Sunday, October 24, 2010

Is there a point to a Scottish Premier league?

A few weeks back I got into a heated conversation with a Scotland supporter after their loss to the Czech Republic in which Scotland boss Craig Levein decided to play what was in a sense a 4-6-0 formation. After watching that the supporter openly questioned the quality and importance of the Scottish Premier League. I responded to him by saying that Scotland needs to continue to have it's top league in order to push through young talent to the national side.
His answer to this shocked me, he answered by saying that if the SPL folded into the English football league, save Rangers (Who he supported) and Celtic who would enter the English Premier League, Scottish football would progress much faster then if they stayed in Scotland.

I asked him how he could think this? How did he think that joining the football league would improve Scottish football? Most importantly how would Scottish football keep it's traditions and identity if it joined up with England?

Again his answers gave me a moment to think. The reckoning was that the level of competition in England would be of a higher quality then if the same teams kept playing each other at a lower level of skill. Spreading the clubs out between the Championship, League one and League 2, would open them to higher skill levels and different ways of approaching the game. This in turn would force the clubs to improve in order to keep up. As for the two clear front runners in Scottish football, Rangers and Celtic, making the long rumored move to the Premier league would also expose them to a higher level of competition that would shake off the complacency of only thinking about competing with one another. Also there would be a financial incentive to Rangers and Celtic, the EPL move would net them T.V revenue that would allow them to further improve their internal payment development.

As for the identity of Scottish football he did concede that a move could lead to more foreign players being introduced to the squads which could defeat the purpose, but overall he though that it could actually bolster Scotland as having a healthy weekly competition with English clubs would reinforce pride in Scottish football.

This gentleman made some good points and it clearly a true supporter of Scotland and Scottish football, but here's why I do not agree with him and why it's vitally important that the SPL continue.

As some who writes from a country that suffers from not having a domestic league to call its own, I am in a unique position to know that it becomes extremely difficult to grow interest in the national side and develop players without one. To break it down even further it is still difficult to build those two things mentioned above while you have teams playing in another domestic league. The objective of any domestic league is to develop its own talent to feed into the national side. This leaves the league with no obligation to help foreign teams succeed. This is not to say that the English Football League would show not interest in Scottish sides, but it's priority is English players for the England squads.

Although the building of England v Scotland club rivalries may reinforce Scottish pride, you would think that over time they may lose their identity as they blend into English culture. For evidence of this take a look at the Welsh clubs that compete in the Football League. Neither Cardiff or Swansea have been promoted to the Premier League, nor has the Welsh national side improved any of their results.

As for the front runner clubs, they need to stay in the SPL. Leagues need these type of dominate clubs in order to set some kind of yard stick for other clubs to aim at. Yes...either Rangers or Celtic always win the league, but this does not mean that the league is completely un-competitive. It just means that other clubs need to step up the search for financing in order to compete.

I'll leave you with this, if there was no SPL would you have a Sir Alex Ferguson?  Kenny Miller? Mo Johnston?


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