Welcome to the Scottish Supporters Network newsletter, brought to you by Supporters Direct Scotland. This newsletter aims to bring our members closer together and better informed of news and best practice from across the network.

League Reconstruction or Stalemate?

In the absence of Scottish football action, countless column inches and Zoom call minutes have been taken up with planning for an eventual return, and the league configurations that could possibly make that happen.

At the heart of this are the objectives of protecting supporter, player and staff welfare; ensuring sporting integrity and fairness; and minimising financial stress on our clubs. Early in this process it was clear that there were no perfect solutions and no easy answers, and that trade-offs and compromises would be needed. Everyone who cared about Scottish football would need to come together to find a way through the crisis, and it was in this spirit that we offered to take part in the league reconstruction task force. Ultimately that offer was not accepted, and it was disappointing to see this challenge undertaken by the SPFL clubs alone.

In the absence of full involvement in the process, we offered input in the form of a high-level survey, asking Scottish football supporters what they liked and disliked about the current league structure, and what changes they wished to see this summer.


Survey Findings

The current structure is viewed positively, but there is clear and strong support for larger divisions – although not at the expense of the current competitiveness. The play-offs are broadly seen as positive, but there is scope for improvement – to ensure fairness, and to remove the current bias in favour of teams from higher divisions. The premiership split is also seen as broadly positive, although the imbalance in home and away fixtures is of great concern. The pyramid has been well received, and there is support for opening this up further.

The financial distribution model is a major concern for fans, relegation can put clubs in crisis and easier transitions between the divisions are needed. We have also seen a lot of criticism towards the SPFL’s voting mechanism and decision-making processes, with suspicion that the current reconstruction discussions are taking place to benefit the few rather than the many.

What do you like most about the current league structure?

  • 29% of responses mentioned the play-offs positively, and 20% mentioned the premiership split
  • Lots of comments about the current competitiveness of the divisions, with few meaningless games
  • Positive comments about the pyramid structure

What do you like least about the current league structure?

  • Over 30% of comments described the boring and repetitive nature of the fixture calendar
  • The play-off structure is seen to be biased towards teams from the higher divisions
  • Lots of negative comments about the premiership split, particularly the imbalance between home and away fixtures that this introduces
  • The voting structure and financial distribution model were criticised by a number of respondents

What would you like to see in a new league structure?

  • The most common response (36% of comments) was “bigger divisions”, most who proposed a particular size for divisions mentioned 16 or 18 teams in each
  • A fairer structure for play-offs would please many
  • More promotion and relegation between divisions, and opening up the pyramid to more teams, would lead to more variety in opposition
  • Strong support for more regionalised divisions
  • Permanent changes are needed, rather than temporary fixes


What Next?

Reconstruction talks rumble on, with the current proposals rumoured to involve a temporary two season expansion of the Premiership to 14 teams. We believe this to be fundamentally unworkable, as a return to 12 teams in two years time would either require fewer promotion spots or more relegation spots - this just kicks the can down the road.

Our offer to provide a supporters' perspective to the reconstruction process remains on the table, and there is clear appetite for change from supporters and clubs at all levels. This has to be done for the right reasons and for the benefit of all though - not just as a way of protecting the few clubs facing relegation this summer.

Protecting Supporters and Restarting Football

On a more positive note, we are delighted to be part of the Scottish FA's working groups tasked with providing recommendations in key operational, logistical and commercial areas to ensure the safe and efficient return of competitive football.

The working groups involve a range of subject matter experts from across Scottish football - from clubs and league bodies at all levels of the game, the Scottish FA, Scottish Women's Football, Para-Football Scotland, representative organisations for supporters, players, match officials and stadium safety staff, Scottish Government, academia, and Police Scotland.

By involving such a variety of stakeholders, the consultation and idea generation has been expansive and wide-ranging. Our role has been specifically to identify measures to protect supporter welfare, and ensure that supporters' match day requirements can best be supported when football returns. It is possible that there may be periods where closed door games are played, and also periods where stadium capacities will be restricted, and the working groups have covered each of these scenarios.

The concept of "hub" stadia has also been explored, as a way in which grounds that best meet requirements for physical distancing can host multiple matches. This concept could accelerate the return of competitive football, and also increase the number of supporters who can safely watch them live.

The working groups have made a great start to dealing with the complex challenges that lie ahead of us, and will continue to adapt their recommendations in light of government guidance on the easing of lockdown.

Club Development Scotland - building clubs that win for everyone

Although Covid-19 may have put a temporary stop to playing football, our Club Development Scotland work has continued throughout the lock down period. CDS, the consultancy arm of SD Scotland, develops resources and provides a range of services for community sports clubs of all shapes and sizes.

During the lockdown, we’ve been continuing to advise clubs on a range of matters including financial support available to them while their activities (and potentially income) are on hold - you can access this advice here. We’ve also been pleased to support the roll out of Our Club Lotto, a fundraising lottery that can be tailor suited to your club to help raise vital funds during this difficult time.

We’ve also been making the most of the lockdown to support clubs with a range of services including assisting and advising on club constitutions, legal structures, gift aid and charitable status. If you’d like to find out more how we could help you grow a winning club, get in touch or subscribe to our newsletter at http://www.clubdevelopment.scot/about/newsletters.

Think Twice Or You’ll Bet Regret It

We know that many of you will be at home, potentially struggling to fill the time, feeling a little isolated or anxious. In these times we’ll often turn to various forms of distraction to help the day pass, but placing risky impulsive bets shouldn’t be one of them.

In these difficult times the safer gambling message is perhaps more important than ever. Please remember to Think Twice or You’ll Bet Regret It.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or worried about your gambling at the moment the National Gambling Helpline is available 24/7 on 0808 8020 133 for free, confidential advice and support.

And finally...

Articles, podcasts and videos from the archive

As part of our objective to better connect fans, share best practice within Scottish sport, to promote supporter dialogue and promote sport clubs through which positive societal change can occur, here we share some relevant stories from the past month.

  1. Scottish Football Has To Remain Innovative
  2. We Need To See More Domestic Friendlies
  3. Why I’ll Be Supporting Partick Thistle Next Season
  4. Billy Gilmour Is Ready For Scotland Senior Side
  5. SPFL And It’s Members Can’t Ignore The Fans
  6. Time To Think About SPFL TV
  7. Stuart McCall: The Scottish Workhorse
  8. SPFL Should Accept Dundee’s First Vote

You can also check out our back catalogue of podcast episodes and subscribe to Behind The Goals using your favoured ‘podcatcher’ here.

With Covid-19 taking hold of Scottish football, fans can step up and help the most vulnerable clubs. This short video has some ideas about you can help.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see more!

Supporters Direct Scotland are committed to helping football supporters enjoy responsible gambling; for many this is an integral part of their match day experience.

We have selected GamCare as our recommended support service for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling. GamCare operate the National Gambling Helpline (whose advisers are available on 0808 8020 133 or via web chat at www.gamcare.org), provide treatment for problem gamblers and their families, create awareness about responsible gambling and treatment, and encourage an effective approach to responsible gambling within the gambling industry.

Supporters Direct Scotland

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