I think we can safely say that the Scottish Premier League (SPL) is not the highest standard in the World and this is also borne out by the Scotland soccer team in terms of their world Fifa position which at the moment is number 67! One in front of the United Arab Emirates!!! And well behind Australia,Japan,Mali and even South Africa!!!!What a disgrace for a soccer loving country and the famous Tartan Army!!!!!
Ok it is easy to criticise however let’s look at some facts. The two strongest (SPL) teams historically have been Celtic and Rangers and the competition between these teams over the years provided some world-class players who kept the SPL standard at a reasonably level .In addition some of these players found their way to other higher quality football leagues ie.English Premier,La Liga etc which in turn assisted in bringing the Scottish Football National team to a reasonable level.
Where did it all go wrong?I think that the creation of the EPL(1992) did for sure influence this, especially with all the Television rights from the likes of Sky and now BT Sports bringing in millions of pounds , which of course, brought in finance for much better players from Europe ,Africa and to a lesser extent from South America.It’s no coincidence that Scotland have not qualified for a world football competition since 1998!!!
I think however,that, what was a very inconspicuous position for the SPL, became precarious when Rangers were dispatched to the lower ecelaunch of Scottish football ie the 3rd Division because of financial issues.I should say that I am not defending Rangers ,only pointing the results of them being relegated to 3rd division of Scottish Football.
I myself was not living in Scotland when this happened (2011/12) however since returning to Scotland it is obvious ,from what I have read, is that 99.9% of the Scottish Football managers wanted Rangers relegated !This of course left there main rivals Celtic with no real opposition .Ok you will get some of the other teams putting a challenge from time to time however by and large it had been a walk in the park for the boys from Celtic Park.The teams from the lower leagues obviously realised the financial implications of Rangers and their huge support visiting the likes of some of these teams,where one large following from Rangers fans would arguably bring in more spectators than for all the other home games combined!!
Prior to being liquidated in 2011/12 Rangers had won the SPL 09/10/11 with Celtic being successful in /12.Since then Celtic have won all SPL Titles in a canter and at the moment with only a few games remaining they are 27 points in front of second placed Aberdeen with Rangers a distant 36 points adrift!!
I should Also add the the last time the SPL (or formally known Scottish First Division) was won by a team other than Rangers or Celtic was back in 1984 when Aberdeen lifted the title!!!
However Celtic themselves ,although qualifying for Europe have never got past the pre qualifying(from 2012) stage and even when they have managed to get into the Europa league they were eliminated in the first round they played in.What a shambles!Yes in this year’s Champions league they had one or two good results but bottom line they finished the bottom in round robin and never even got into Europe Cup!Other Scottish teams who have qualified for the Europa Cup and failed just as bad. IE Aberdeen,Motherwell,Hearts to name a few.
The bottom line is that ,with Rangers out the way the challenge to Celtic has gone and the SPL is now worse than ever, and until Celtic can be challenged seriously the standards will continue to drop! (As already mentioned 27 points in front of second plaved team!) Where is the competition.Answer.None!!!! Somehow the powers to be will have to start from the bottom up and provide proper playing and coaching facilities for up and coming young players whilst at the same time initiate some negotiations with the Media to try to have more TV/Radio financial backing so as to encourage better players into the SPL otherwise we are doomed to continued failure!!I am sure of course that Celtic fans are loving this situation and who can blame them, however no good being a big fish in a very small pool!!Remember some of the great players who played for Celtic and Rangers plus of course Scotland.Billy McNeil.Jim Baxter.Jimmy Johnstone.Willie Henderson.John Greig.Kenny Dalgleish.Bertie Auld.Eric Caldow,plus many others like Dennis Law.Dave Mckay.Gordon Strachan.Willie Millar,Alex MacLeish,Graeme Souness,Alan Hansen etc.
I am afraid we have no one at the moment who comes close to these legends of our game and unless change happens sooner rather later we will not qualify for another international tournament for foreseeable future.Celtic will continue to dominate the SPL and , with no challenge in sight they will continue to be Scotland’s only Champion League Participants for decades however I doubt without much succcess whilst at the same time Scottish football will continue to stagnate!