Could this really happen?
The Scottish Premier League is to vote on changes to the game in Scotland following discussions at Hampden Park on Monday. The proposals include changing the make-up of the SPL from 12 teams to 10, creating an extra relegation place to be decided by play-offs, and the merging of the Premier League with the lower divisions into one Scottish League.
These plans, head of the SPL Neil Doncaster argues, would create greater financial parity between the teams, therefore making the league more competitive and successful.
This would be a step forward for a nation that finds itself floundering not only in the FIFA rankings, having plummeted to their lowest ranking since 2005 0f 66th, but also in the UEFA coefficients, with last season’s poor showing in Europe by Scottish clubs leading to Belgium taking their second Champions League spot.
However, one of the proposals being mooted that is sure to rile the Football League in England is the creation of a British League Cup, supposedly by incorporating the Scottish League Cup with the English version.
The fact that such a suggestion should be made in a manifesto for improving the Scottish League is interesting, as previous attempts at advancing the SPL centred around removing Celtic and Rangers and entering them into the Premier League. Now, it seems, the SPL would rather see the entire league have the opportunity to face English opposition on a yearly basis instead.
One issue with such an idea is the already congested nature of the fixtures throughout the Football League. Earlier in April, for example, Paul Lambert found his Norwich team facing 3 fixtures in the space of 6 days, arguably an attempt by the League to appease hungry sponsors desperate to see football being played, and televised, every day of the week. Indeed the Scottish League has already committed itself to starting on July 23rd for the 2011-12 season, 3 weeks earlier than this season, to lessen the threat of midweek games in the winter months. With the first round of the Carling Cup usually scheduled as the second game of the season for clubs outside the Premier League, the addition of another 42 names to the hat will only make for more congestion.
Another issue is that the Scottish League Cup is almost as predictable as the SPL. In the last 20 years, it has been won by either Celtic or Rangers 15 times, compared to the English League Cup having been lifted by 11 different teams over the same period of time. And with the English version already being used as an experiment by the bigger teams to test younger players or to give fringe members a game, at least until the latter stages where managers realise they have the chance to get their hands on some silverware, it could be seen as an even bigger waste of time.
What will surely anger the heads of English football most is that such an idea could be discussed without any form of communication between the two bodies, and following the Premier League’s blunt refusal to admit the Old Firm clubs to the top flight in 2009 it seems unlikely that a competition such as the one being considered will ever come to be.
Whether a bold attempt at improving the level of Scottish football or a brazen crack at regaining a place in Europe while making a quick buck, any plans for a British Cup are sure to be shot down at Hadrian’s Wall by the Football League, and probably rightly so.