While a good majority of the negative attention surrounding relocation of football clubs is aimed at McDons (Milton Keynes Dons, the franchise that replaced Wimbledon F.C.), and with good reason, many tend to forget that they were not the first in Britain. In Scotland, what is now Livingston FC did the same thing in 1995 when they, then known as Meadowbank Thistle, abandoned Edinburgh in favor of a new stadium in the new town of Livingston, West Lothian.
Originally a works team called Ferranti Thistle founded in 1943, the club adopted the Meadowbank moniker in 1974 when they were accepted into the league as the SFL had regulations against the corporate naming of clubs. Meadowbank were Edinburgh’s third league club after the famous Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian and never achieved anywhere near the success or popularity of their city rivals, though they did have passionate supporters. Meadowbank played their home matches across the street from Hibernian’s Easter Road at the soulless and cold but aptly named Meadowbank Stadium, the main venue for the 1970 Commonwealth Games.
Meadowbank’s luck was hardly the best: they were once denied promotion to the Premier Division after the league decided to realign and reduce the number of top flight clubs and later would suffer an even more cruel fate as they finished mid-table and got relegated as the league again decided to realign and reduce the number of clubs in every division. Club management, lead by Bill Hunter, claimed that this, combined with a second successful relegation the following season, ruined Meadowbank financially and the club was on the verge of being closed. However, many Meadowbank supporters rebuke this claim, and despite their impassioned protest the club was moved to the Almondvale Stadium in West Lothian and renamed Livingston Football Club.
Unlike McDons, which was forced by the Football Supporters’ Federation to transfer all of Wimbledon FC’s history to the London Borough of Merton — the spiritual home of the Wombles — Livingston FC still claims all of Meadowbank’s history which includes a Scottish Qualifying Cup in 1974 and a Scottish Second Division title in 1985/1986. While the history may not be illustrious, it belongs in Edinburgh, not Livingston.
Life as Livingston has been eventful to say the least. The club has been in the UEFA Cup following a third place finish in the SPL, has won a Scottish League Cup, has been relegated and has been in administration during a period in which they were hilariously sponsored by a company called “Intelligent Finance”.
In its 14 years since the move to West Lothian the club has employed no less than fifteen managers, including two spells by Dunfermline legend Jim Leishman. Yes, Livingston’s mad boardroom, which changes as often as the managers, seems to think they are Real Madrid Scotland. The current chairman is Italian Angelo Massone who recently refused to pay the light bill at the Almondvale Stadium to show fans who had been critical of him what happens when he doesn’t put his own money into the club. The problem is, nobody seemed to care. It wasn’t really their club to begin with. To many in Livingston, it was fun while it lasted, but Manchester United are on television every weekend.
On June 30th, 2009 the West Lothian Council, who ironically helped bait the team to Livingston, announced they would sue the club for rent arrears: LFC owes the council £300,000 or nearly $500,000. This could see the club enter administration once again, and more than likely see its doors closed for the final time. The council seem willing to make a deal with Massone, who has stated he is making arrangements to pay a higher monthly fee, but if he couldn’t pay the original fee, how will he pay the new one? Not to mention the fact that the club may owe six figures in unpaid taxes.
There is a saying, “what comes around, goes around”, and it really does seem to be coming back around for Livingston. Bill Hunter may no longer be at the helm, but the spector of that day still looms large over the empty yellow seats in West Lothian. Fittingly, if Livingston go bust, one of the candidates to replace them may well be Edinburgh City, who call Meadowbank home.