D-Day for decision makers
TODAY is D-Day. The twelve chairmen of the Scottish Premierleague clubs will sit down to decide the fate of Falkirk's promotion bid. And the Bairns can only wait in hope that at least seven of them back their case.
The Falkirk Herald has a copy of the document on which every Falkirk fan is pinning their hopes, and can reveal the key points on which the case rests.
After months behind the scenes negotiation, Falkirk have secured a priority tenant status for SPL compliant Airdrie's Excelsior Stadium for next season. After years of disappointment and delay the first sod at 'The Falkirk Stadium' at Westfield will finally be cut this Sunday. The new stadium will be ready for the start of the 2004-2005 season.
Together with the biggest and best support in the first division and concrete plans to establish Falkirk as a long term force in Scotland, it adds up to a persuasive case which meets all the criteria. The only problem is that several clubs will come to the table with their minds already made up. Self preservation is a powerful thing.
Club chairman Campbell Christie said: "We have ticks in all the boxes. If we aren't accepted it won't be because we haven't met the criteria. I'm quite confident. I think it's important that the SPL make their decision on an objective basis."
It is not certain whether the decision will be made today. Indeed, it seems likely that the decision could be delayed while several clubs consider their vote.
While Falkirk's cause has received widespread support, there have been no shortage of knockers, arguing the club had only itself to blame for their situation. Among the ill-founded claims are:
Other clubs had to pay to bring their stadium up to scratch Falkirk are putting all their proceeds from Brockville, which was never suitable for redevelopment, into the new ground.
The rules shouldn't be changed mid season to suit one club The rules are not being changed, Falkirk's bid complies with them all.
Falkirk have spent money on players rather than facilities In the five years since the current board took over, Falkirk have substantially reduced player costs, losing their best players along the way.
Falkirk's case opens with a clear statement. "In the event of winning the Scottish Football League First Division Championship and the right to promotion to the Scottish Premier League, Falkirk FC has ensured that appropriate access to a compliant football stadium is available until its own new, fully-compliant stadium is ready in time for the start of the 2004-2005 football season."
The lease agreement with Dudley Developments Ltd, who are taking over ownership of the stadium from KPMG, provides the club with "the exclusive right to use and occupy the stadium on such days as are necessary to fulfil all the obligations of FFAC in respect of the Scottish Premier League, Scottish Cup and CIS Cup fixtures and all other related football requirements".
Should there be any further delay in completing the new stadium Falkirk have guaranteed that they can stay at Excelsior Stadium until it is ready. The club's successful youth and community programmes, and even the amazing response from fans to this summer's Czech trip, have all been highlighted as the club establishes its credentials.
If they are knocked back the club face the prospect of another season in the first division based at either Broadwood in Cumbernauld or Ochilview in Stenhousemuir. However, they could have the basis for a legal action against the top flight having met all the criteria set down.
Either way, Brockville is due to be knocked down at the start of June to make way for the new Morrisons supermarket.
The case ends: "We believe Falkirk FC will be a credit to the SPL as a Board, as a business, as a team and as football supporters who are as loyal in following their team away as they are at home." Whether they'll get the chance is the $64,000 question.