In the past two weeks we have seen a number of reports which suggest that Celtic and Rangers are on the verge of leaving the Scottish League and joining the English premiership. Its not the first time of course. This scenario has been talked about for years, in fact it used to be that Hearts and Hibs would also join and form a so-called “British Superleague”. Is it any closer to happening this time?
I doubt it – UEFA have already poured cold water on the idea, despite existence of a number of teams worldwide doing a similar thing – but I can fully understand why the Glasgow giants would want to leave their two team league and join the competition down south. Put simply it’s money, or more precisely television money. Those footballing giants from Bradford, Charlton and Southampton all earned far more last season than either Celtic or Rangers could even dream of*yet Celtics average home gate is over 60,000 and Rangers is near enough 50,000. Each team in the premiership receives a bucketload of cash each year from the receipts from Sky’s sponsorship of the game, amounts of money which aren’t available in Scotland purely due to the population size.
England is not alone in this case. Italy, Germany, Spain & France are all growing as the television companies (Rai, Canal+ etc) pour money into the sport. Spanish, Italian and English matches for example are shown live around the world each week and as a result the clubs in these leagues are growing bigger than ever before. However, for the rest of Europe, the “big” clubs are getting left behind. Clubs many of us consider as real giants, can no longer compete on an even footing and sadly UEFA is happy to stand by and watch it happen. Gone are the days when Celtic, Benfica, Ajax or FC Bruges contested European Cup finals. They have become innocent victims of being big teams in small countries. Celtic & Ajax in fact met this week in a Champions league qualifying match.
Last year, Celtic & Rangers got together with the big clubs from Portugal, Belgium, Holland & Scandinavia to try and form the Atlantic League. It was an attempt to form a league which would attract sponsorship and interest wide enough to enable its clubs to compete on an equal footing with Europes more populated countries. Ajax v Benfica, Porto v Anderlecht Feyenoord v Goteborg all sound much more attractive to sponsors than Livingston v Dunfermline, FC Twente v Willem II or Belenenses v Vitoria Guimaraes. On the face of it success was almost guaranteed but UEFA said no. It seems they are happy with the big fish getting bigger and to hell with the rest.
Eventually, for the good of the game, things MUST change and going by the persistent efforts of Celtic and Rangers, change may be coming sooner rather than later.