Falkirk’s relegation could be ‘blessing’ for town, says pub owner

Town businesses are hoping attendances at The Falkirk Stadium will pick up next season if the club performs well in Scottish League One. Picture: Michael Gillen
Town businesses are hoping attendances at The Falkirk Stadium will pick up next season if the club performs well in Scottish League One. Picture: Michael Gillen

Falkirk Football Club’s relegation to Scottish League One could be a “blessing in disguise” for the town itself.

That’s according to Falkirk Delivers chairman and life-long Bairns supporter Brian Flynn, who reckons businesses in the area may actually benefit from the team dropping into the third tier of Scottish football for the first time since 1980, depending on performance levels on the field.

As both a leading figure of the town’s Business Improvement District (BID) and owner of Behind The Wall, Brian is well placed to offer his opinion on how pubs, clubs and restaurants will fare once their hometown club begins life in a lower division.

The Bairns’ board has been met with a backlash from irate fans since Falkirk’s relegation from the Scottish Championship was confirmed on Saturday, despite a 3-2 home win over champions Ross County.

Given the fact a protest was held outside the stadium post-match, town centre eateries and watering holes could be forgiven for bracing themselves for a downturn in footfall when the new season starts in August.

However, Brian believes the opposite may be true — provided the Bairns are serving up a product worth watching, albeit against opposition of lesser quality.

When asked how the club losing its Championship status might affect the town, he said: “I don’t think it will make a huge amount of difference.

“I think the diehards will still come out.

“It hasn’t really sunk in. It’s just a travesty that we are going down.

“If they put a winning team on the pitch it might have a positive effect on how people are feeling generally — it could be a blessing in disguise.

“There was an initial backlash because it has been so long since we were in the third tier or faced relegation generally.

“With Jim Jeffries in the early 1990s we were playing great stuff and got back up to the SPL.

“The club will struggle with season ticket sales but Behind The Wall will still continue to support the club when we can.

“Generally, the fans have stood by through thick and thin and, from a business point of view, that’s good.

“A team that’s entertaining always brings the punters out but obviously relegation’s not great for the club.”

Should Stenhousemuir see off the threat of being relegated via the play-offs from Scottish League One, there is the potential for a local derby next season.

That fixture won’t rake in as much custom for town centre businesses as days gone by, however, when Falkirk would host top flight fixtures against the likes of Celtic and Rangers.

Yet Brian, who has worked at Behind The Wall for more than 30 years, insists that is as much to do with the relocation of their home ground in 2004 than anything else.

For now, though, he’s hopeful his fellow supporters will back both the club and the town’s businesses in what is a time of desperate need.

Brian added: “When Brockville was there, 6000 or 8000 were in the town on a Saturday.

“The fact the stadium has moved isn’t great for us.

“We run a shuttle bus on a Saturday and people come back to the town.

“It’s difficult to tell how business will be affected but we will know fairly early on in the season.

“Falkirk’s core support is fantastic, we get 5000 every week when we are struggling.

“If we are playing decent stuff in the league below, you’re still going to get that number turning out.”