Monday, April 28, 2008

East Stirlingshire does the impossible

In rather surprising news, perennial Scotland bottom squad East Stirlingshire failed to live down to its billing this season. That's right. The team that finished at the bottom of the Scotland ladder for five seasons running managed to secure a vital win on the last day and finish 41st in the 42-team four-tier league system.

To do so, East Stirling put together a pretty good stretch run--three wins, two draws and a loss in the last six games. The team that ended up finishing last, Forfar Athletic, did much worse, with only three draws in their last six matches. The end result is that East Stirling finished one point better than Forfar, and boy are they excited.

What has been left unsaid in the few articles trumpeting East Stirling's stunning 9th place finish is what it means to the club. Depending on the SFL's mood, one of two things were going to happen at the end of the season if East Stirling finished last again. Sometime in the last year, the Scottish Football League passed a new rule that put possible sanctions on teams who finished at the foot of the ladder too many times in five year period. Luckily for East Stirling, Rule 1:21 was not made retroactive when enacted.

In its most basic form, Rule 1:21 provides for two possible penalties. The first is that the club can be changed into a non-voting member of the SFL. The team would still be allowed in the league, but not allowed to take part in any discussions or votes about revenue, sponsorships etc. The second possible outcome is that the club may be voted out of the league entirely. Trust me when I say that the Third Division crowds of 500 would look pretty good to a team in the East of Scotland league.

So, Forfar Athletic, you lot are now on the proverbial clock. Get off the foot of the table next season, or you'll start hearing the whispers about being replaced by Clachnacuddin FC (or, more likely, Cove Rangers). Unless, of course, Gretna go out of existence first.

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