Tuesday, March 4, 2008

When one relegation becomes two

Gretna FC, best known as the only Scottish club to win three consecutive promotions, have had all kinds of problems this season. They started off with a coaching debacle, struggled to pick up any points as the season wore on, had payroll problems last month, and now face double relegation. The best part? Reading in between the lines of the article and the problem, it seems that they will fall two divisions whether or not they do enough to survive in the SPL. And you Scousers all thought you had a problem club to support.

Gretna, 11 points from safety with 11 games to play, are almost certainly going to be relegated from the SPL the normal way. According to the SFL, which administers Scotland's First, Second and Third Divisions, they won't be welcome in the First Division either. It seems that two seasons ago, in order to be granted promotion from the Second to the First Division, Gretna promised it would renovate its home park to better accommodate the crowds, especially the away fans, at that level. They did not. In fact, Gretna were seconds away from automatic relegation last season because of their stadium, when James Grady fired a winner against Ross County that put the Black and Whites in the SPL.

The SPL, who had previously approved a groundsharing plan with Inverness CT sharing Pittodrie with Aberdeen, agreed to let Gretna share Fir Park with Motherwell while Gretna's ground got updated. As mentioned above, the renovations are not happening, and now, the SPL will no longer allow groundshares. Fir Park took too much of a beating being used every week, and as the weather turned bad over the winter, too many games were postponed for unplayable pitches. To try to avoid this happening again, the SPL is doing away with groundshares.

So, it comes down to this. Gretna, whose Raydale Park is not up to SPL standards, will be relegated even if they amass enough points to stay up. The SFL, who run the First Division, will not allow Gretna to be in that division either, pushing them down to the third flight. Gretna, with aging owner Brooks Mileson, will likely sink back into football obscurity, at least until they get another footballing doctor to score their goals, now that they sold off the one they had.

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