wednesday.

The spark of our latest top flight conflagration is a move by the SPL's non-Old Firm teams to flex their muscles.

They want changes to the leagues voting structure which, with an 11-1 mechanism kicking in on certain issues, has long been seen by many as a way of allowing the Old Firm to exert a degree of control over the rest of the clubs.

With Rangers currently stricken, the remaining clubs are also pushing for a more even distribution of revenues and the creation of an SPL2 to act as a safety mat for relegated clubs.

Apparently this hasn't gone down too well at Celtic.

Their chief executive Peter Lawell is quoted as describing the non-Glasgow cartel as "potentially divisive," saying:

"We were disappointed and we feel it disrespectful that what Celtic and Rangers bring to the game that we were excluded, having spent nearly two years and a lot of time helping to develop a strategy."

Arguably ten teams acting together and one team being unhappy while another team suffocates in a Greek-style financial crisis might be seen by some as being more democratic than divisive.

But that's not how Scottish football tends to work.And it's difficult to see how vote to abolish the 11-1 voting system would be passed, depending as it would on Celtic and Rangers being split on this. And they won't be.

When The Proclaimers ask "What do you do when minority means you?" it seems Mr Lawwell replies "go in the huff and seek succour in the company of a team I said we could live without a few weeks ago."

Intriguingly he also seems to have given us a tantalising glimpse of where Celtic might be about to head in upcoming negotiations:

"We were actually then convinced for a 14, Martin [Bain] and I, through this group because the top six would play 36 games. We would go with 14 and a top six.

"We were persuaded to go back to the ten for the greater good because the majority around the table wanted the ten. We said 10, 12 or 14, it doesn’t really matter, other than the number of games you play."

Is the hardy perennial of league reconstruction about to flower once more in the spring sunshine?

It might well be. A clever move from Lawwell if that's the case because it's sure to put the other 10 clubs on the back foot.

If they want a more even distribution of cash and power then why not go further and spread it around a 14 team league?

Largely, one suspects, the other ten clubs want the money to be shared more equally but only among themselves. All animals are created equal but some animals get to live in the SPL.

And those clubs agitating for an SPL2 would also face a dilemma. Their dream is probably two leagues of ten. A 14 team top flight would mean a minimum of 24 teams in any dual SPL structure. The share of the pie diminishes ever further.

The beauty for Celtic is that it leaves them largely unaffected in either the status quo or with two fewer games in a 14 team league. A nice bit of politicking.

All of this could very well be academic anyway, ignoring as it does the elephant in the room.

How do you solve a problem like Rangers?

The chairmen of the other 10 clubs might have found it less disrepectful than Peter Lawwell did to jettison the Ibrox administrators from a discussion on the future of the game.

But the smog of uncertainty clinging to Ibrox makes it difficult to see how long term changes can be planned while the possibility of Rangers not being in the SPL remains.

You might feel a Rangers-free SPL is a good thing, you might feel it's a bad thing. But most would probably agree that it would represent a seismic shift that would raise issues that would need to be urgently addressed.

Are the 11 clubs and Rangers' administrators set fair to address those issues at the moment?

It's unlikely that they are.

And that will probably mean that this latest SPL tit-for-tat fizzles out.

Civil war? Probably not. Just a lot of talk over a little local difficulty.


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