Scotland’s coefficient slide is second worst in Europe
Only Latvia’s standing in European competition has shown more significant decline.
Scotland's standing in European club competition has fallen at a rate only beaten by one other nation, a UEFA study has revealed.
The drop in Scotland's coefficient, a score calculated from the results of SPFL teams in European games, has been severe in the last decade. Only Latvia has shown more significant decline in the overall performances of its clubs in the Champions League and Europa League.
UEFA's Benchmarking report, which collates information directly from over 700 member clubs, provides an annual snapshot of the state of the game at a continental and an individual national level. The figures on performance make grim reading for fans of Scottish football.
In the report, which covers financial year 2014, it is noted that Scotland's place in the coefficient ranking has fallen from 11th to 23rd in ten years. Only three nations suffered a double-digit drop in the rankings with Lithuania falling 10 places, Scotland by 12 and Latvia by 14.
UEFA's document also draws comparison between on and off-pitch performance, noting the results from the UEFA club coefficient over a five-year period alongside the average spend of each nation's four largest clubs.
The average five-year spend is taken from figures supplied to UEFA for Financial Fair Play and includes all costs and net costs incurred by clubs from financial years 2010 to 2014.
The study's figures show a clear relationship between average spend and achievement in Europe overall but Scotland are shown to be clear underachievers with only Norway, Estonia and Kazakhstan comparable or worse in their return of results against spend.
The associations' club coefficients rankings are based on the results of each association's clubs in the five previous UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League seasons.
Therefore, the decade-long decline is despite Rangers' run to the 2008 UEFA Cup final, Aberdeen reaching the group stage of the same competition the previous year and Celtic's achievements in qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League in 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2012-13.
The rankings don't just give an indication of each nation's standings in the European game but are also used for the allocation of places in the Champions League and Europa League.
UEFA's report covers up until last year's competition finals but results this season have seen Scotland slip further to 25th out of 54 nations.
The report also details the rise and fall of coefficients over the decade and the fluctuation in Scotland's fortunes over that period are laid bare.
The high point over the last ten years was 2008 when our club's were ranked 10th best on the continent. That was due in no small part to Celtic reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League that season while Rangers made a run to the final of the Europa League.
The low point in the period measured by UEFA came in 2013 when Scottish sides were ranked 24th overall. With the coefficient being measured over a five-year spell, the results from 2008 'dropped off' the calculation.
Nobody in Scotland has to be told that results from our representatives in Europe have been poor for quite some time but the issue is thrown into focus when the governing body sees the decline as one of the headlines from its report.
Unlike other aspects of the report like commercial activity or attendance figures, there's no wide range of possible remedies. Only by winning games will the coefficient be fixed and it's a long road back to the level we enjoyed ten years ago.
The decline has a direct effect on the challenges facing clubs since the point of entry in the competitions is determined by ranking. In that respect the damage has already been done.
Our clubs have been starting the qualifying rounds at an earlier and earlier stage over the last few years and there's realistically only one further drop to make. From 26th place down the cup winners enter the Europa League at the first qualifying round instead of the second but that extra tie isn't going to make a significant difference when our sides are struggling against almost any level of opposition at present.
The dismal picture painted of the past needn't be an indication of the future though. The report also highlights the dramatic changes in Romania in recent years, where the nation plummeted from 7th to 22nd in the space of just a few years. From that low in 2012, Romania's clubs have put together a series of results that have seen them climb to 15th.