Celtic football club are reportedly proposing a switch to English football, one national newspaper claimed today. This would see Scotland’s joint biggest club dispose of the Scottish Premier League (SPL) and potentially join the Football League, perhaps at League One or Two level. This would surely be a welcome addition, bolstering the game not only in Scotland, but also in England.
As soon as the story was printed many narrow minded thinkers chirped of the apparent disrespect it showed to the SPL, and to the Football League clubs Celtic could be joining. They falsely claim it would damage the game in Scotland, removing an iconic institution from their grasp. Some even ludicrously believe it would negatively affect the Scottish national side, potentially toppling that renowned team of sporting excellence.
What many fail to notice are the vast benefits this would bring. This story has been written on hundreds of occasions, and there should be no particular reason for believing it would occur this time. But theoretically it makes perfect sense.
The prosperity this move would stimulate for Celtic, more than anything, is huge. Playing teams of an improved quality would be more interesting than the banality the “competition” in the SPL offers. The supporters, who are among the most loyal in the world, would therefore experience the excitement and exhilaration, which is reserved only for Old Firm matches these days, on more regular occasions.
The financial prospects are also far more enticing. You would imagine Celtic progressing up into at least the Championship in a few years, and most probably beyond. The television money alone – which stands at just £16m a season for all the clubs combined in the SPL – would be hugely enlarged. Having witnessed the unfortunate but inevitable administration of Rangers, a more secure economic situation must be welcomed by all those in the club.
To start, the inclusion of Celtic in, for instance, League Two (or at a lower level if necessary), must also be embraced. Naturally clubs will complain about a potential freezing of promotion for one season to enable Celtic’s addition, or something similar. Yet, beyond selfish interests, the league would not only become instantly more popular but also more exciting for the clubs already involved. Many lower level teams struggle to register attendances of any great quantity, and an authentically big club joining the league would, at the very least, increase interest and subsequent ticket revenues for two matches a season.
Celtic would inevitably develop into a Premier League side. The false branding of the competition as the “English” Premier League (EPL) should not halt Celtic’s introduction. Swansea, a Welsh side, already plays in the league, so a Scottish team should be afforded the same rights on those principles.
Celtic would also improve the EPL. Celtic Park, the ground housing the club, has a capacity of roughly 60,000. With the greatest respect, sides such as Wigan and Blackburn can only attract 20,000 fans to matches. For the benefit of the league, we must surely welcome a club who can draw three times the attendance than that of EPL regulars for the last decade.
And with this high fan base, which penetrates effectively across the border in Ireland also, comes greater competition. We hear pundits mumble endlessly about the “competitiveness” of the EPL being its greatest strength. If that is what everyone desires, then Celtic provides a perfect opportunity to enhance this further. A team who can generate such vast sums of revenue would gradually become challengers for the Champions League spots or beyond. I presume this sort of utopia would be craved by Celtic fans trapped in Scotland for so long.
Beyond pecuniary interest, would this move be so bad for the wider SPL either? When a whole league is defined, much like La Liga, by one fixture – Celtic v Rangers – then the state of actual competition is surely dire. Were Celtic to move, a transition by Rangers would perhaps follow. As much of the support in Scotland is for these two sides anyway, many would just be receiving better football coverage.
For the remaining SPL sides the league would perhaps not contain the stellar opposition of these two sides. But, after subtracting the two clubs’ ridiculous dominance and control, an overall more healthy game is most likely the result. The SPL would perhaps go on to reflect many of the other smaller European nations, who produce home-grown talent in a truly competitive league, and then face tougher opposition in suddenly more special and meaningful European nights.
These foreign, smaller teams can compete adeptly in Europe as well. For example, the Cypriot side Apoel Nicosia is in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and the Romanians FC Cluj and the Belgians Genk have produced draws with EPL winners Chelsea in the recent past. Perhaps removing the Old Firm would enable other Scottish clubs to develop and evolve.
For the Scottish national side the remaining clubs would also be even more Scottish focused, and the best talent nurtured correctly and efficiently. Couple this with an EPL standard academy residing in Scotland at Celtic, and greater success for the national side is the outcome.
It therefore appears a relatively logical decision to move Celtic and perhaps after that Rangers into a more esteemed league. Benefits for everyone are the only thing the decision would bring.