In my young living memory <20 years, neither Cardiff or Swansea have featured in the top tier of the English Football divisions, though both of which are proudly Welsh, fly ‘The Red Dragon’ and compete in a fiercely contested Welsh Derby fixture. Despite their unique patriotism they remain largely governed by the English FA, operating in the English Football league, slugging away in the lower divisions and fighting to be promoted.
However, the play-off fixtures this season represent a real chance for an all Welsh final, and therefore, a 50% chance we’ll have a Welsh team in the Barclays Premier League. Something which has had the English, and the Old Firm as interested spectators.
My thought of a British Premier League has been mulling around my mind since I was a season ticket holder, in The Broomloan Stand of Ibrox, home of Glasgow Rangers FC. Seeing themselves and rivals Celtic dominate the Scottish Football scene for the last 25 years has deterred fans of the other clubs from attending games, and despite the ever-likely sell-out at Old Firm matches, weekly attendances to the so-called ‘lesser games’ have suffered for the Glasgow giants, too.
So what is the logistics of having a unified British Premier League? With the realistic possibility that it will no longer an all-English affair, I believe it’s time the matter is properly addressed. Though the English PL teams have rejected the above notion, emphatically. Most recently in 2009.
Now, first things first, on a political level, the ever pushing strive for devolution by the Scottish National Party is likely to hinder the prospects of such, and the ability of the nations to retain an individual status when competing the eyes of FIFA/UEFA will remain the key talking points in getting this to work. The Barmy/Tartan Army’s and the Welsh equivalent will always want to have their voice. But other aspects can be beneficial to collect the full debate.
Many deterrents to the inclusion of the Old Firm come back to the logistics of supporters travelling to and from matches, and how expensive it could work out to the average ‘working class man’. Whilst I agree, I must highlight the fixtures of Newcastle/’Boro/Sunderland vs Portsmouth/Southampton et al. And the lengthy trips they pose, and the attendances don’t seem to have any irregular effect. Not to mention the UK as a nation isn’t a sizeable as Spain/France/Italy etc, and teams like Santander/Sevilla, Bordeaux/Toulouse, Palermo/Juventus still seem to take a fair support. So in other countries it seems to be a relative success.
Secondly, to this point, how would the clubs be filtered in? Who would determine the abilities of certain clubs to compete at a certain level? The power to place the clubs into the certain leagues would need to lie with the already existing English Clubs, and I do not think any club would have the right to enter straight into the Premier League, perhaps, Old Firm – Championship, Hearts/Hibs/Motherwell/Aberdeen – League 1, the rest League 2, have Scottish 1st Division teams in the Conference and then have a detached Conference Scotland which would engage in play-off’s with the conference north/south England which would host the remaining Scottish division 2/3 sides. Given 3/4 years the teams would naturally find their ‘place’.
I think the stature of the clubs are not in question, Rangers being won of the most decorated clubs in World football, and Celtic winning a European Cup that even the likes of Arsenal & Chelsea cannot boast, their Stadiums feature in 6th & 10th on the List of British Stadia by capacity and season ticket sales are always huge, year on year. Twitter-er Rio Ferdinand ‘rioferdy5‘ also stated that Old Firm clubs have the best atmosphere (see 3 up from bottom). What they as a pair can bring to the Premier League is a proper derby with fan bases to match the top 4. As well as such, both members of the Old Firm have recently featured on the Deloitte football rich list, though not since 2008, another feature of the decline of Scottish football. It must be opinionated that if they featured in the EPL, or BPL, along with their fanbases and large stadia, their ability to generate sponsorship money, they could be able to compete on the highest level, given time.
The main factor I see, which preserves the SPL in a negative light, and the one factor which does not apply to the Welsh pair, is the massive sectarian problem, highlighted recently with the fiasco surrounding Neil Lennon, and the recent Euro supporters bans imposed on Rangers FC. Until the Government interfere, and work with the SFA and both clubs to rid the problem completely, a unified, well, Scottish included, league is possible. Which is another blog entry, but quickly, I’d give both clubs point deductions as punishments, that would quickly stop it, and play Old Firm games behind closed doors for a season.
Until then, the possibility of a British League Cup remains the safest option, that would act as a catalyst to kick some life into the competition and give it some credentials, as well as a good trial basis to see if the a British Football League could operate. Although, once again, I believe the SFA made the proposal and it wasn’t viewed with much excitement
Follow @markbritton7 for daily opinions.
Over and out.