This is a follow-up to an article that appeared on Fox Soccer.com 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.
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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