Scottish Football’s Part-Time Problem

18 May 2020 | Clubs & Rightsholders
Scottish Football’s Part-Time Problem
Throughout the current maelstrom of bungled voting processes, a collapse in reconstruction talks and accusations of improper governance, the SPFL has certainly been in the forefront of everyone’s minds in the past couple of months.

Even without a ball being kicked since March and nothing in the way of a restart date, the sub-plots and the machinations keep coming and although the focus will always be on life in the Premiership, there is also a part-time problem facing the Scottish game.

With Scotland laying claim to one of the highest per capita attendances across Europe, a statistic of this kind can either be viewed as a help or a hindrance and depending where you sit in the league ladder, usually frames your viewpoint.

Take for example the soon to be former Hearts owner Ann Budge and her comments back in 2016.
Four years ago, she took the viewpoint that the league structure was too bloated with 42 teams and could only really survive with half that number.

Comments that would undoubtedly come back to haunt her only recently and with the lower level clubs having rather long memories, it comes as no surprise that the 72-year-old’s reconstruction plans failed to be approved.

While although the SPFL has four divisions that are labelled as professional, the bottom two are all but made of clubs that are considered part-time and therefore the imbalance between the have and have nots is a rather stark one.

Which is why trying to find an approach that works for both Glasgow Celtic and Cove Rangers, is an astronomical problem for figures such as Neil Doncaster and that’s before you consider the usual boardroom hostilities that are never all that far away.

For any of Scotland’s gang of 42, the severe downturn in revenue is going to be an almighty problem over the next few weeks and months and although the top flight may just have enough insulation to survive a bleak mid-winter, the same cannot be said further down the pyramid.

With so many players employed on a part-time basis and even at teams as high as Championship level, there are questions regarding their status and with the current season hastily ended (outside of the Premiership) a state of contractual limbo now follows.

Due to June 30th being the recognised contract end date, we are just six or so weeks away from mass expiration and for teams such as Edinburgh City or Annan Athletic, this could mean the loss of a whole playing squad.

Of course, mass turnover for a team in League Two of the SPFL is nothing new and it is exceedingly rare that wholesale changes are not made each summer. However, with no clarity over a start to next season or long-term security, the awarding of new contracts becomes almost impossible.

Then again, who is to say that clubs in Scotland’s lowest two tiers will even be able to hand out contracts. With each month of inactivity that passes, the squeeze will be further applied by creditors and banks alike.

The very existence of clubs that are fundamentally part-time is no more than month to month and although fan initiatives or mystery benefactors may keep the lights on for a while longer, the life support machine in this current guise cannot stay on forever.

Ultimately the mode that part-time teams find themselves in, is nothing more than survival and although playing staff all over the country would love some certainty regarding the future, right now their employers would also love some of the same.

Written by Dan Tracey

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