Scottish Premier League: Why Rangers and Celtic Move May Ruin Scottish Football

Alistair HunterContributor ISeptember 3, 2010

SPL club Celtic play English club Arsenal in the pre-season Emirates Cup tournament.
SPL club Celtic play English club Arsenal in the pre-season Emirates Cup tournament.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The threat to Scottish football may come from its two most successful clubs. In an age where politicians are considering splitting from England and the United Kingdom, Celtic and Rangers are pushing to be granted access to the more successful English Premier League. Much as this may be in the Old Firm's interest to gain as much money as possible, it is not good for Scotland.

Without the Old Firm, the league is generally unpredictable. The heart of Scottish football would shift to Edinburgh and Fife, with Dundee United and Hibernian the top two teams outside Rangers and Celtic last season. The new league may make the league more competitive, but this would generally be because the Old Firm would not be there to humiliate other teams. Creating a sense of optimism as the other teams may win the league would increase ticket sales, which is actually good for football.

Predictably, there are massive downsides to this. European qualification is likely to be a very sketchy issue, as Celtic and Rangers would be attempting to qualify in the very competitive EPL, where the top four usually have a monopoly on the tickets to the top European competition. While Liverpool may be slipping down in a way likely to be recognised by Leeds United fans, established clubs such as Manchester City and Tottenham are likely to replace them. The only other opportunity would leave them in the Scottish Cup, where it is only possible to qualify for the play-off round of the Europa League.

In the SPL, Celtic and Rangers have been dominant, but plunged into a bigger league with inferior players, they would have to spend on a massive scale to stay up there. There is probably no worse advert than clubs who believe they can compete, only to be relegated (for the worst case scenario) to the Championship, and if the the fans would fill the stadium for that then it would be stunning. Attracting the best players would also be rather difficult in that situation.

North of the border, some smaller Scottish clubs would be able to qualify for Europe. Despite sounding pretty awesome, it would be bad for Scottish football. Only one club qualified this year, and that was automatic. The rest failed. I can't see the situation getting much better if the clubs can't win in Europe, and if they can't win, the ranking goes down and we get less and less chances to compete in Europe, meaning the clubs have to be more and more successful to get back to where they were before. This could happen anyway, since no one in Scotland will automatically qualify for the Champions League next year.

Maybe I am being a bit doubtful, because there is a possibility that they would do well. However, it is unlikely that they would be as successful in England as they are in Scotland. Fortunately, the English Premier League would have to vote them in, and despite Dermot Desmond's claim that "what will dictate them [Celtic and Rangers] joining is the fans and the media companies" in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, it seems unfair that the clubs would join at the top league, rather than starting at the bottom of the pyramid like any other club.

I can't see Rangers and Celtic being allowed to switch leagues any time soon.