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It seems we overuse the word “crisis” here at Pitch Invasion in these daily Sweeper roundups, but it is appropriate in this case as a terrible summer for Scottish football got worse with Livingston’s demotion from the first to the third division “for breaching insolvency rules.” It’s hard to feel sympathy for the original British Franchise FC, but it’s left a considerable mess. Airdrie United and Cowdenbeath would be promoted to the First and Second Divisions to fill the respective holes, but an appeal from Livingston could delay that for at least a couple of weeks, and leave many games in limbo.
Furthermore, given the broad financial crisis in Scotland exacerbated by the collapse of Setanta, many clubs are concerned this demotion sets a tough precedent. Dundee’s chairman said that, “People know there is no great love between Livingston and Dundee, but that does not mean we can sit by quietly and watch when a fellow member club has been wronged. I have written to (SFL chief executive] David Longmuir to express our disappointment at what we feel is an inappropriate punishment. There are some very difficult economic times ahead and, if every club that goes into administration is relegated to the Third Division, we could have a very big bottom division by the end of the year.”
We’ll have more on Scotland’s crisis today, with a piece on the serious suggestion the league takes a leaf out of MLS’ book and switch to a summer schedule. Here’s the news from elsewhere in the meantime:
- ESPN added Premier League rights on US television to its growing soccer stable, with two games a week set for ESPN2. Given the channel’s far greater distribution than FSC or Setanta, this will further explode interest in the Premier League — how helpful will this be for the growth of the sport as a whole here? More and more kids will start picking an English club to support. Will many of them also support their local MLS or USL team?
- Speaking of ESPN, they’ve published an excellent photo-essay on US Soccer’s summer by Wayne Drehs.
- And US Soccer launched a new version of their website yesterday. It’s without doubt a step-up from the information-packed but horrendously clunky predecessor. Design-wise, it’s cleaner; the dual top and bottom navigation is a little unusual but it gets the job done. The site still needs more consistent content — the US Open Cup page has only six news articles in the past four months! Notable is the attempt to engage the community by the addition of forums. This isn’t exactly the cutting edge of social media, but along with the founding of the official supporters’ club it shows a willingness to engage the hungry US soccer audience. It’ll be interesting to see how heavily the forums are moderated: how much Big Soccer-style criticism of Bob Bradley or US Soccer will be tolerated? Where will they draw the line?
- Chivas’ owner Jorge Vergara, who always seems to be described as “colourful”, is featured in the LA Times — an entertaining piece on a man who doesn’t wear socks since he sees no reason to, while keeping Chivas as Mexico’s most popular team (by this account, anyway) and sticking — just about — to their all-Mexican policy.
- An interesting little piece on an MLS intern turned soccer agent, one of the few feeding the pipeline from Argentina to MLS.
- US Soccer’s MNT blog notes that SportsCenter’s special on ESPN outside the Azteca before U.S.-Mexico World Cup qualiier next week “marks the first time in its 30-year history ESPN will air a pre-game show for a scocer event it is not televising.” (The game is on TeleMundo, owned by competing network NBC).
- Match Fit USA looks at the continued efforts of the St. Louis MLS expansion bid to find a suitable stadium, with yet more prospective promising plans. Still, they will need to find another investor with deep pockets before they get the nod from Don Garber.
- Another sign that the Premier League is not immune to the global financial crisis — The Times reports “that total shirt sponsorship for the 20 top-flight clubs has slumped from a peak of £75 million two years ago to £65 million.” The growing gap between the haves and the have-nots is seen in Portsmouth’s £250,000 three-year deal, compared to Manchester United’s £14m sponsorship just for their final season branded by AIG. The top clubs are able to attract big money global brands — but any club in danger of relegation is a far poorer draw.
- The Melbourne Victory’s ambition to become a ‘super-club’ by branching out to other sports has been scuppered by the Australian Football Association. An interesting situation, as some argue the club should be investing in football, while others see potential future revenue streams lost.
- Amusing ads, #1: A Liverpool-London return faster than Robbie Keane (Virgin Trains)
- The Bundesliga is back! Champions Wolfsburg kick things off today against VFB Stuttgart, as Europe’s most entertaining domestic league returns.