So we’re into the new football season. Things have continued in the same exciting vein as last year, with Hearts (aka Romanov Utd) continuing to make unpredictable headlines, and everyone’s favourite fairytale, Gretna, storming their new division (albeit with both clubs wobbling in Europe). And the mighty Ross County have started with their usual consistent mediocrity.
It’s good to see Hearts at the top of the SPL, though – I hope they continue to do well so that they can further smash the Old Firm hegemony and keep Scottish football interesting and competitive.
Another interesting thing happened today – the SPL agreed to the idea of creating an SPL2, which would effectively replace the first division in 2008-09. Far from a pointless reshuffling, it will allow the first division clubs to get a slice of the SPL financial pie and maintain their full-time status, and also it opens the door for regional leagues in what are currently divisions 2 and 3.
That’s something I’ve always been a fan of. Teams in the regional leagues below division 3, such as the Highland League, have so far been denied the chance to progress into the Scottish leagues on footballing merit, with occasional vacancies only coming about as a result of reorganisation or clubs going bust.
Since Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County came into the Scottish league, the first new clubs for decades, all new entrants have done very well – Inverness are now in the SPL, Gretna have swept all domestic opposition aside, and Ross County and Peterhead have risen above division 3. Only Elgin City have not gained promotion, but by not finishing bottom last season they’ve proved that they were good enough to be admitted.
Regional leagues which feed directly into the national league will liven up Scottish football by letting those in what is currently division 3 know that they must prove themselves to be better than those at the top of the regional leagues. And competition is what football should be about. Maybe in time we’ll actually have a national game whose competitiveness is the cause of a major rise in quality.