A Scotch Pot of Broken Hearts

An entry into Wikipedia’s more informal sister website, ‘Uncyclopedia’, more or less sums up the current challenges facing Scottish football; ‘as a rule Scotland does not succeed in sporting events…There may come a day when the odd fluke is not the only victory – until that day we Scottish hang our heads in a deep shame. Most Scottish people support Celtic.’

As the 19-year-old striker Tony Watt slid a right-footed shot low past Victor Valdes, to send a fervent Celtic Park into raptures and into history, amidst a plea from Hearts football club for financial help and the national side’s on-going search for a new manager as they sit bottom of their World Cup qualifying group without a win, this somewhat tongue in cheek entry has become increasingly prescient.

But for the Scots it is becoming ever more difficult to see the funny side. They have already lost their treasured Old Firm derby as Rangers languish in the Third Division after financial meltdown and seemingly the Edinburgh derby is now under threat after Hearts’ statement that the club’s future is now under serious threat. Clearly TV revenue and attendances have been hit hard by the collapse of Rangers and the repercussions of a breakdown of the second largest domestic showdown could have ramifications for the entire Scottish league. Research from business recovery firm Begbies Traynor has shown that six Scottish clubs were showing signs of distress at the end of October, coming at a time when finances should be at their strongest after season ticket sales. Ken Pattullo, from Begbies Traynor, said: “The plain fact is that if a club is in trouble at this stage of the season, it looks very bleak for the prospects of financial survival when the cash flows are really put under pressure in the spring and early summer.”

Meanwhile the plight of the national side raises pertinent questions for the realistic prospects of Scottish football. It is doubtful whether Levein’s successor will be able to do any better, given his limited resources and a squad that clearly lacks the pedigree to fulfil the yearning of qualification. Indeed the very fact that the job has become a poisoned chalice can be demonstrated by the wealth of talented Scottish managers in the Premier League who have not even been considered as realistic targets. Clearly the Everton job is more desirable than the Scottish job for David Moyes.

What can be done to save Scottish football? Plans for a new three tier system, modelled on England’s Premier League have been proposed, with SFL chief executive David Longmuir claiming the plan “encourages the flow of clubs between the divisions… refreshment and vibrancy of clubs”. Whether that is enough remains to be seen, but realistically it seems that the survival of Hearts may become crucial to the survival of Scottish football as we know it, thus it would perhaps be advisable for the SFL and SPL to concentrate their efforts on that, rather than any grand scheme.