Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Crime and Punishment

"Club 12" eh? Who foresaw their meteoric rise from obscurity to the Elysian fields of the SPL? And w(h)ither Rangers?

There is much doom and gloom and talk of lose-lose decisions for the remaining SPL bigwigs as they wrestle with this thorniest of dilemmas. On the one hand Rangers need to be punished for their misdemeanours, relegation to the lowest tier of the SFL seeming to be acceptable to the fans of other clubs. On the other hand that will hit the remaining SPL clubs hard in the pocket, through the loss of cash from visiting Rangers fans and potentially reduced TV money. On that front the rumours seem to be that SKY/ESPN will countenance a single season without Rangers in the SPL, but not longer than that.

Amongst all this uncertainty the SFA, we are led to believe, are going to take action! Yes, that was "SFA" and "action" in the same sentence. It takes some getting used to. Attempts are being made to streamline the game in line with Henry McLeish's report, i.e. merge SPL and SFL, keep the SPL as is and re-brand the First Division as SPL2 with Rangers parachuting into it, introduce a proper pyramid structure to properly reward ambitious and well-run clubs, etc. Ambitious stuff, though not without problems - e.g. do Dundee (2nd in First Division) or Dunfermline (relegated from SPL) take Rangers place? (play-off maybe?) Will fans of other clubs accept Rangers only dropping into the First Division, and if not will they then make good on their promises of walking away from the game?

I wonder if the SFA aren't missing a trick. There is an opportunity here to kill all the birds with one stone. Below I've outlined my blueprint for Scottish football. Like all the best ideas it was hastily cobbled together in the space of a few minutes ;o) The benefits as I see them are:
  • we get a decent SPL of 16 teams, i.e. 30 matches a season, no Mickey Mouse split needed 3/4 of the way through.
  • with "only" 30 games there's enough room for a winter break.
  • Rangers are punished by demotion to the lowest level of the league, which happily for SKY/ESPN is now only one level below the top.
  • teams in SPL and SPL2 are roughly split according to the "size" of the club - a nebulous concept admittedly, but I'm using average home attendance as a reasonable proxy for this. Rangers aside, we only end up with the small anomaly of SPL2's Partick Thistle being "bigger" than a handful of SPL teams - but then the odd anomaly is no bad thing in sport.
  • 2 teams go up/down between SPL and SPL2 each season. Play-offs between 2nd bottom SPL team and teams 2-4 from SPL2 (same as current SFL play-offs).
Previously the SPL owners have rejected a 16 team set up as not generating enough income. But they seem to think they can handle the relegation of Rangers (and potentially a significant loss of TV money), so I'm sure they could adapt to a 16 team league.

I know some people feel that a 16 team league will lead to "meaningless" games, so I would definitely link performance (i.e. league points) to the sharing out of at least some of the TV money. A win in a "meaningless" game might then be the difference between affording a new player next season or not.

In addition I'd have a similar system to that used in Germany, whereby teams have to renew a license each year in order to operate within the league. Keeping a license could involve submitting properly audited accounts, having youth coaching schemes inspected and approved, maintaining suitable training facilities, etc. Once the exact criteria are decided clubs should be given 5 years to meet the standards. I would also have the SFA ring fence some of the TV money for meeting these standards - no more splurging the cash on some guy that played twice for Honduras U21s a few years ago.

That's enough blether now. Below is the starting point for SPL and SPL2. Comments welcome as ever!


NB Teams ordered by final 2011-12 league position (with one obvious exception!) average attendances for 2011-12 in brackets.

Celtic - 50,904
Motherwell - 5,946
Dundee United - 7,481
Heart of Midlothian - 13,381
St. Johnstone - 4,169
Kilmarnock - 5,537
St. Mirren - 4,492
Aberdeen - 9,296
Inverness Caledonian Thistle - 4,023
Hibernian - 9,909
Dunfermline Athletic - 4,799
Ross County - 2,874
Dundee - 6,879*
Falkirk - 5,386*
Hamilton Academical - 2,897*
Livingston - 4,938*

* attendances taken from last season in which the team played in the SPL

Partick Thistle - 4,710
Raith Rovers - 1,933
Greenock Morton - 1,814
Ayr United - 1,655
Queen of the South - 1,551
Cowdenbeath - 366
Arbroath - 793
Dumbarton - 632
Airdrie United - 810
Stenhousemuir - 603
East Fife - 598
Forfar - 507
Brechin - 521
Albion Rovers - 484
Stirling Albion - 557
I can't believe it's not Rangers - 46,324

