Once again the idea of Celtic and Rangers joining the English league structure has raised its head. A couple of former Celts, Martin O’Neill and Tony Mowbray (both of whom are currently managing Premiership teams), have expressed contrary views on the matter.
My view, as a long time Celtic supporter, is that both Celtic and Rangers could do very well if they played in a restructured English league. Both teams have strong reputations, are well supported and have competed well with top-flight English teams in European meetings. The chance of watching the Old Firm teams playing against English sides on a weekly basis would be irresistable to both sets of fans and would see attendance at games and subscription to sports channels rocket. That would generate greater revenue for both teams, allowing them to attract better players and hence to become stronger competitively. So I think that both Celtic and Rangers would do well in a new two-tier Premier League – though it may take time for them to become established.
The fly in the ointment for the Old Firm if they made the switch would be waving farewell to European competition for a time and I don’t think either side would relish that. The fly in the ointment for Scottish football is that losing the Old Firm could be the beginning of the end for the remaining Scottish teams. Some major work would need to be done to refinance the Scottish game once the draw of the Old Firm were gone for, without them, there would be little interest from broadcasters and tv sponsorship. As Chick Young says:
It’s Saturday. St Mirren are playing Kilmarnock. Eight miles up the road Rangers are at home to Manchester United while in London Celtic are visiting Chelsea. So the spotlight is where?
It may take a season or two for that particular scenario to arise but I believe that Celtic and Rangers are both good enough and have enough ambition to ensure that it would happen.
As to the views of Martin O’Neill and Tony Mowbray, I think Martin O’Neill’s view is closer to the truth. Celtic and Rangers would grow if included in the English league structure and would also enrich that league. Tony Mowbray questions whether or not the Old Firm could attract better players than, for example, Newcastle United and whether they could be better than Newcastle. On current form, I suspect that either Rangers or Celtic would rip Newcastle United to shreds (as well as a few other Premiership teams who are in higher league positions). But that aside, with access to the same revenue streams there is no doubt that the Old Firm could be better than Newcastle United. They could, with a little time and a lot more money, be better than Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal.
I’d like to see them given the opportunity but am torn because of the inevitable impact their departure would have on the Scottish game. One day I’d have no choice but to cheer on a national side that was predominantly English as the Scottish one would have disappeared.
Of course, it is unlikely that the Old Firm will be making the move to England anytime soon. I think the main reason for that will be the fear factor amongst the lower ranked teams, as the Motherwell chairman John Boyle says:
The chances of the Premier League, which is possibly the most successful in the world, reorganising itself is a very remote possibility.
You have a situation where there are 10, possibly 12 clubs, who are in the drop zone.
Are they going to vote to potentially admit two strong teams into their body? No. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.