Wednesday, March 31, 2010

They may come from near Lochgelly. They might not have tellys. Yes, they're dirty and yes, they're smelly, but the Cowden Family don't deserve to die. Is it too late to save them though?

Cowdenbeath FC and their supporters seem to be facing the fight of their 129 year history at the moment, as it was revealed that they may be looking at possibly groundsharing or possibly a merger with/takeover by Edinburgh East of Scotland non-league side Spartans.

Reports first surfaced on the Pie and Bovril website last week of Spartans interest. These rumours were played down as a wind up by most Cowden fans but things have since moved on apace and it doesn't seem to be just rumours any more.

Various sources are reporting various things, as is always the case at times like this. One of the majority Cowdenbeath shareholders, David Brewster, is denying all talks of a merger according to the BBC. Other reports though are saying that it isn't really a merger anyway that's being considered but a takeover by Spartans to buy the Cowden name, move them lock, stockcar and barrel to Edinburgh and have them play under Spartans name in Spartans' Ainslie Park ground.

Further reports suggest that Cowdenbeath are only looking for a groundsharing deal and have approached four clubs - Spartans, Raith Rovers, Dunfermline and our very own East Fife. Years ago, rumours suggested that they were looking to groundshare at Warout Stadium with Glenrothes Juniors but this hasn't been mentioned this time around. The Spartans groundsharing would be a no-goer anyway for various reasons and travelling to Edinburgh would soon kill off the Club altogether. We're struggling to get our own games on with our frozen pitch never mind another teams. That only leaves Dunfermline as the only viable option as far as I would think.

What is known to be fact in all of this is that the Club is in a mess off the pitch. On it, under the guidance of an exciting young manager in Danny Lennon, they have done a fantastic job and are pushing for promotion to the First, in a season that they should really have been playing in the Third if it hadn't been for the whole Livingston debacle.

Cowden's Central Park has been a shithole for a long time. Visiting fans hate going there and for it to disappear off the Scottish football landscape would not be a big loss. The Club would need to spend over £200,000 to finally upgrade the dive to SFL licensing standards and not before time as well. I really don't know how they have got away with the neanderthal conditions there for so long.

The Club don't have the money to do this, so staying at Central Park is not an option. They need to explore others and this could provide the ideal opportunity for an ambitious side like Spartans.

This of course brings up so many similarities with the whole Airdrie/Clydebank situation in 2002, so there is some history to go on for what the Scottish Football League may allow to happen.

To summarise for those readers unaware of those events. Airdie (Airdrieonians to give them their Sunday name) were runners up in the Scottish First Division in 2001/02. Their debts approached three million pounds however and they went into liquidation and dropped out of the Scottish League. A new Club, Airdrie United, were formed from the ashes and tried to get the available spot back in the league set up. This was rejected for the admittance of Gretna (and we see how well that worked out!!). Undeterred, the new Airdrie owners bought struggling Clydebank FC, moved them to Airdrie, changed their name to Airdrie United and played in old Airdrie colours. It is still as shocking and as unacceptable now as it was then. To me, I'll always chant "club killing bastards" whenever we play the scum from Airdrie.

Then of course there's the whole Meadowbank Thistle/Livingston/Mr Blobby situation from before that that more involved moving and renaming the Club than taking over them and basically killing their name off.

Formed in 1951, Scottish Cup shock specialists of recent years and currently sitting well clear in their League, Spartans tried to enter the League last season when Gretna went bust and opened up a spot. They were surprisingly rejected in favour of South of Scotland League side Annan Athletic. It's been a pretty positive decision with regards to Annan, as it turns out, but to say that Spartans were pissed off at the time is an understatement. They also didn't make a lot of friends in the process either.

With so many Clubs hovvering precariously on the cliffs of oblivion, but not showing final signs of toppling over, who knows when Spartans may get their chance again and even then, they may not be the chosen team to move up. This current situation gives them a way in and also a way in at a higher level. It might not be acceptable to many fans and not how we want to see the game going in Scotland but it's understandable why they would be considering such a move.

Cowden are our rivals. It may be the diddy derby that we don't really care about but have to as we have had no others for most of the last two decades, but rivalry aside, no Club and no fans of their local Club should be killed off for another to prosper.

If Spartans were to succeed in taking over Cowden then who knows what this might lead to with other struggling Clubs? Could Pollock Juniors buy Clyde for example? Could Glenrothes Juniors buy East Fife? Cove Rangers buying Montrose? Far fetched maybe, but it could be a whole can of worms unless the SFL act now and close such ways in. It should also be the kick up the ass that they need to get some sort of pyramid system organised to meet the ambitions of several non league sides now and in the future.

Whatever happens, I wouldn't want to be a Cowden fan at the moment. Well, let's be honest, who would actually want to be one at ANY time. Their Supporters Trust say that they have the appetite for a fight but one on their members is worryingly quoted on the beeb today as saying "I can't see the Club surviving". So do they know more than is currently out there as to how far advanced any discussions have been?

I would say at this point that if the Club does basically die (or even just move from the area) then it's the general public of Cowdengelly that are to blame. They haven't supported their local Club for years, favouring instead to go follow the bigot brothers, the Pars or the Edinburgh sides. They've had no excuse this season in particular and there'll no doubt be outrage in the local paper, but too little, too late. It's certainly a situation all East Fife fans and fans of all small Scottish teams will be able to relate to. We only attracted 213 punters to our game last night after all.

Cowdenbeath can't die though for selfish reasons. We can't lose our infamous Cowden Family song and especially not as we consider bringing back our even more infamous comic strip. Maybe we should do a collection of them as a fundraiser for them!

The following few weeks will be very interesting though. As seems to be a regular occurance now, the landscape of the Scottish lower leagues might look a bit different next season. We may be about to take the first, sorry steps towards franchise football in Scotland and that's a road all East Fife fans definitely don't want to go down.


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