In 2012, the Scottish Premier League suffered a massive setback: Glasgow Rangers, one of the two powerhouses of Scottish football, went into liquidation and were subsequently demoted to the lowest tier of Scottish football. This meant that only Celtic remained as recent title winners in the SPL, creating a league whereby there was only ever going to be one winner. And win they did, running away with the title last season and seemingly poised to do the same in 2013/14.
For a number of years, many commentators have campaigned for Celtic (and Rangers, before their financial problems) to enter the top tier of English football, something that would give them the competition they need in order to develop into a really great football team. They’ve always been shouted down though, and remained in their own league, stunting their growth and denying them the millions of pounds received by every Premier League team each year. So, should they now be given the chance to prove themselves against better opposition by switching to the Premiership? Well, in short, the answer is a comprehensive no, for a number of different reasons.
For teams in the Championship – and lower down the English leagues, for that matter – getting into the Premier League is the ultimate goal. It is the way to gain massive amounts of money but more importantly it allows them a shot at glory, playing against some of the world’s best players. Now imagine having to tell the team that has finished third in the Championship, and who are favorites to win the playoffs, that they aren’t going to get their chance because Celtic will be given their place instead. Is this fair? Is it right that a whole season of trials and tribulations comes to nothing in order to accommodate a foreign team? It obviously isn’t, and doing so would make an absolute mockery of the promotion system.
There’s also the possibility that an extra team would have to be relegated from the EPL in order to allow Celtic to get in and this is clearly not fair either. Getting relegated costs a club tens of millions of pounds and can be enough to bankrupt them. Is it right that a team should suffer so much simply to help a foreign club?
The only way to fairly introduce Celtic into the English league would be to have them start at the bottom. Somehow, it is unlikely that Celtic will react favorably to an away trip to Wakefield in the Northern Premier League (the eighth tier of English football). Therefore, staying in the SPL may be their only option.
There’s no doubting that Celtic is a massive club, with loads of supporters and the potential to become a giant of the game. The problem with this is that the same holds true for Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday/United, Nottingham Forest, and a load of other huge clubs wallowing in leagues below the Premier League. This means that simply having the potential to be great isn’t enough to get into the Premier League, otherwise these other massive clubs would already be there.
As hard as it might be to accept for fans of the club, Celtic simply aren’t good enough to play in the Premier League. When the Celtic squad is looked at, it doesn’t even compare to the squads of even the worst teams in the Premier League. In short, they would be in a relegation fight in their first season.
Bringing Celtic into the Premiership wouldn’t only adversely affect the English league, but the Scottish one as well. Currently, the SPL at least has one big team playing in it; a team that brings in the crowds when they come to town, therefore helping to keep gate receipts for other clubs higher than they would be. Imagine if they left – the SPL would be a league completely bereft of quality, a league that would completely fade into insignificance under the shadow of the mighty Premier League (even more than it does now).
Rangers also have to be considered, because it will only be a few seasons before they are back in the top tier of Scottish football. As a team equally as big as Celtic, they will have a legitimate claim to also move to the English leagues, which would create the same problems all over again. Laying down a marker now and ensuring Celtic continue to play their football north of the border is the only way to preserve both the English and Scottish leagues, both in the short term and also well into the future.
This is an opinion piece written by Ilan Hurwitz. Ilan runs the Australian web site Football Jerseys Online where you can purchase jerseys from all the top European leagues including EPL, SPL, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga.