Our esteemed manager Harry Redknapp has gone on record to declare that he’d like to see Rangers and Celtic in the Premier League.
I can’t say that it’s an idea that I’ve ever been that interested in, but not because of reasons of self-interest.
Anyone who doesn’t think that Rangers and Celtic would be a success in the Premier League is delusional. It would undoubtedly take time, but they are massive clubs and once the money started rolling in, their squads would soon be transformed.
Look at Rangers in the late eighties/early nineties. They could offer top wages and had no problem in attracting the best English talent to Glasgow. With more money and the promise of playing in a top league like the EPL, there’s really no limit on the quality of players that these clubs could attract.
With Spurs looking to break up the stranglehold that Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United have held over the Premier League, it might seem like the inclusion of the two Glasgow giants would only push us further down the pecking order.
I’m not so sure. Having more teams in the league that can compete financially with the Sky four, means that the best players are spread across a greater number of teams and could make things more competitive.
We’ve seen this with Manchester City this season. If they weren’t in the market for top players, then Adebayor and Toure would still be at Arsenal, Tevez might have remained at United and Barry could have ended up at Liverpool. The top four would be even stronger than they are now, but instead it looks as if there might be six or seven teams in the hunt for Champions League football this season.
In terms of what it would mean financially, I’m not sure that Rangers and Celtic would add that much value. The Premier League is already a very attractive package for foreign broadcasters, though there probably would be a boost to the value of the domestic rights.
Both sides could always be guaranteed to sell out their away allocation for every game, which would boost attendances, though this is really more of an issue for the smaller Premier League clubs such as Bolton and Blackburn, rather than a team like Spurs who sell out every match.
So it makes some financial and footballing sense, but I’m still against the idea. What worries me is what will happen to the rest of the Scottish league. Without Rangers and Celtic, every other team in Scotland would be financially compromised.
In a scenario where the Scottish league remains as it stands, only without the Old Firm, the likes of Hibs, Aberdeen and Hearts would have more chance of qualifying for Europe, but would get far less domestic television money and attendances would be lower.
You could allow the remaining Scottish teams to be involved with possible promotion to the expanded Premier League of two divisions, but it’s far more likely that the Scottish league would just be left to die a lingering death.
There are further implications. FIFA will begin to pressure the home nations to combine as a Great Britain team and if the move proves to be a success, who’s to say that the top Portuguese teams won’t follow suit and join La Liga?
Ultimately I think such a move will move the game further towards some sort of combined European league. This crackpot scheme is the brainchild of Bolton’s Phil Gartside, but perhaps he should consider the likelihood that his team would be involved in a further breakaway. No one really wants them in the Premier League, so why would Barcelona and AC Milan want to play them?
All of this talk is driven by money, but the strength of football is the fact that it’s a meritocracy. The way things currently exist, it is theoretically possible for any team to rise through the leagues and triumph in European competition. Once you start tampering with this system, to protect certain team’s self-interests, then there’s a danger of killing the goose that laid the golden egg.