(NB avg. attendances for teams in SFL2 in 2011-12 were taken from here - last updated on March 27th 2012 so incomplete)

Below this I would go for something like North and South regional leagues, to include the remaining current SFL teams plus Highland/Junior/East of Scotland/etc/etc teams as required/desired. Let's face it, in footballing terms Montrose won't miss too much if they exclusively play against teams in the north east/highlands instead of the likes of Clyde, Stranraer or Berwick Rangers. And vice versa of course. Keeping this level of the game regional will save travel costs for teams and fans and encourage local rivalries. At the end of the season I would have the top 2 teams in each region play-off against each other for 2 promotion places, i.e. North Team 1 v South Team 2 and North Team 2 v South Team 1. Of course you could do things a bit differently, maybe beef up the existing Highland/Junior/East of Scotland leagues and arrange promotion between the respective winners using a different format.

Regional Leagues
Alloa Athletic - 672
Queen's Park - 519
Stranraer - 354
Elgin City - 628
Peterhead - 488
Annan Athletic - 473
Berwick Rangers - 396
Montrose - 335
Clyde - 566
East Stirlingshire - 321
Highland/Junior/East of Scotland/etc. teams

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Preaching to the unconverted

The thick haar around Brigadoon has prevented me from posting of late, but through the occasional gaps in the mist my faithful carrier pigeon, Coocoo, does manage to steal out with the odd message. One such comment seemed to find favour with, of all things, a Unionist yesterday, over at the hallowed turf of Cobblers with Cochrane. Who knows, maybe I'm onto something with the approach below? Although it didn't quite seem to convert that wayward soul, perhaps it might be an angle to try on any Unionist, erm, acquaintances that you have...?

Effie Deans:
The SNP has always been a single issue party. People join and campaign, not because they are opposed to Nato or the royal family, but because they want independence and can't bear being part of the UK. The reason for this is largely emotional. A true nationalist would want independence even if it meant Scotland would be poorer. It is for this reason that the SNP and its supporters are willing to do anything and to give up anything to achieve secession. This is necessary in order to try to persuade the two thirds us Scots who do not have their emotional needs. It is for this reason that the nationalist response to criticism and reasoned argument tends to be anger and hysteria. No doubt this time also.


Hi Effie, with respect I think your perception of nationalists/SNP members is maybe 20 or 30 years out of date. This group is a broad church, and a lot of them (but by no means all!) now have a much more rational reason for supporting independence. Namely, that successive UK governments of all flavours have shown themselves incapable of transforming Scotland's economic fortunes.

Imagine you are the UK PM/Chancellor with an election a few short years away. What do you do? Look after the economy of course. Which, with a short term view, means looking after the bit that generates most of the cash. Which of course means SE England and London. You do a good job, and these two areas get even more investment, jobs and wealth. Well done!

If you had the luxury of a longer term view you might think differently. You might remember for example, that you are supposed to be the PM/Chancellor for the whole of the UK. And that therefore, you perhaps ought to be moving to a state of affairs wherein all of the areas of the UK are economically successful. Wouldn't that be a better UK, economically as well as socially?

But sadly there are elections looming, and ignoring our love of the trappings of power for a second,
we can't let the other lot in. They would be a disaster (for the simple
reason that they are not us). No, we'd better go back to the short term view. I know, we'll set up a few special enterprise zones in "the North". That'll do.

Ignoring the silly overreaction to the front cover (which does demonstrate a kernel of truth in what you say!), the Economist article this week was interesting, basically saying that Scotland would be fine and dandy if it became independent now, but that of course the oil/gas revenues will have to be replaced over the next few decades. That is Scotland's big challenge. But it's coming whether we are independent or not. Look at the state of UK plc right now - and then subtract any oil/gas revenue...the UK safety net, such as it is, seems to be developing bigger and bigger holes as time passes.

Will we have the fiscal flexibility or political will necessary to perk up our economy if we stay in the UK? Recent history under UK governments of all flavours suggests not. Sadly Scotland is just not important enough within the UK. All of the UK parties have to (or rather choose to) consider how policies implemented in Scotland will play in England. This is doubly so if the policy is an important one that would actually make a big difference. This acts as a considerable brake on the changes that Scotland needs.

