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Julian Taylor

Natural selection could have an awful bearing on which clubs survive whenever Scottish football returns to action

Julian Taylor


 

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Rangers and Celtic are the two clubs in Scotland best placed to avoid any concerns for their survival.

Rangers and Celtic are the two clubs in Scotland best placed to avoid any concerns for their survival.

PA Wire/PA Images

Rangers and Celtic are the two clubs in Scotland best placed to avoid any concerns for their survival.

From a public relations perspective, the last few weeks in Scottish football have been a shocker. Some even argue this is simply the latest chapter of an ongoing process of downgraded product and ambition.

Celtic have, of course, absorbed their satisfaction after being awarded the Premiership title - and unfortunately we will never have proper closure when it comes to whether or not they deserved it.

With the biggest wage bill by some distance in the country - and the kind of talent a sizeable budget can attract - the Parkhead club can move on from the widely perceived wreckage of late. They are one of the fortunate few.

For others, the future is less certain. Retaining players, paying bills and background staff are massive issues facing many clubs resulting from the terrible impact of Covid-19. Only two months ago, Aberdeen, for instance, bemoaned losses of £5m with no incomings.

Last week, SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster's attempts at damage limitation only highlighted the type of passive-aggressiveness that has frustrated a number of member clubs. Doncaster spoke of the potential "suffering" caused to the game if the likes of Hearts and Rangers opted for legal challenges regarding the murky business to prematurely end the season.

At some stage the game will resume, possibly a shadow of what it was - and, more importantly, what it could be. Looking ahead, the Premiership does not even have a sponsor and with a TV deal, certainly underselling the Old Firm spectacle, is currently outstripped by the Allsvenskan and Eliteserien in Sweden and Norway respectively.

It has often been cited that Scotland has too many - 42 - senior clubs. With reconstruction appearing unlikely, how many clubs will survive the pandemic effects?

Presiding over this shambles, Doncaster - who reportedly earns an astonishing £350,000 a year - appears content to deflect any responsibility for "suffering" closer to home. That almost a third of Scotland's senior clubs have voted of their dissatisfaction in how their sport is being run is quite telling.

Steven Gerrard's Rangers always wanted to find a way to finish the Premiership, but it was not to be, and the declaration of Celtic as title winners has 'least worst option' splashed all over it. Additionally, Neil Lennon's side have been denied the kind of celebrations they would have desired if, as expected, they were to navigate the final eight games with a 13-point advantage over their Ibrox rivals.

Regrettably, there is something akin to a hierarchy of victims here, with Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer the biggest losers. At this point, notions of league reconstruction are unlikely, with most Premiership clubs against it.

Nevertheless, from a moral perspective, how on earth do clubs deserve relegation - and the accompanying damage to both reputation and bank balance - because of a pandemic? The shattering effects of Covid-19 were not the fault of Hearts, just four points away at the foot of the Premiership, or Thistle, scandalously demoted from the Championship when only one point adrift with a game in hand.

Some closed minds conveniently forget that there was plenty of football still to be played for the struggling sides to get out of trouble. Fans have missed out on a lot of end-of-season drama, with guaranteed twists and turns.

The problems increase with suggestions Championship clubs face the prospect of not restarting until January, with a reduced 18-game campaign. Leagues One and Two may be similarly curtailed as a result of discussions to take place this week. Part-time sides could choose to go into hibernation while closed-doors games remain an option elsewhere.

Lockdown matches, though? With no fans and virtually no income? Then there is the sheer cost of Coronavirus testing - ultra-prohibitive for the vast majority of Scottish teams.

This is where matters become darkly cruel. Celtic and Rangers aside, others have major concerns over actual survival. It has often been cited that Scotland has too many - 42 - senior clubs. With reconstruction appearing unlikely, how many clubs will survive the pandemic effects? Leftfield ideas, such as supporters buying virtual season tickets, as is the case in Denmark, are innovative and worthy of exploration by the SPFL but may not be enough.

Sadly, natural selection could have an awful bearing when the Scottish game eventually blinks back into some form of recognisable life, whenever that might be.


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