I am a big football fan, always have been and always will be. I am also a Scottish football fan, always have been and... actually, I don't know if I always will be. What happened to the days of household names such as Larsson and Gascoigne playing their trade in Scotland? What happened to the days when clubs in Scotland could buy and even produce players that cost £10 million plus? What happened to Scottish teams reaching the finals of European competitions? The Scottish game is becoming more dilapidated as time goes on, and it doesn't seem as if it's going to change any time soon.
Many people argue that the fall of Rangers and their subsequent demotion into the fourth tier of Scottish Football in 2012 was the catalyst that sparked this decline, but it is my belief that a plethora of bad management of the leagues and the clubs as businesses has been the reason. And not even just from 2012, these financial and mismanagement problems go back much further than that.
Since 2002, a total of 6 top-flight Scottish clubs have gone into administration, starting with Motherwell. This coincidently was around the same time when the governing bodies of Scottish football decided to turn down a £45 million deal with Sky for the television rights to the games as they thought they could get a better deal elsewhere. They didn't. This was just the first bad decision that the then SPL would make. They later on agreed a deal with Setanta Sports, with then SPL Executive Lex Gold claiming "This is not a gamble." Setanta later went out of business without making final payments to the SPL, putting some clubs on the brink of going out of business.
These decisions clearly had an effect on what would become almost like a domino effect where one club seemed to fall after the other. Dundee, Livingston, Gretna, Rangers and most recently Hearts would all later suffer administration. Motherwell, funnily enough, is actually the only one of these clubs to still be operating at the same level they previously were with Dundee, Livingston and Hearts all now playing in lower divisions; Rangers still toiling with financial difficulties and Gretna literally ceasing to exist.
The Scottish top flight, now called the SPFL, has been without a sponsor since its 6-year association with Clydesdale Bank ended in 2013. As is the League Cup, and this is a competition that was once sponsored by Coca Cola! In fact, the only major Scottish competition that still has a sponsor is the Scottish Cup, with William Hill providing sponsorship up until the end of the 2015/16 season, but it remains to be seen if they will continue their partnership beyond then.
Neil Doncaster, the Chief Executive of the SPFL, has been taking the lead on finding each of the competitions new, lucrative sponsors, but has yet to come up with even a hint of sponsorship. The deal with the bank ended at the close of the 2012/13 season, and I doubt that it was an immediate decision. Surely they would have used professional etiquette and informed Doncaster in advance that they would not be extending their partnership with the league. Mr. Doncaster claims that "I'm comfortable we are doing everything we can" in regards to finding a sponsor. I for one am not so comfortable. The league begins on August 9th, and there hasn't even been a sign of a sponsor being agreed.
I believe that, while he is actually looking for a sponsor, he is waiting for one with similar credibility of the past, such as Clydesdale Bank or Coca Cola, but that simply isn't going to happen. He needs to take what he can and reinvest this money back into the clubs now. If he waits any longer, things are only going to get worse. Holding out for a deal you are not going to get only brings hardships.
If the clubs get this sponsorship money, they can build with it and work towards getting themselves back to previous levels. This won't happen overnight, but it needs to happen soon. Celtic have been provided no competition for the SPFL title in the last few years, and despite them having a valiant attempt at the Champions League last 16 one year, Scottish football has been virtually non-existent in European football. Homegrown talents are leaving in droves for the lower English leagues, attendances are dropping and the Scottish game is frankly becoming an also-ran. Something needs to be changed as the current models are clearly not working. Greed appears to be testing common sense when it is coming to financial decisions and it is harming the Scottish game.
I'm Chris and I write about all things financial within the world of football and sports. I also like to give out money saving advice where I can and you can find me over at Spend It Like Beckham.