With the dust from the football fest that was the 2018 World Cup just settling, after France were crowned champions for the second time, we are moving full steam ahead into the new season – the fun doesn’t stop.
Now, admittedly a lot of the big boy leagues are not yet due to start – many top players will also be taking a well earned rest after their respective World Cup exploits. However, already we have qualification for Champions League, Europa League and also the early group stages of the Scottish League Cup to keep us entertained and ensure that there is no dry spell in terms of satisfying our footballing needs.
In looking forward to the new season, fans of specific clubs and football fans in general will be keen to look forward with optimism, soaking up and digesting fixture lists, planning expeditions to matches at home and abroad, getting the piggy bank ready for travel and accommodation expenditure.
The last point is a pertinent one. Football is becoming more and more expensive – for clubs and for fans. There are other articles on thefootballblether moaning about or bemoaning the soaring cost of football and looking at alternatives to the expensive fair we have at home, seeking to fulfill our football and cultural fix by visiting different countries across Europe and the World in order to watch and enjoy football. However, there are also many high value opportunities to take in some Scottish football in the coming season.
The Next Great Pyramid
For years there have been arguments for and against the establishment of a full, all encompassing football pyramid within the Scottish Football scene. Most will be aware of the Premiership and other SPFL leagues and possibly also the Highland and Lowland Leagues which for the past few years have played off against the worst team in the SPFL for a place in said league at the end of each season – with Edinburgh City being the only success story to date. Below that level however, notwithstanding standalone application processes for entry into said league from individual clubs, the Scottish Football system has been relatively disjointed and fractious, with a host of successful, quality teams from smaller towns playing in the “Junior” ranks. Now, to those unaccustomed with Scottish Junior Football – the “Junior” doesn’t refer to “age” but defines the clubs as being separate from the more professional or “senior” ranks of the league system mentioned above. Many of these Junior Teams have competed successfully in the Scottish Cup – with the likes of Linlithgow Rose going on successful cup runs and beating teams well above their official level en route.
Within the last few months, the Eastern Junior setup has seen a large number of clubs switch to the East of Scotland League system, installing them into the pyramid system and leaving the Juniors behind. Kelty Hearts were a sole mover a few years ago and have since been promoted from this league into the Lowalnd League – theoretically putting them one step away from the SPFL just a couple of years after competing in the Juniors.
The East of Scotland League will now be split into 3 conferences, with the ultimate victors moving up to the Lowland League. This system has the potential to be a highly competitive and engrossing league. There are a variety of clubs in terms of stature and finance in each conference, but the quality of football should be both entertaining and exciting.
So what would one pay to watch this level of competitive football? Well, Linlithgow Rose – one of the historically more successful Clubs in the new set up have just announced their prices for Season tickets – £72 for adults and £36 for concessions. Other clubs in the League like Camelon, charge around £6 per match illustrating the ballpark admission prices. If we take the average Scottish premiership Price of £25 a single match ticket and the average National Team price of £40 a ticket – this represents exceptional value for the football fan. The community benefits of these clubs is also something that cannot be understated, they mostly have strong links with youth football in the area and can all benefit from additional support.
In the forthcoming season therefore, taking in competitive and high quality matches in the East of Scotland League is certainly recommended.
A New SPFL Season
If the East of Scotland League as mentioned above, with terracing and a more rough and tumble style football is a bit too rustic for you, then there are also affordable options within the SPFL league system.
One club who always offer a great day out is Stenhousemuir in League 1. From general admission of £12/13 (unless in exceptional circumstances), £15 a month for Season tickets (or £180 up front) and free season tickets for kids this again offers great value.
Another aspect which is often overlooked is the corporate hospitality side offered by clubs. Stenhousemuir offer one of the best in Scotland. For £65 per person, fans can enjoy a free bar, 3 course lunch, seats in the stand for the match, half time drinks and sandwiches then further drinks/teas/coffees refreshments and post match pies. From experience, this is a brilliant day out and totally worth the admission fee – especially if you consider a £12 entry anyway, drinks, lunch, extra food for a group of friends. The Chief Executive of the Club also emailed all former hospitality customers offering special discounts for the coming season – a nice, personal, touch seldom seen from clubs nowadays.
The football is of a decent standard, competitive and fast paced as you would expect from this level. League 1 is always highly competitive with most seasons being pretty cut throat and only a handful of points separating most of the league most years.
As above, “Stenny” are also a community club and so support and people through the turnstiles or enjoying a lovely bit of steak pie in the hospitality suite is always going to be of benefit at a grass roots level.
The above are just examples of a couple of clubs at different levels in Scotland. Pricing varies between clubs of course, but these do represent the average. These demonstrate that value can be found in the lower leagues and given that these leagues and competitions where these teams are involved in have already started competitive football, represent really enticing and encouraging opportunities to fulfill your football fix both in these summer months and during the main season. Here at thefootballblether we would encourage everyone to try these options out!!