“What do teams like Hamilton and Livingston do for our image of football in Scotland?”
“Teams with low attendances don’t belong in our top flight!”
“It’s a shambles that big teams like Dundee Utd and Falkirk are in the lower leagues at the expense of Hamilton and Livingston.”
These are just some of the views you are regularly online or on message boards regarding the so called merit of smaller clubs like Hamilton and Livingston playing in our top flight.
However, when did attendances replace on the pitch performances as merit for a team in any league? Football without the fans is nothing as the legendary Jock Stein famously said and that statement is entirely true as fans are the game. But, at times I think critics forget that Hamilton and Livingston do have very passionate fans – albeit not as many as some of our so called bigger clubs like Kilmarnock, Hearts, Hibs, etc.
Critics of these clubs also forget that lower attendances lead to lower playing budgets and lower scouting budgets which should inevitably lead to sides like Hamilton and Livi with their fan bases being stuck in the lower reaches of Scottish football as that realistically should be their so called natural glass ceiling based on attendances. However, both sides have consistently shown over the last few years that such glass ceilings – thankfully – do not exist in Scottish football.
Like attendances, Hamilton and Livingston have two of the lowest wage bills in the Scottish Premiership and even trail behind the wage bills of some clubs in the Scottish Championship yet that doesn’t stop them from competing year on year in our top flight and for me that should be celebrated.
Take Livingston first of all, under David Hopkin they were promoted from league 1 to the premiership in consecutive seasons with a nucleus of players who stuck together from the lower leagues. A wonderful achievement.
Follow that up with Hamilton, who regularly produce high quality young talents from their academy to help sustain consistent top flight football. An equally wonderful achievement.
Both clubs have shown that you don’t need a blank cheque book and 5,000 season ticket holders to be taken seriously within the top flight in Scotland and earn the right to stay there. Clever recruitment, local community values and believing in young Scottish talent are three major values that both clubs hold and have reaped the benefit of and I for one believe that this should be celebrated and praised in a footballing landscape within the UK were far too often we see unsustainable levels of money spent to try and achieve success – see Bury, Gretna and many others in the modern era as evidence of that and the stark consequences that brings for the fans of these clubs.
I would like to conclude by repeating my opening statement – performances not attendances represent footballing merit and both Hamilton and Livingston are incredibly well run examples of this in action. If only other clubs and critics of our game around the UK and beyond would take note. Football would be a better place if they did…