In July 2012 Stewart Regan, speaking on the day the SPL unanimously rejected Rangers’ application to play in the top flight, warned to expect a long, slow death for Scottish football unless a newco Ibrox club are admitted to the First Division. This is what the SFA chief executive said:
“We are faced with a situation some say is meltdown and some say Armageddon and whichever way you look at it it’s not a healthy future for the game.”
What’s actually happened?
The national team is (finally) in serious revival under new management with Gordon Strachan. Motherwell sit second in the league under Stuart McCall heading for European football and having revived the iconic Mr McFadden. Hearts, despite being in a perilous state and facing certain relegation are moving towards the possibility of renewal and reinvention under fan ownership. Aberdeen are finding their feet again and seeing the crowds return to enjoy it with Barry Robson and Willo Flood supplying the experience and Ryan Jack, Peter Pawlett and Cammy Smith supplying the elixir of youth. Under astute management from Jackie Macnamara Dundee United have been playing beautiful free-scoring football with Ryan Gauld emerging as the stand-out young player of his generation. The Arabs have overcome the embarrassment of their captain being willing to drop two divisions – and have emerged as arguably Scotland’s most refreshing team of the year. Celtic – having generated over £20 million in revenue from European forays and wise sales are now looking at a signing that could bring one of Scotland’s best recent exports home.
There’s good news stories across the game.
Last night saw the biggest Edinburgh derby attendance for 20 years with 20,106 selling out Easter Road’s four stands. With a Stanton on the pitch and a third straight win under their belt, Hibs fans are jubilant. They should have higher aspirations than to beat a youth team from a threadbare squad, but there’s grounds for optimism that Hibs could join a competitive clutch of resurgent clubs giving the lie to the Armageddon thesis.
Hibs have a massive latent support – witnessed by numerous (failed) but very well supported cup final appearances. The capital wants to support a top flight club winning and playing attractive football. For the next year or two that’s not going to be Hearts. With zero debt and the infrastructure to go forward now’s the time for Hibs to step on.
The reality is Scottish football is in transition from a bloated, corrupt and unsustainable farce to … something else. Whatever it is that’s emerging it’s going to be a more resilient model based on home-grown talent and a different sense of economics and scale. Those pursuing the old broken model are likely to be left behind, bankrupt by their own intransigence and greed.
Armageddon was a tissue of inaccuracies from the outset. It tried to script a disaster-movie of chaotic failure and financial disaster and at the very moment when senior administrators should have been fighting for the livelihood of the league, they were briefing against their own business. – Stuart Cosgrove, ‘Why the Beast of Armageddon Failed to Show?’
The senior management is still culpable and showing a dramatic lack of innovation or urgency but the game is alive and well. We need a sponsor for the league, a far far better media package from the BBC (or other) and we need to reclaim the game’s running to attract rather than repel people to come and attend games. It’s all possible, now we know that Armageddon was just a scare us from the change that needs to happen.