Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Real Football, Fantasy Football: Same Issues

The real success story of this past football season has been…Gretna FC. After gaining acceptance into the fourth tier of Scottish Football in 2002, Gretna have won promotion into the Scottish Premier League (SPL) in just five seasons.

I am not sure what the record is for successive promotions, however Gretna won promotion from the Scottish Football League Third Division in 2004/5, from the Second Division in 2005/6 and from the First Division to the SPL in 2006/7 – an amazing record, even by Wimbledon’s (now MK Dons) standards (elected to the Football League in 1977, promoted to the First Division in 1986, inaugural members of the Premier League, 1992).

However, Gretna’s promotion is being contested, and it is not hard to guess by who. The BBC reports that Dunfermline Athletic are joining St. Mirren in writing to the SPL asking if Gretna have met the same stadium criteria as previous First Division champions. You guessed it – Dunfermline were relegated at the end of this season and St. Mirren narrowly avoided relegation on the last day of the season.

Gretna’s promotion hinges on them providing guarantees that a 6,000-seat stadium will be built by March 2008, and St. Mirren is contesting that Gretna have not provided sufficient guarantees. St. Mirren were forced to spend £200,000 on ground improvements last season when they could not offer assurances over a new stadium.

However, before you scoff, let me point out a couple of comments from St. Mirren chairman, Stewart Gilmour. “There is a strong feeling that you cannot have different rules for different clubs”, he told BBC Sport. “I want to make sure that the same ground rules apply, as it has been sore for us financially”.

Sound familiar? That’s because it a similar argument to the one that Sheffield United and Wigan have been putting to the FA Premier League about their failure to dock West Ham points, the only obvious difference being that one argument is about an alleged illegal player, whilst the other is about ground regulations. Both arguments are about money, or the loss of it, and both prove that football authorities need to apply their regulations with an even hand, whether in the fantasy football world of the FA Premier League, or the perhaps more realistic world of Scottish football.

 Andy Brown


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