Tuesday, 27 July 2010

An SPL and Premiership Merger: The change that Scottish football needs but English football does not want

Newcastle United are seemingly on the brink of signing veteran defender Sol Campbell. The ex-Arsenal player is said to have turned down an offer from Celtic before deciding to join the Toon, surely that was a no brainer. The SPL is a footballing scrapyard of has-beens and never-will-bes.

There has been talks of merging the English and Scottish football leagues for quite a while now. The debate seems to arises annually, although it is unclear as to whether it is a serious proposition or just wishful thinking. The calibre of Scottish football means that this merger would only be of an advantage to those North of the border and thus has never been taken too seriously in England.

You only have to take a quick glance at the quality of the footballers who enter and leave the SPL in the transfer windows to see how large the gap is between the elite clubs in each country. Championship striker Gary Hooper has just left Scunthorpe to join Celtic while many Scottish players including Chris Boyd, perhaps the best player in the SPL, have left the SPL to join Gordon Strachan's Tartan Army in Middlesbrough, in the second tier of English football.

Georgios Samaras was recently called 'an enigma' by his manager Neil Lennon because he has been in unusually rich goalscoring form in Celtic in comparison to his less than formidable prior record. He scored 13 goals in 67 games for Greece and Manchester City but has been finding the net more regularly in Scotland scoring 26 goals in 61 games. Samaras in no enigma, he only acts as perfect example of the quality, or distinct lack of, in the SPL.

Not since Henrik Larsson has there been any great players playing in Scotland in their prime. Larsson scored a staggering 174 goals in 221 goals at Celtic but Alfonso Alves bagged 45 goals in only 39 games at SC Heerenveen before going on to struggle at Middlesbrough. Although Larsson is indisputably a better player, his goalscoring record is, nevertheless, more representative of how uncompetitive Scottish football is than of how prolific the Swedish striker was.

It is a league that is dominated by the two Glasgow clubs. The last time any club outside the big two won the SPL was in 1985 when Aberdeen lifted the trophy. If the Scottish and English leagues were to merge then realistically it would only be these two sides that would stand a chance of playing in the top flight and still, with the squads as they are, even they would struggle to secure a top ten finish.

The unification of English and Scottish football would certainly help to elevate the prestige and lure of playing football in Scotland. Currently a move to Scotland, even for someone like Sol Campbell, would be a backwards step in a footballer's career. If Scotland could feed off the success of the Premiership then teams like Celtic and Rangers could exploit their reputation and affiliations to bring much better players to their squads. The merger would, however, threaten if not extinguish the chances of any of the Scottish clubs to play European football.

The merger may help to drag Scottish clubs out of the footballing wilderness but it would be of little to no benefit for English clubs. No struggling Premiership team or side in the Championship would favour new teams entering the English leagues as it be a risk to their own position. Furthermore, its implementation would raise endless practical problems meaining that, ultimately, the long proposed merger is just not feasible.

An idea that I have heard of is the inclusion of Scottish teams in the FA Cup and I, for one, would be in favour of this. Traditionalist may not like such an idea but I believe it would add a much needed extra dimension to the competition. It would also act as a helpful indication as to how Scottish teams would stand up against their English counterparts. This is an idea that is probably an unfounded rumour though.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...


  1. Traditionalists would have no reason to complain as the FA was an invitational cup when it began. Teams from Ireland regularly participated.

    Bringing Celtic and Rangers to the PL would also mean teams like Dundee/Aberdeen/Hibs would be competing for a Champion's league spot. Though this may sound laughable, perhaps in the long run making the league more competitive by removing the old firm would be of benefit for Scottish football. They money would begin to be shared across the whole league and the overall quality would improve.
    Any thoughts?

  2. Well, FA Cup idea aside because I am unsure as to whether or not that has been a seriously proposed idea, I am unsure as to whether or not it would help the Scottish league.

    I was commenting on the idea of a full merging of the Scottish and English football leagues, which I hear or read about every so often, rather than the already rejected propsal for Celtic and Rangers to be added to the Premiership. If the Old Firm teams did leave Scotland I am not sure what the effects would be.

    Rangers and Celtic would be able to elevate their squads because they have big reputations and large fans bases. Being in the Premiership would give them greater lure to players home and abroad. They could, over time, become very competitive sides but in doing so would have to sacrifice their dominance of Scottish football and their Champions League spots.

    The rest of the Scottish league, although it may become more competitive, would surely struggle. The money would not be shared as the revenue of the league would plummet without the Old Firm teams and not even the chance to join the 2nd or 3rd round of Champions League qualifiers would salvage the quality of the football in the SPL.

    As I say in the title of the post, Scottish football needs this change to save its dwindling football but I believe a merger, even if were only the Old Firm teams, will never be accepted by the vast majority of clubs in the Premiership or the leagues below.

  3. I hope that they can do that changes. Football should evolve for a better show and they don't hesitate to do so.


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