Former Rangers defender Lee Hodson got into the news recently for ‘daring’ to compare England’s League One with the SPL.
Chris Sutton especially bumped his gums about this comment and smeared the NI stopper for smearing the SPL in this way.
But, just how accurate or fair is the comparison?
While Rangers and Celtic are the marquee clubs in Scotland’s top flight, there is a colossal drop to the next biggest which is Aberdeen – the points gulf to Rangers was huge last season, and a superb barometer of a club’s clout, prestige and size is the stadium they own.
Celtic, of course, have 60,000 at Parkhead, and Rangers 50,000 at Ibrox, with fans dreaming of expansion to numbers similar to the East End. Problem with that is the Main Stand is protected and upgrade work to overhaul the rest isn’t as easy as it was for Celtic whose old stand was borderline derelict and easy to knock down. Ibrox, by comparison, would require expansion rather than replacement and that is basically impossible without millions and millions. Money Rangers don’t have at present.
But, we digress.
Having dipped down to the next big thing in Scotland, Aberdeen, their ground is 22K – it’s actually less but we’re being generous. Tynecastle and Easter Road are both around 20K too.
And that’s it. That’s your marquee clubs. Rangers and Celtic, then a stiff drop to Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs. Rugby Park chips in at an honourable 19K as well.
But we go to League One, and while only one club nears the 50K mark, in Sunderland, there are 6 in total over 20K. Portsmouth, Bolton, Coventry, Ipswich and MK Dons of which 5 in total are comfortably over 20K (28K and above in fact) compared with the 3 in Scotland. Another three (Rugby Park, Tynecastle and Easter Road all hover just at 20K or below).
In short, it has always been this site’s belief that the SPL sits somewhere between mid League One and mid-championship. Rangers and Celtic are Championship level, while Aberdeen and below are League One at best.
Is Hodson right? He was clearly wanting to say the ‘right’ thing to his club website, but equally League One is a far better league than some give it credit for. It has a lot of big clubs who wouldn’t struggle at all in the SPL, and the standard is filled with clubs from the Premier League.
In terms of stadiums though, it’s generous at best to say the SPL is equal to League One.
Here’s a further thought to mix it all up further – Josh Windass came from League Two and did quite well in the SPL – he’s not done half as well in the Championship. Jason Holt struggled in the SPL but strolled League One. Joe Aribo came from League One and hasn’t quite set the blazes on fire in the SPL, but Greg Docherty excelled in League One.
So, what does this actually mean? Maybe the SPL isn’t so bad after all….