Sunday, August 4, 2013

Scottish Football Rebranded

Reigning champions Celtic had to come from behind to beat Ross County 2-1 in their Scottish Premiership – a new name for an old-established 12-team league – opener. It was Darren Maatsen who pulled off a stunning third-minute goal before goals in each half from Anthony Stokes, the winner coming just three minutes from time, were enough to claim all three points for Celtic. (It was so nearly an unwanted dent to the 90-point-total Celtic manager Neil Lennon has set for 2013-14). 

A wonderful start to a new season! And also a rebranding exercise. 

After months of negotiations, Scotland's two league bodies – the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League have come under one banner – the Scottish Professional Football League, a single governing body for all 42 senior clubs. [In fact, the new season kicked off on Friday with the league still searching for a major sponsor]. 

Those involved in the process have admitted that fans are unlikely to see much difference on the pitch, with the league structure of 12-10-10-10 continuing. However, a new round of promotion/relegation play-offs between the top two tiers, in addition to the one automatic one up, one down system, will come into force this season. 

Furthermore, below the fourth tier, there will be a new Lowland League as the country makes its first step towards a pyramid structure. This new division will feature sides previously part of the East of Scotland, South of Scotland and Junior leagues. From season 2014-15, the winners of the Lowland and Highland Leagues will play off against each other for the right to compete for a place in Scotland's fourth tier against the lowest-placed side in that division. 

Celtic hasn’t been idle all this while. Its pursuit of a place in the group stages of the Champions League began against Northern Irish side Cliftonville. Neil Lennon's side won the tie 5-0 on aggregate and they are 1-0 up at the midway stage of the third qualifying round tie against the Swedes of Elfsborg. 

Celtic is the only Scottish side to have featured in group stage competition over the past two seasons. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Celtic fares better this time around.

On Saturday, at the MIMKL Toastmasters meeting, I tried my hand at humor. I was the Humor Master and I think I did alright. It was a new challenge for me but I wanted to learn to be funny! What's more, with the Humorous Speech contest just around the corner, I must learn quickly! I am just too serious! Overall, the meeting went okay and I would score it a 7 over 10. 

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