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Ambition, corner-shop clubs and Scottish football



Scottish football is in a situation where a group of professional clubs issued a statement insisting the need to have a grass pitch in the top flight is “creating huge financial entry barriers to the top league”.

Four lower league clubs who currently have artificial pitches, Falkirk, Hamilton Accies, Raith Rovers and Queen of the South issued a joint statement, the essence of which reads, “We believe that all clubs with the ability and ambition to reach the Premiership should be encouraged to do so, without having unnecessary barriers being created to demotivate and disincentivise them.”

As honourable as that sounds, it is a bit disingenuous.  To compete at any level of professional football across Europe, you need to meet various standards.  At the lowest levels, this is no more than player and spectator safety.  As you go up the ladder, you need to have media facilities and will be required to appoint supporter liaison officers.

The Scottish Professional Football League encompasses a business with an income in excess of £100m, and some businesses which employ only a handful of fulltime staff.  An effort to level down to what the least resourceful can achieve does not suit clubs with “ambition”, it rewards the opposite.

Football leagues were established to ensure meaningful games between clubs which are well matched.  In Scotland, this is a challenge, because we are a small country with many tiny clubs, two enormous clubs and a handful of clubs capable of regularly attracting 15,000 fans.

“Ambition” is why the larger clubs want to impose standards on topflight participation.  Their interests are not consistent with corner-shop clubs.

There is also an interesting discussion around numbers.  Corner-shop clubs outnumber the bigger city clubs most of whom are found in the topflight, but topflight clubs have weighted voting rights on matters like this.  If the game is truly about fans, the corner-shop clubs are on shaky ground, as over 95% of those who make turnstiles click support clubs who regularly play in the topflight and who want to improve this product by playing on grass.

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