What if we expand the SPL, so there are more teams, but stratify the number of times teams play each other to allow us to concentrate the standard of play at the top, delivering some competition and those all important four Celtic vs. Rangers games, but requiring the top teams to play the bottom teams less and less often so as to allow them to play each other more and give them more chance to push up the table and keep it interesting.
Say you invited the seven top SFL Division One teams into the SPL. That would give you nineteen teams. It would also give you a dull, dull league if Celtic had to entertain and visit each and every one at the cost of third and fourth games against Rangers, Hearts and Motherwell. What if you varied the number of times teams had to play each other on the basis of the previous season’s finishes?
You would play the three teams nearest to you four times, the four beyond that three times, the next five twice and the remaining six just once. This would total out at forty games. These extra two fixtures could very easily be accommodated by scrapping of the split to allow the scheduling of games around the Scottish Cup semi final weekend and the midweeks adjacent.
This would mean Celtic’s schedule this season would have been something like:
Home and away twice: Rangers, Hearts, Dundee Utd
Home twice, away once: Motherwell, St Johnstone
Home once, away twice: Kilmarnock, ICT
Home and away once: Aberdeen, Hibs, St Mirren, Hamilton, Dunfermilne
Home once: Falkirk, Partick, Morton
Away once: Raith, QOTS, Dundee
This would make for a very interesting season and really levels the playing field below us in my opinion. Yes, the teams in third and fourth place will have a harder time than those in the section below, but will have the benefit of European money to pay for it. You could argue that there are teams who might have been in the top six of the current system who will lose out on a fourth pay day when us or Rangers visit, but in that situation, they would be far more likely to earn a European place from one of the teams above the following season given their more arduous schedule.
You would reverse the system for the bottom teams, so they’d have a less difficult season and more chance of staying in the SPL.
The teams in the middle would play most sides home and away once, with a differing number of games against teams around them in the league. Their season would be much more competitive and hopefully you would see lots of relatively close mid table games.
Click on this spreadsheet here to explain the system in its entirety with the numbers of games for each team:
When we’re faced with mounting calls that Scottish football is a poor, uncompetitive, unattractive business, we’ve got to look at what we have and maximise it. There’s no getting away from the gulf in standards as things stand, but maybe it’s not a bad thing to think about bringing more teams on board while looking after the bigger ones. Maybe the bigger ones ought to be given a tougher time?