Scottish Football - redistributing the money
10 August 2012
Something I tweeted during the Euro 2012 final encouraged someone from Better Nation to ask me to write them a blog post. First time I've ever written anything which was 'published' by someone else. It took me an hour, was a bit fanciful and got a mixed reception, but I was quite chuffed. Many of the ideas I put forward are not new or unique, but one in particular I believe is worth expanding on.
This summer's events exposed the real mess that Scottish football has become over the last couple of decades. I am not quite old enough to have memories of us ruling club football in Europe in the 60s, but I do remember our successes in the 80s. Nowadays it's hard to imagine that we were the top-ranked country in Europe in 1983.
Football has become a far more lucrative business since then, and there is no wonder that our rankings have slipped a bit - larger leagues can command much larger TV and sponsorship deals - but we're looking like being ranked 27th next season, behind giants like Cyprus, Israel and Belarus. 27th! This, despite us having the highest support per head of population of any European country [image] [comparetheleagues.com - sort by %population]
My personal belief is that this decline is mostly due to the uneven distribution of finances in our game, with a far greater share going to the Old Firm than to the other clubs. This allowed Celtic and Rangers to spend big, both on foreign imports and buying the best players from other Scottish clubs, but the flipside of that was that domestically, most weeks they were playing against teams who couldn't give them a decent game. That lack of competition is, to me, a major reason why neither have managed to compete in Europe, with one final each in the last twenty years.
I'm happy to accept that both clubs should benefit from their larger fan base in ticket and merchandise sales, but television and sponsorship money should be distributed equally amongst all clubs. (By all clubs, I mean both the SPL and SFL, which I hope will soon be merged.)
There's a good argument that providing handouts like this makes many smaller clubs complacent, so there needs to be an incentive for them to work hard for the benefit of the standard of the game.
I'd like to suggest the following scheme to even out the inequalities in our game, at the same time as raising the overall level of Scottish players.
- 20% of money to be distributed equally amongst all the senior teams in Scottish football.
- The next 40% is distributed to the clubs on the basis of performance - prize money for league position, progress in cups etc.
- The final 40% is a bit more complex. All players in Scotland will be registered, and their early careers, from 12 to 19 will be carefully logged. The 40% prize money earned by their efforts as adults goes into a fund in their name, which is then distributed amongst the clubs they were coached by as youths.
As an example, consider Joe Bloggs, a player who trains with East Fife as a 12 to 16 year old, joins Raith Rovers as a youth and is bought by Hibs at age 20. Throughout his career at Hibs, each year his contribution to their success will be calculated, based on the number of games (or minutes) he plays. So, in season 2019/20, he played in most games, and his part in the year is calculated at 7%. Hibs reach the semi-final of both cups, and are 3rd in the league. They receive £1,100,000 in end-of-year prize money. £1,100,000 is also allocated to the players' funds, of which Joe's fund receives 7% or £77,000. Joe was 60% coached by East Fife, so they receive £46,200 from his fund, whilst Raith Rovers get around £28,000.
Despite signing Joe, Hibs have a team largely composed of players who've come through their own ranks, so they end up receiving a substantial chunk of the players' funds for that year directly - say 65%. Hearts meanwhile don't have a strong training setup, have only brought a couple of players through themselves and only receive 15% of their players' fund.
This system strongly encourages clubs to coach and bring forward young players of the future. It penalises those clubs who prefer not to put in the hard work, but simply go out and buy the top players from other clubs.
A few final points:
- I don't see why only senior clubs should benefit - if a youngster trains with a Highland League or Junior side, they should gain from his future success.
- The player should have some input into what happens to his fund - if he feels one team he played for had much more of an impact on his career than another, he should be able to request a change in the percentages paid out. There might even be an argument that he could suggest that his secondary school or boys club should receive a percentage to fund future football training.
- Any such prize money earned by a non-Scottish player (here I mean someone not involved as a youth in Scotland) would go into a central fund to be distributed equally. It would not solely benefit the team who bought him from abroad.
- Obviously, if in his later career a player is transferred outside Scotland he'll no longer be part of the scheme, although each time Joe Bloggs gets capped for Scotland for instance, both Raith Rovers and East Fife would get rewarded.
I think this is a framework worth consideration as part of the ongoing revamp of Scottish football. I hope also for full league reconstruction under a single body, a pyramid system and a requirement that any senior clubs in Scotland must have youth and women's football structures in place to receive any money.