Scottish clubs merging: not any time soon

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

You have two American-owned clubs on Tayside who might, just, one day reach the compromise of a ground-share but an eleventh Scottish football merger still seems a long way off.

Twa teams…ane street

In the last one hundred years there has been just one merger in Scottish football, the 1994 Highland hook-up of Caledonian FC and Inverness Thistle FC which ensured a long overdue Scottish League place for an Inverness club. Prior to 1919, amalgamations were less of a rarity: 1882 – Albion FC + Rovers FC = Albion Rovers 1882 – Cowdenbeath Rangers FC + Raith Rovers FC (unrelated to the present Raith) = Cowdenbeath 1886 – Alpha FC + Glencairn FC = Motherwell 1893 – East End FC + Our Boys FC = Dundee 1893 – Rovers FC + Vale of Lossie FC = Elgin City 1903 – Aberdeen FC + Victoria United FC + Orion FC = Aberdeen 1906 – Brechin Harp FC + Brechin Hearts FC = Brechin City 1910 – Ayr FC + Ayr Parkhouse FC = Ayr United 1919 – 5th Kings Own Scottish Borderers FC + Arrol-Johnston FC = Queen of the South 1994 – Caledonian FC + Inverness Thistle FC = Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Both Caledonian and Inverness Thistle had an abundance of history and tradition, normally key building blocks in any opposition to a merger, but the prospect on offer, belated entry into the Scottish League, made acceptable the conditions attached to a Caley-Thistle union. The new club has of course proved to be a tremendous success, but the manner of their formation was unique and was not meant to be a blueprint for others.

Since then we have seen the introduction of the pyramid system which, as intended, has added a greater degree of flux to Scottish football but, the promotion of Cove Rangers (Aberdeen) and the unlikely return of East Stirlingshire (Falkirk) notwithstanding, at present no “SPFL” town has more than one club and three of Scotland’s seven cities (Aberdeen, Perth and Stirling) are in the same position as Inverness.

This means thirty-three of Scotland’s clubs are associated with specific communities, which leaves the nine clubs based in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee as the only possible candidates for amalgamation. Of these, only two clubs provide a realistic opportunity for merger.

Those who champion a merger in Dundee, and there doesn’t seem to be too many of them within Scotland’s fourth city, argue that its football fans deserve better than is on offer under the present set-up. They assert that neither Dundee club is viable as Premiership outfits and, at best, both will yo-yo between the two top divisions, miles behind Hearts, Hibs and the Dons. Advocates of an amalgamation argue that a “Dundee City” would be double the size of any club in Scotland except the top five. The basic choice: Launch a new competitive club or continue with two clubs who never will be again.

Those against a Dundee merger naturally point to proud (and near matching) histories. Both clubs have won five major honours in Scotland, each has reached the semi-finals of the European Cup and United were the first Scottish club to reach the UEFA Cup final. Throw in a slight touch of what was called “identity and socio-historic issues” during Wallace Mercer’s 1990 attempt to merge Hearts and Hibs plus a 110-year battle for Dundee supremacy and you have two American-owned clubs on Tayside who might, just, one day reach the compromise of a ground-share but an eleventh Scottish football merger still seems a long way off.

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