Scottish PL Split Season Hath Arrived

This is the debut post of Clayton Campbell, covering the Scottish Premier League for TOS.

Love it or hate it, the SPL’s split season is here. Under this format, all eleven teams play each other three times from August through mid April. When thirty-three matches are in the books, the league is split into a top six and a bottom six. Both the top six and the bottom six play each other once to complete the thirty-eight match season.

There are several trains of thought on this format:

  • Proponents of this system say it makes the run to the league title and qualification for European spots more competitive.  The better sides have to face each other and the lower placed sides can avoid the top of the table in their relegation battle. It also gives the top teams fighting for spots in Europe an attendance boost.
  • Opponents of the system point out that sides in the lower level have no opportunity to move into the top six. An example this year would be Inverness CT. They sit in the seventh position at the split and have no chance to move up, regardless of their record over the last five matches. With a possible fifteen points to be had, they could (with a good end of season run) make a move into the fourth spot in the table; a good chance of getting into the Europe League at the 2nd qualifying level. This exact scenario happened to Inverness CT during the 2005/06 season when they finished seventh with 58 points, if the points earned after the split had been applied to the entire table they would have finished in the fourth spot and qualified for Europe. They also point out that the organizations that really need an attendance boost are the bottom of the table sides and that the split takes the possibility of home matches with Celtic and Rangers, the teams which draw in the biggest crowds, away from them.

With all this said, what do the next few weeks have in store for us? Another great run to the title by Celtic and Rangers.  After an Old Firm 0-0 draw at Ibrox this past Sunday, Rangers sit atop the table with 81 points. Celtic sit one point back at 80 points and have a game in hand, which means that if Celtic wins out they win the league. They could also afford to draw one match and tie for the title with points and win it if their +8 goal differential stands up. Of the five matches Celtic has left, three are away and two at Celtic Park. Rangers have two at Ibrox and two away from home. The rest of the table shows Hearts 62, Dundee United 55, Kilmarnock 47, Motherwell 45….  SPLIT… Inverness CT 41, Hibernian 37, St Johnstone 34, Aberdeen 32, St. Mirren 29, and Hamilton 20.  Aside from winning the league title, there are spots in Europe at stake. As the SPL’s league coefficient has dropped, only the titleholder will have a shot at the Champions League. The 2nd and 3rd place finishers will enter the Europa League at the 3rd and 2nd qualifying levels. Motherwell could also get into Europa League if they can beat Celtic in the Scottish Cup Final on May 21st.

The next three weeks are going to be a blast as the two giants of Scottish football go at each other. Updates to follow.

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