The SPL Split

I was recently asked what I thought about the SPL split – that Scottish oddity where the SPL tables splits in two for the last 5 games of the season.

Has splitting the league near the end of the season been a good, bad or indifferent thing, do you think?

After the split, the top 6 teams play one game against each other, as do the bottom 6, giving the final standings for the season. But, and it’s a staggeringly stupid BUT, no team can climb above or drop below the split line no matter how many points are lost or gained during the last 5 games. Therefore the real possibility exists that a bottom 6 team can finish the season with more points than a team in the top 6 and still be placed lower in the final ranking.

This is just stupidity of the highest order!

Take the table as it stands today. Motherwell in 7th position have 48 points but Hibernian have 47 points and sit 6th. With one game to go, the final standing could see Motherwell finish the season with 51 points (if the beat Kilmarnock) with Hibs remaining on 47 points (should they lose to Aberdeen). Yet Motherwell would remain in 7th place.

So I think that the SPL split is a bad thing because, as the above shows, it is essentially unfair and imposes an unrealistic order on the final position of the teams.

The split was, I believe, introduced to reduce the number of games played over the season (for the benefit of the national game?) and to make for a more exciting end to the season. In respect of the latter, I think the idea was to ensure that none of the top teams had an easy run of games during the dash for the finish line. It may also have been intended to curb the Old Firm’s dominance. I don’t think it really works on either of these fronts. We are seeing an exciting run in to the end of this season, and the other 4 teams above the split are contributing to that, but the league will still be won by either Celtic or Rangers. The Old Firm are now so far ahead of the other teams that nothing can be done to break their stranglehold on Scottish football.

As to any benefit to the national game (if that was an intention of the split) it has failed to materialise and our national team still struggles to make headway in international competition. The reason for this being that whilst there are some very good Scottish players out there, there just are not enough of them.

So should the split be replaced? Yes, I think it should, but getting any kind of agreement on how that could be done would be pretty much impossible. I guess you’d need to include more teams in the SPL and have them play each other just twice (home and away), reducing the overall league structure to 3 (or maybe even 2) leagues instead of the current 4. But that’s as deep as I’m prepared to delve into that particular can of worms!


One thought on “The SPL Split

  1. Thanks Alex,

    interesting. In fact you’d think it’s almost inevitable that the team placed sixth is going to pick up fewer points than the one placed seventh in the remaining games because team six is playing teams above them and team seven playing teams below them.

    The ‘meaningless fixtures’ issue is still a significant one with longer leagues, even after introducing the play-off system I think (which of course is self-evidently less fair than a league system, but does indeed make the league more interesting for longer for more teams).

    I guess the obvious follow-on question for Scotland is, would Celtic and Rangers moving to the English Premiership be good for Scottish football (setting aside the question of at what level they’d be allowed to join, which is the issue which tends to come up down here)?

    My current ‘so crazy it might just work’ idea would be to have fewer teams in each division, but to have two shorter seasons each year… There are all kinds of reasons why that wouldn’t work, but I find it appealing!


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