With independence however, I think that necessity will prove to be the mother of invention. Scotland will have to change to prosper. Agility and flexibility will be more and more important as the world grows more interconnected. If Scotland always has to look over its shoulder for approval from Westminster politicians, then I would argue we'll be far too sluggish to be competitive. And consider that Scotland has everything it needs to be a successful country: well educated people, respect for law and order, established institutions, diverse industries that are a good base upon which to build, natural resources, freedom of speech, etc. That's a pretty good hand - I have confidence that the people of Scotland would make a success of it.

Effie Deans:

This is as good an argument for the SNP as I have seen and this unionist enjoyed reading it.

High praise indeed, or was it damning with faint praise? Either way, even the oft-splenetic orraquine recommended Effie's parting comment.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

We're doooomed!

I really have heard it all now. For those of you who missed this in the Herald yesterday, another of our ermine-bedecked superiors, aka Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, former deputy leader of the Tory party, has retched up quite the worst argument against independence that I've ever heard. And that's saying something.

It seems that if an independent Scotland decides to scale defensive capabilities back to a few fishery protection vessels then it is "asking to be invaded", and if some evil foreign johnnies decide to invade Scotland to gain a bridgehead for invading England (but of course, we wouldn't be important enough ourselves!), then under these circumstances England would have no choice but to "bomb the hell out of" Scotland's airports. So there you have it. Vote No in 2014 or else.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Other Barnett Formula

Yet more sad news, this time from those jackanapes in Australia that thought they could survive without Westminster's munificence. The poor deluded fools have apparently taken to digging rocks out of the ground, smashing them up a bit and then selling the resulting detritus. Of course without the expert oversight of a mandarin from Whitehall the cretins haven't realised that this so-called "ore" that they are totally, utterly and completely 100% dependent on, that they have based their entire economy and way of life on, that underpins their very belief system and is worshipped as a god in satanic rituals, is a...diminishing resource.

And incredibly they seem unperturbed by the price of said ore varying over time in a most volatile fashion! Despite all of this foreboding, some jumped up satrap has got it into his head that their mining industry might be a good thing, and might even be something that could benefit his enfeebled underlings for generations to come!! The BBC reports it thus in a typically craven, left-wing style:

Satrap Barnett, giving what may be a fascist salute to his ululating hordes from
the command centre of his mobile Scud launcher. Honestly, he's just as bad as 
Mugabe/Hitler/Mussolini/Stalin/Kim Jong Il/Franco/Ceausescu/Judas Iscariot/...
(delete as (in)appropriate, you may choose more than one answer)

The government of Western Australia has said it is planning to launch its own sovereign wealth fund in a bid to invest earnings from its mining boom.

The state, which has large deposits of minerals such as iron ore, has seen mining revenues rise in recent years.

The surge has been driven by increased demand from China and other emerging economies in Asia.

State Premier Colin Barnett said it was necessary to ensure the resources-led boom led to long-term benefits.

"The Liberal-National government is committed to ensuring future generations of West Australians have a legacy from this historic period of development, built predominantly on the significant but finite resources available to us at present," the premier said.

Mr Barnett said the details of the fund will be announced during the state's budget, which is scheduled to be presented in May.

Australia's government has its own sovereign wealth fund called the Future Fund.

Why oh why did we let them have separation?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Oily spam

An interesting article on North Sea oil in the Economist this week, although they did not consider the fairly hefty elephant in the room, i.e. the prospect of Scottish independence. The final paragraph in particular is worth repeating, neatly encapsulating why Scotland, contrary to the bizarre Unionist mantra, should not be cursing the gods for lumbering us with a "volatile, diminishing resource"...

[The UK] relies on its offshore reserves for 55% of its energy. Oil and gas account for 2.4% of GDP (finance is 10%, manufacturing 11%). In 2010 it invested more than any other industrial sector and paid a fifth of Britain’s corporation taxes. Meanwhile a thriving supply chain of British technical firms export their services around the world—a business that should continue long after the last drop of oil dribbles ashore.

But enough of oil. There seems to be a lot of spam appearing in blog comments at the moment. It might be time to move comments over to Disqus, as they apparently offer much better options for dealing with spam...(non-spam) comments are welcome on this subject.