Often gaging the status of Scottish Football inevitably draws comparisons between The English Football League system, and to the top-four divisions (League 2, League 1, Championship, Premiership) that comprise The SPFL within Scotland.
Following Rangers eventual demise and liquidation into League 2 of the SPFL in 2012, the standard of football, sponsorship, television rights deals and quality of players hurt the country.
The SPL as it was known then was essentially a one horse race. A lack of real interest, crowd attendances & quality football on display looked like a system in decline.
In 2014 however, a strange chain of events happened. Neil Doncaster, Managing Director of The SPFL decided to first re-brand the league from The Scottish Premier League to The Scottish Premiership, Championship, League 1 & League 2 and so on.
Furthermore, he made the bold push to re-distribute whatever funds were generated through the top-flight and cup competitions more evenly between The Scottish leagues.
This proved to be a timely decision.
As luck would have it, Rangers who had just won the League 1 title and thus securing automatic promotion one tier below The Premiership, would suddenly find themselves competing with familiar Edinburgh foes Hibernian and Hearts who had been relegated from above in the exact same season.
Suddenly not only was the Premiership starting to become interesting, one divison below in The Championship, games were beginning to become shown on television. Out of no where, clubs in the Championship signed players from across England, from abroad and from the above league in Scotland.
First it were Hearts crowned champions in a gruelling league 2014-15 season that saw Hibs finish second, and Rangers behind in third. Doncaster had also made a change with promotion and relegation rules where he abolished the 1-team promotion system and instead increased this to two. Partly to get Rangers into the top flight as a form of insurance, yet also to make the promotion and relegation play-offs more exciting and interesting.
Champions. Heart of Midlothian usurped a financially greater and well supported Glasgow Rangers side in 2014-15 to win promotion to The Scottish Premiership.
It has often been bandied about that Mr Doncaster has been one of the worst CEO’s of the SPFL in recent history, but whoever ratified his decision is now starting to look like a genius.
Last season in 2015-16 it was Rangers turn to finish above Hibs in The Championship to secure automatic promotion, but it was Hibs who would have the last say by meeting Rangers in the final of The Scottish Cup in what was the first final in over 110 years to be contested by two teams outside of the top flight, and ending Hibernians 114 year wait to claim the F.A. cup.
Rangers followed Hearts thereafter in 2015-16 clinching The Championship title at home to Dumbarton.
Throughout the season it was often said that those two teams were the two best teams in Scotland overall, and they both overcame Premiership sides (Celtic, Aberdeen, St Johnstone, Hearts, Dundee United, Dundee F.C and cup holders Inverness CT) to take part in the final.
Anthony Stokes rejoined former club Hibernian (on-loan from Celtic) to write his name, and the clubs name into the history books to reclaim The 2016 Scottish F.A Cup against eventual Championship winners Rangers.
Come 2016-17, it seems that some of the smaller clubs across Scotland are now able to sign players, a reversal of a few years ago were players would come to mid-table teams and sign 1-year contracts before heading south for greener pastures.
Now it seems the tables have turned. With more funds, more play-off spots available, a greater television rights deal with Rangers back into the top-flight, it seemed as if the whole league system was on vacation. The entire SPFL is on a steady rise to receive the funds required to attract a decent standard of player, competition and interest that the league, and its system, duly deserves.