If you follow sports, you can’t have avoided all the stories in the press about the founding – and subsequent collapse – of the European Super League within the past week. The all-star competition was the brainchild of Real Madrid chairman Florentino Perez and involved almost every “big” club in England, Italy, and Spain, but collapsed almost immediately because of widespread fan protests in England.
Even though the risk of the closed-shop competition becoming a reality is now gone, fans of several of the teams involved are still protesting against their owners for signing up to it in the first place. Against that backdrop, you’d have thought that discussions about another new competition would be the last thing that any Premier League chairman would get involved in – yet it appears that some of them are.
Within the past few days, we’ve started to hear rumours about the possible formation of a new “British Super League.” In practice, this would be a redevelopment of the current English Premier League with Glasgow teams Rangers and Celtic included. You might suspect that the addition of two new teams from Scotland would result in a larger league, but that isn’t the case. The “British Super League” plan apparently involves a complete restructuring of the world’s most-watched domestic division – and the changes involved will be significant. If the plan were to be approved, the league wouldn’t grow bigger. The reverse would happen. The league would actually shed teams and get smaller, with only 18 teams involved each season.
Part of the reason that the European Super League plan failed is that it was rejected by FIFA, UEFA, and the football associations of every country affected by the plans. The same can’t be said of the plans for a drastically altered British league. The British government, which became heavily involved in the row about the Super League, isn’t thought to have any problems with these plans. FIFA and UEFA are both said to be positive about the idea.
The most controversial aspect of the plan – if the initial rumours are accurate- is the end-of-season playoff. Instead of the team that finishes at the top of the table being crowned champions, the top four teams would enter into an American-style playoff to determine who gets the trophy. While fans might be receptive to the idea of adding Celtic and Rangers to the Premier League and would probably stomach a slight shrinking of the table, this playoff aspect will almost certainly be a much harder sell.
Selling the idea to fans isn’t the only problem that the proponents of the new league would have to face. They would also need to sell the idea to other Premier League teams, with a majority of 14 votes in favour of the changes required in order for them to pass. That might be extremely difficult. By approving the plans, smaller clubs would effectively be voting for an increased chance of being relegated out of the division. There’s also some confusion about what would happen if Celtic or Rangers were to be relegated. The appeal of the Scottish giants playing in the Premier League is enormous from the clubs’ perspective. They’re likely to be less enthused by the prospect of playing in the Championship – although one could argue that even the Championship offers a higher standard of football than the existing Scottish Premiership.
It’s possible – perhaps even likely – that backers of the plan could obtain the necessary 14 votes if the clubs involved could be sure they’d earn more money in the new scenario. It’s hard to see how that could be the case. The proposed European Super League was based on the same principle that drives online slots – if you put a high-value combination together, you’ll get more money out of it. The idea of turning top-level football into an online slots attraction fit for the New Zealand Rose Slots website was repugnant to most fans, which is why it failed, but it was at least possible to understand where and how the money would be made. That’s not necessarily true about the British Super League proposal.
There isn’t an online slots jackpot-winning combination on the cards that doesn’t exist already. The biggest games would still be between clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester City, and all of those games happen already. The novelty of having Rangers and Celtic involved might drive some initial interest, but only the most optimistic fan of either of the Glasgow clubs would claim that their team is likely to pose a threat to England’s elite.
The idea of getting rid of four English Premier League teams to make way for Celtic and Rangers doesn’t appear to make much practical sense. With no disrespect intended toward fans of the Scottish clubs, the teams that would be coming into the league wouldn’t be likely to be of significantly better quality than those leaving it. Neither Celtic nor Rangers would be likely to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League with their current lineups and might not even make the top six. As the “star attractions” in the reshaped league, it would be a little embarrassing for everybody involved if they finished mid-table or worse in their first season.
Football can and should change and progress as time passes, but any changes should make practical and financial sense for the teams involved. This proposal doesn’t – to us at least – appear to tick either of those boxes. The quality of the competition wouldn’t be improved, and the financial rewards available wouldn’t be any greater. In fact, all the move would be likely to do is significantly devalue the Scottish Premiership, much as it would be nice to see anybody other than the obvious two contenders win it.
Stories about the British Super League appeared in every British tabloid at roughly the same time, so somebody must have leaked them deliberately. None of those stories contains any information about proposed launch dates or even confirmation that the plans were finalized. Stories about Rangers and Celtic joining the Premier League have been circulating ever since the Premier League was formed, but nothing has ever happened on the back of those stories in the past. Will this time be any different? Well, put it this way – we’re not holding our breath.