Nothing usually runs smoothly when you have a bungling organisation trying to get 42 self-interested clubs to agree on anything – let alone something which could see some awarded titles and promotions, while others face relegations and possibly even extinctions.
Over the Easter weekend, we were left with: one club – who actually voted, but their submission wasn’t received – knowing they held all the power because the voting results were released before all had had their say; another club threatening legal action; and another club having a to-and-fro with the SPFL, which seems to be more like a ‘who can provide the most legal terminology in one statement’ competition.
The Premiership are voting on a back-up plan for the current standings to be final ONLY IF games cannot be completed. Thank God for that – because if we have learned anything from this, it’s that the season should be completed when it is safe to do so.
It is the only way to avoid the many legal battles that will arise from calling it prematurely, as well as all the talk of tainted titles and asterisks. And for Celtic, it avoids the possibility of European exclusion.
I can understand some clubs needing the prize money now to help keep themselves going. That shouldn’t really be an obstacle. We have a duty to protect our game and if clubs need money to survive, they should be helped as much as they can. If that means releasing all the prize money, based on current standings, or part of it – just do it.
But let’s not allow short termism get in the way of a much bigger picture here. And to do that, we have to think outside of the box, away from our comfort zone and realise that big changes to our footballing calendar are needed – regardless of whether we complete the current season or not.
It is much easier to arrange and make plans for next year, rather than complicating matters and working out ways to conclude a season that is 30 matches into a 38-game competition.
The SFA have postponed football in Scotland until June 10. That means they are already accepting that the current season will be allowed to run into late-July/August – possibly even longer, as clubs will need a mini pre-season before the scheduled restart.
Can you imagine the buzz when football is back? Every stadium will be packed out, the crowds will be more raucous than usual, the sun will (hopefully) still be shining and in the first few games our teams will be playing for titles, cups, promotions, relegations and European spots. Celtic’s first game back would be at Ibrox – talk about being back with a bang!
All that within a couple of months, after being starved of the game we all love for nearly half the year. With that sort of drama, clubs have the potential to keep fans coming through the door.
This is the kind of resurrection and burst of life our game needs right now. It’s the kind of shot in the arm that could bring improved broadcasting and sponsorship deals.
The potential is there – it’s how we go about it that is key. And that’s what the SPFL need to be thinking of, after the best way to fund clubs in need.
This is where change needs to be embraced further. The overall football calendar is likely to be shifted in Europe for a couple of years, until it adjusts itself back.
There would likely be another break – a shorter one – before the beginning of next season in September, October or maybe even later.
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In Scotland, the League Cup could be a knockout competition only and the Challenge Cup could be only for League One and League Two clubs, with the Scottish Cup being run as normal. This would allow for league matches and European qualifiers/competitions to take place relatively smoothly.
The winter break could also be scrapped to gain a month back into the football calendar. There could be one international break – for the Euro play-offs. The UEFA Nations League could be postponed until we’re back on track. And latter stages of the Champions League and Europa League wouldn’t be as widely spread out.
If the season starts in October, it’s likely it will run into June 2021. That means UEFA would have to make a decision to push back the Euros again to a July start and August finish.
With another pre-season and set of European qualifiers at the end of August, the 2021/22 Scottish season could begin again in September – following all the same processes as the previous season and ending in May 2022. And then we are finally back on track.
Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic is a fluid situation and all this is hypothetical – who knows if we will get any football this year? If that’s the case, we have a Winter World Cup in 2022, which could fall perfectly for readjustments to be made around and the process of returning back on track will just take a little longer than the one I have laid out. Or maybe we’ll love it that way and never change?
Everything is up in the air, here – reconstruction, the football calendar… the lot. The above is just my preference, based on the situation we find ourselves in at this stage.
Nothing is certain right now. But while we are discussing the short term issues of our game, it’s important to have the bigger picture and long term outlook in mind. We have a chance to shake up Scottish football and give it a much needed rebirth.
There’s room to manoeuvre and build a structure that has foundations to build a good product from, which can benefit all clubs. Let’s put self-interest aside and work towards a brighter future together.
Until then all we can do is stay at home and do our bit, so we can be back at Celtic Park – and grounds all over the country – sooner rather than later.
Anthony Joseph is an award-winning Scottish journalist in London. He is currently a News Editor for Sky Sports News, having previously worked for KICCA Media, MailOnline and Aberdeen Evening Express. He is a regular guest on The Totally Scottish Football Show and is a lifelong Celtic fan and Tartan Army member.
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