Why the tweaks to the IRN-BRU Cup will be flat

The Scottish Professional Football League has decided to adapt what was a pretty reasonable competition (the Challenge Cup) to a format that includes teams from the Premiership’s U20s, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Neil Doncaster, the public relations voice for the SPFL said:

“This is another exciting day for Scottish football and we are thrilled that IRN-BRU, one of Scotland’s most celebrated brands, is supporting us on the journey. In addition to this significant sponsorship boost, the announcement of the exciting new format of the IRN-BRU Cup again shows that Scottish football has the confidence to innovate and introduce fresh ideas to our competitions.”

I agree from a commercial point of view that bringing on IRN-BRU is a good move, seeing as all other branded competitions in Scotland are betting and gambling companies. The popular soft drink is a staple of the mainstream in this country, so I have no qualms with that as it also has an established partnership with Scottish football.

However, the term “confidence to innovate and introduce fresh ideas to our competitions” are frankly nonsense. Historically, Scottish football has done the opposite. You need to look no further than the names of the divisions. They are near enough a carbon copy of their English counterparts, the exception being the Premiership.

Another example is the implementation of the playoffs. The Scottish Football League added them on at the end of the 2007-08 campaign whereas it took the merging of that organisation and the Scottish Premier League to get them in the top flight six seasons later.

In addition, the concept of “exciting new format” does not make sense to me. Personally, I am not excited about the fact that the team I support (Dunfermline Athletic) hypothetically may play Inverness Caledonian Thistle U20s in the third round, Crusaders in the quarter-finals and The New Saints in the semis.

The remit of the governing body (whether it be the Scottish FA or the Scottish Football League) should be to promote the best interests of all its members equally. Allowing the four non-Scottish based teams the shortest path to the final does not seem to match up with that belief. I do not know how Elgin City improve as an entity when their route could be impeded by Linfield.

This disastrous experiment will be lucky to make it past this first year, and with everything in Scottish football appearing pretty rosy, for those in power not to heed to sensible and innovative measures to get more punters through the gates, it does detract from what I feel is a perfectly acceptable product (on the park anyway).


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

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