The End of an Era: SFL Absorbed by SPL after 123 Years

Companies are bought, merged together, and liquidated literally every single day – often times going unnoticed. One that will surely not go unnoticed is the Scottish Football League (SFL), which was effectively absorbed into the Scottish Premier League (SPL) with a 23-6 vote by its member clubs on Wednesday.

Courtesy of / photographer: Danny Lawson

SFL President Jim Ballantyne. Courtesy of / photo by Danny Lawson.

The SFL was established in 1890, and has seen success throughout the years, and has been one of the most historic and storied leagues in all of world football. However, recent financial woes have brought the leagues struggles to light, and it was consented that something had to be done. In a recent article published by the guardian quoted the President of SFL, Jim Ballantyne:

Did I want to see the end of the Scottish Football League? Absolutely not. Did I want to see football strive forward? Then yes. It will be for others to decide if this step takes us to where we want to go.

Ballantyne’s comments were not those of joy or relief that the league was essentially salvaged with the merger, but rather they carried with them a tone of bitterness and resentment, some said. He understandably was not “happy” about the SFL’s position and status as a football league, that it would come to a time that they would need to join with the SPL. However, Ballantyne’s view of the deal is quite different than what the papers will say:

The original plan and discussion going back many months was for a new merged body but as things went on it became clear that that wasn’t going to happen. There was a positive vote today regarding yes and no but a lot of people left the room with a heavy heart. It is very sad that the Scottish Football League has had to be a casualty but unfortunately we were left with one option.

Ballantyne was quoted in the article calling the merger a “takeover”, a word that carries a much more negative connotation with it, often implying bullish and tenacious aggression from the parent company, in this case the SPL. The merger of the two leagues will form the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), to take effect once the deal is completed at a final meeting on June 27th of this year. One of the major benefits, and why the SFL clubs voted “yes” for the merger, will be a new financial redistribution model. This will allow for money to be channelled throughout the league, but more specifically down to the lower tier clubs who are in desperate need of financial assistance. Attendance and broadcasting rights are relatively invaluable when compared to other European leagues, excluding Rangers and Celtic, who have long dominated Scottish football.

The new league structure will create 4 divisions (12-10-10-10), with the top flight premier remaining all but unchanged, save for the financial redistribution and one other proviso of the deal: a playoff. The relegation system will continue to stay in effect, however, with a slight twist. The 12th place team in the premiere at the end of the regular season will automatically drop down to tier 1, as is the current practice. But the 11th team in the premier will be subject to a 4 team playoff with the top 3 teams in tier 1, making it a little more interesting for fans.

Though this new addition to the structure of the league will be interesting to watch unfold, it can not hide the fact that the SFL, as we knew it for so long, is no more. SFL Chief Executive, David Longmuir “admitted that there was some sadness to the end of his organization:

Today’s decision will lead to the winding up of the Scottish Football League as we currently know it, an organisation that has been the bedrock of our game for 123 years. The legacy of the SFL will long be remembered and admired and we trust the custodians of the new body will continue to work in an open, trustworthy and professional manner at all times for the good of our national game.

What do you think about the end of the Scottish Football League? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter.

Reporting on the business side of the world's game.