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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Old Firm Need to Cross The Atlantic

Written by on March 29, 2012 | 9 Comments »
Posted in Celtic, Rangers

This is a follow-up to an article that appeared on Fox before the Old Firm match last Sunday. The first part described the background to this weekend’s Old Firm derby and why speculation about any or both of the Old Firm teams jumping to the English League is pure day dreaming….or a nightmare depending on your viewpoint.

This article lays out what might be a more viable suggestion that would help not only the Old Firm but other “big fish in small ponds” teams.

The motivation for the Old Firm escape committee – if it does exist – is built on a simple assertion. Football at the highest level is reliant on TV rights money and only countries with large populations can potentially generate large rights fee. England has a large population as does France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Scotland does not. Neither does the likes of the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries. Something else these countries have in common is a history of only two or three teams dominating domestic play.

That reality underpinned an idea that was initially floated by PSV Eindhoven about ten years ago. The proposal called for an Atlantic League with representation from the aforementioned countries.

The original proposal was nixed by UEFA but, like the Premier League proposal, the idea has never been completely put to death.  

UEFA have repeatedly expressed a concern over any form of multi-national Atlantic League but even with advent of Financial Fair Play the gulf between have and have not clubs is unlikely to shrink.

A look at the 2012 Football Money League produced by The Deloitte Sports Business Group shows that the financial clout of teams in the big five leagues of Europe is undeniable.

The top twenty are all from England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany.

And despite the presence of five clubs from Switzerland, Russia, Cyprus and Portugal in the last 16 of this season’s Champions League the long-term trend is still very much in favor of the big five leagues.

The Atlantic League (preferably with a mechanism that allows for promotion/relegation from still functioning national leagues) seems to offer a viable television market with a population of  just over 40m.

With a solid financial foundation teams from Scotland, Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium and the Scandinavia would be in a far better position to mount more realistic challenges in the Champions League.

Naysayers may point out that by consolidating to an Atlantic League there would be a reduction in available Champions League spots. True, but the countries that might contribute to an Atlantic League are struggling to make inroads as it is.

At least three automatic spots could be expected for an Atlantic League and one other through play offs. That is not much different than the five that made the group stage in 2011 and four this season.

If UEFA could find a way to overcome their reticence they might just see that a more balanced future requires an amalgam of regional and national leagues.

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9 responses to “Old Firm Need to Cross The Atlantic”

  1. Gus Keri says:

    First of all, Bobby, I thought “crossing the Atlantic” is synonymous to “travelling between the two worlds, the new and the old.” I didn’t know that going from Scotland to the Netherlands is also crossing the atlantic.

    The Atlantic league idea opens a can of worm.

    If you form a 18-20 team Atlantic league, what will happen to the domestic leagues which are losing some of their best teams? It will be a killer blow to many other clubs.

    Promotion and relegation will be hard to implement when the top teams don’t play in their domestic league and if they do, fixture congestion will be horrible.

    This would be also suicidal for the Europa league; and we know how hard Platini is working to make it a prestigious cup as close as possible to the UCL.

    One more thing. if UEFA approves the Atlantic league, they will not be able to refuse a similar ideas like the Eastern European Super league which is being discussed also.

  2. Gus – that is one of the points I wanted to make. The future is an amalgamation of regional and national leagues that offer each a decent base of fans 40- 60 m. If that doesn’t happen then the future will be one European League with 20 super super teams – the NFL model.

    Your option seems to be the status quo while I think such thinking only brings the European super league to us quicker.

  3. Gus Keri says:

    I understand your point, Bobby. But just like the idea of Cup Winners’ Cup’s return, it’s just romanticizing.

    The way I see it, the Atlantic League and the Eastern European Super League would function like a mini-Europa Leagues. Something has to give.

    Just like how UEFA fought against the Super Clubs League, they will fight against these leagues too. I don’t see it as a viable option at this point of time.

  4. Soccerlogical says:

    I hope this doesn’t offend anyone but I think that as soccer fans become more educated and familiar with world soccer they realize that the only thing the Old Firm Derby offers is atmosphere and barely any technique or skill, as the players re quite ordinary.

  5. Ed Gomes says:

    As a Benfica I consider us a big fish in a small pond. But truth to be told, Benfica happens to be 21’st on the Money League which doesn’t take transfer fees or gains into account. If it did, I believe we would actually improve on the list.
    In the Atlantic League proposal I think that any of the problems that get those leagues woud remain. Attendance revenue, due to low attendance and low ticet prices would remain. Unless your of the belief that everyone will want to pack the stadiums for those teams. I don’t necessarily think so.
    Also, who decides who’s in? Portugal has the big 3, but Sporting s hurting at ths time. Braga has played really well, but they don’t have the panache that Sportings history brings.
    Lastly, you’ll never get all the presidents to agree on the terms. All these guys and FA’s are in it for themselves. This I believe, will also be the big problem with the Super League.

  6. Gus – it anything but romanticizing. The status quo is romanticizing – a believe that the smaller league teams will once again return for their moment in the sun.

    “UEFA fought against the Super Clubs League, they will fight against these leagues too,” – interesting way to describe retreating and leaving a ton of money on the table.

  7. Gus Keri says:

    The situation with European soccer is not dissimilar to the economic status of any nation. There are the rich, the poor, and the middle class.

    Some people believe that the bigger the middle class, the healthier the nation’s economy.

    Platini’s philosophy, especially with the new FFF and getting more teams from lower ranked countries into the UCL, suggests that he and UEFA are working hard at maintaining if not growing this soccer middle class.

    Creating an Atlantic and Eastern European league will increase the gap between the rich and the poor European clubs.

    If this is romanticizing, then blame Platini.

    On a lighter note: What made you sure that Celtics and Rangers with their current form and financial situation would last more than one season in such league?

  8. J says:

    I think Gus is right that the circumstances mirror the spread of wealth anywhere else, but if that is the case, how do you make a compelling argument to the current regime that leads them to want increased competition for viewing rights and players?

    I haven’t seen any of Blatter’s crew donning sandwich boards with “No Balance/No Peace” on them.

    Balance is what you need to get from your yacht to the dock at Real Madrid Resort.

  9. Ed Gomes says:

    People always think that parody brings in more money, when nothing could be further from the truth.
    If you take baseball, a World Series of Yankees vs Cubs (huge following) would bring in the most money. Go check the ratings and revenue involving the Tampa vs whoever World Series. Nobody watched.
    In the NFL, that’s more of national sport than baseball (Green Bay is not a small market), the same takes place. The ratings and revenue earned is always higher when there’s a dominant team, no matter who they may be.
    Would La Liga be better or even survive if Barca and Real weren’t dominant. I say it would collapse. Opponents pack the stadiums verse those teams.
    In my opinion if the EPLs top 4 changed every year, the league would suffer. No one club would be able to secure CL money and it would lose its value.

    Spreading the wealth has been tried and has always failed. Keep in mind that politicians apparently never have to share anything in their equations. (sorry for political jab)

    In sports, the biggest and most loved is almost always the most hated. Juve is that in Italy, Benfica in Portugal.

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