Aidan Smith: Orwellian reconstruction revolves round Old Firm

George Orwell wasn't really a football man. In a famous essay "The Sporting Spirit", talking about many sports but mainly football, he said it was "bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting". Of course these are some of the reasons why we love it.

But old George was spot-on in 1984 when he wrote: "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever." Some think Orwell's masterwork is a brilliantly nightmarish vision of a totalitarian state.

Myself, I reckon he was predicting the events of late 2010 when a group of men professing to have football's best interests at heart decided we should revert to a ten-team SPL. If you want a picture of the future, imagine playing St Mirren four times a season - forever. Or for as long as the SPL continues, which at this rate won't be long at all.

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Absolutely no offence to St Mirren. Buddies fans would doubtlessly be similarly crushed by the prospect of four games against my team, Hibs.

Repetition, the same old, same old, is killing oor fitba. In recent months I've interviewed two of our brightest midfield talents who've taken flight from Scotland, Charlie Adam and Kevin Thomson, and both spoke of the absolute joy of no longer having to encounter too few teams, too many times. They were referring to the current 12-team SPL, which is starting to seem like a garden of delight with a surprise under every stone, compared with the idea under discussion. So why are Martin Bain of Rangers and his cronies proposing a top league of ten - and why is Henry McLeish demanding radical reform to save the game and yet backing them?

Let's be clear: four Old Firm games must be retained. Who says? The Old Firm. Not by Bain last week, of course, but I'd like to hear Rangers and Celtic deny it. This is the point of Hearts playing Aberdeen four times; of Motherwell and Dundee United's players repeatedly bumping into each other in their four-way hall of mirrors; of St Johnstone being forced to fulfil fixtures against Kilmarnock and Kilmarnock and Kilmarnock and Kill-me-please-this-is-dire. The Old Firm derby is the SPL's sole remaining USP; the rest of us are mere grouting round the edges.

Bain insists his group's ten-team plan, plus a ten-strong SPL2, an earlier start and a winter shutdown, are for the benefit of all. Really? I would say an SPL of ten is the only way to guarantee four Old Firm games because while everyone agrees the present set-up with its split needs changing, a 14 or 16-team league would inevitably mean clubs only playing each other twice. I would say the main beneficiaries of an earlier start would be the teams who these days have to pre-qualify for the Champions League and need the match practice (Celtic and Rangers). And I would say that a winter shutdown would be most useful to the teams who've a) got the money to jet off to warmer climes and b) fancy their tattie as global brands.

While the rest of us shiver - always assuming the winter shutdown doesn't happen during a mild spell - they can be playing glamour friendlies and teaching the locals all about their thrilling rebel/loyal histories.

All week, the other SPL managers have been offering their considered opinions on the ten-team madness. "Too tight," said Jim Jefferies. "Better to have 16 or 18," said Mixu Paatelainen. Billy Reid said if the game was ever going to improve, teams had to play without fear, and play kids. As most were doing neither at the moment, it follows they'd do even less in a reduced division. McLeish said he personally favoured 14 teams but was backing the ten idea for "economic reasons". A larger league would mean smaller slices of pie, goes the argument. Yes, but more than at present would at least end up with some pie.

If oor fitba's beaks polled the fans tomorrow - ha ha, fat chance - I bet hardly any would vote for a smaller SPL.

The book on Celtic and Rangers doings things for the greater good of the game is a tiny pamphlet indeed. And someone tell me, just when was the last Old Firm classic?