Celtic and Rangers to join the Premier League?

By Jerome Butcher

All the way back in 2001 Celtic’s majority shareholder Dermot Desmond predicted that Glasgow’s Old Firm would eventually join the English Premiership within four or five years, claiming “the ball is already rolling”. Today it doesn’t seem any more likely to happen than it did back then.

It is understandable why Celtic and Rangers, Scottish champions for the past 10 years, sharing the spoils every year since the Scottish Premier League was formed in 1998, want out. It is clearly not for more domestic success nor for an easier route into Europe. Both teams have occupied first and second spot every year with the exception of the 2005/06 season when Hearts finished second behind Celtic.

No, the reason is, very simply put, purely a financial one. Just as the English Premier League and SPL were formed on furthering club’s financial benefits, so is the proposal for these two Scottish teams to jump south over the border and start competing against the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.

There exists a enormous gulf between the TV revenue within the Premier League and the SPL and despite the guaranteed Champions League places Celtic and Rangers enjoy year in year out, which as from this season onwards the Scottish champions will be rewarded with an automatic entry to the group stages, it appears they would be willing to sacrifice this and its financial benefits for a shot at the Premier League.

The recent proposals by Bolton chairman Phil Gartside, one of the longest serving Premier League chairmans and an influential member of the FA board, has re-ignited this hugely controversial issue. His proposal of a two-tier Premier League both comprising of 18 teams with two gaining relegation/promotion between them, has sent alarm bells ringing up down the country. As far as he is concerned however, it would not only reduce the gap between the ‘Big Four’ and the rest of the pack, but the top division and the rest of the football league. Debatable.

The whole plans seems unlikely to ever come into fruition given the fierce opposition there is likely to be on such a drastic move. Scottish fans are likely to be split over the issue where as English Premiership clubs at the bottom would have an even bigger task of trying to stay in the top flight and avoid relegation, whilst those vying for a crack at a European competition would begrudge the inevitable increased competition for those precious spots.

The logistics of where to place Celtic and Rangers in the English league pyramid without re-inventing it completely just to accommodate them seems outlandish. Furthermore, can you imagine two thousand Glaswegians traveling 410 miles every few weeks to watch their team play West Ham away or worse still 450 miles to Portsmouth? The whole thing just seems unfeasible.

Having said this, the issue is still making the headlines even today but with no real progress being made and just seems to fade away until the following season. A Celtic source has been quoted saying “We’re always interested in proposals that could enlarge our revenue base and increase our competitiveness, but is there anything new in these plans?”. Furthermore UEFA has, itself, shown no adversity, “We wouldn’t take a position on such a proposal,” the UEFA director of communications, William Gaillard, told BBC Scotland.

Still, whatever happens in the future nothing can take away the pure magic of one of the world’s greatest derbies, next one – May 9 at the Ibrox could prove crucial for this years SPL.

As far as this blogger is concerned the English Premier League should remain English. Can you imagine Porto, Sporting and Benfica joining La Liga?


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