EPL2?! What is this madness?

The Premier League and the Old Firm: soon to be joined... and divided?

The Premier League and the Old Firm: soon to be joined... and divided?

I read on the BBC Sport website the other day that the proposal to increase the Premier League into two tiers of eighteen teams apiece while also introducing the Old Firm Scottish clubs into the equation is to be discussed at a Premier League meeting in November. For years now people have been suggesting that Rangers and Celtic should be inducted into the English top flight, largely because they’re clearly too good for the SPL.

However, I have to say that I am absolutely flat-out opposed to this proposal. It seems to me that whenever we hit on something good, which the Premier League undoubtedly is, those in charge can never seem to accept it for what it is and have to try and keep updating it. What they’re actually doing of course, is flogging a dead horse in the hope that it bleeds money, and I for one will be disgusted if the proposal becomes a reality.

The first problem I have with such a proposal is the extra complexity and illogicality that it would necessarily bring to the league system in English football. Back before football became a business the structure of the English football league simply went from Division One downwards until you reached the non-league Conference etc. And to be fair, there was absolutely nothing wrong with that. It worked, and everyone knew where they stood.

However, then some people with lots of money came into football and decided to spice things up a bit at the top of the scale, so they took Division One and called it the Premier League, because it was England’s… well, premier league. That was all well and good, and it’s fair to say that that venture went pretty well. Underneath the Premier League though, things stayed nice and simple, with the title of each Division just bumping down a league. Fine. Great.

Then Coca Cola got hold of the sponsorship for the football league and decided to sort of rebrand it all within itself despite the links that remained between it and the Premier League. Thus they gave Division One its own sort of prestige by naming it the Championship which was somewhat illogical given that the Champions of the Championship are technically only the 21st best side in the country. Then there were League One and League Two (what happened to divisions?) below that.

By now, it’s all getting a bit complicated, I’m sure you’ll agree. Division/League One used to be the highest or first division in the country, now it’s the third. We have two leagues whose names imply that they are the countries ultimate league although only one is and yet all the internal links between these leagues remain in tact, just as they always were. Of course, this was all done to make money and it seems to have done so. The game has benefitted from this too to an extent though, so we’ll forgive them.

However, I think that adding a second English Premier League would just be ridiculous. For a start an “EPL2” (as Peter Lawwell, chief executive of Celtic, calls it) simply doesn’t make any sense. The Coca Cola Championship is already a stretch and only really works at all because the gap between the Premier League and the Championship in terms of revenue and prestige and TV deals and general attention has become so large.

However, for me an English Premier League Two is just complete and utter bullshit. You can’t have a second ‘premier league’ because a ‘premier league’ by its very design is simply the best, highest, top, supreme league in any one system. Having a ‘two’ just doesn’t fly I’m afraid. Furthermore though, introducing an “EPL2” would involve conjuring a whole new league into existence between the Premier League (or “EPL1”) and the existing Championship.

So what would happen there? Would we just pull the Old Firm down from Scotland and the top 14 clubs from the Championship to comprise our 36? And then of course you have to repopulate the Championship from League One, League One from League Two and League Two from the Conference. And there we hit a snag. Many of the clubs in the conference may not even be capable of fulfilling the League’s minimum requirements.

To be eligible to play in the football league in England a club must meet certain criteria – I don’t know what they all are, but I know that part of it is the use of a stadium that fulfills league criteria. Many of the stadia used by conference clubs doesn’t meet this standard and clubs have been denied promotion in the past because of this. So where would these 14 extra league clubs come from? There probably aren’t fourteen more clubs in a position to become league clubs just yet, however much they’d like to.

So the real problem here is that those in charge of the Premier League have really lost sight of the fact that it isn’t a singular entity. The Premier League gets all the headlines yes, and the lower leagues sit below the surface and plod along in comparison, but the Premier League is very much still a part of the system. Making such drastic changes to the Premier League doesn’t take into account it’s place as part of a whole and that is where the problems occur.

Of course, this is no surprise. The Premier League has come to regard itself as the be all and end all not just of English football but of European football too, and even of world football. It is without doubt the biggest (though not necessarily best) domestic football league in the world and so it has become drunk on its own power and influence – as proposals such as this and the equally preposterous “39th game” shambles have illustrated.

However, the Premier League does have a responsibility to football in England as a whole. It is the pinnacle of the sport in England and the ambition of every player, every manager and every club. To simply change things up a bit and add in another Premier League would simply upset the whole system of English football and so I have serious doubts about whether it would work even if it should be given a chance – which it shouldn’t.

Of course, the driving force behind this idea seems in many ways to be related to the desire of many to introduce the Old Firm to the Premier League. This idea has been floated many, many times over the years despite little apparent enthusiasm from the fans of the Scottish clubs nor any compelling evidence that they would even belong in the Premier League in terms of quality or footballing ability. Indeed as I mentioned above, it seems driven by the fact that they are too good for their own league system.

And I can see the appeal in having the Old Firm in the Premier League on the surface at least. They are two great old clubs with loads of history, tradition and prestige. They have legions of passionate fans and great stadiums and are genuine hotbeds of football in their own right. In a way then, it’d be cool to have them in our league. But the thing is, there are plenty of clubs like that already in England.

The likes of Leeds United, Southampton, Nottingham Forest, Newcastle United, Sheffield Wednesday and a plethora of other clubs languishing in the lower divisions are all clubs of equal stature to the Old Firm. They have big history, big support and big stadiums too. Plus, they’re English, so if there is a spot open in the English Premier League, shouldn’t one of these clubs have more of a right to it anyway? Shouldn’t all of the clubs already in the league system have the right to play for it, as stipulated in the rules of the league system?

Indeed, Rangers and Celtic would be welcome in England if they are willing to accept the normal rules that apply to new clubs that become part of the English Football Association and its league structures. They must, like any new club, start at the bottom and work their way up, earning the right to call themselves members of the Premier League. After all clubs like AFC Wimbledon and FC United, who also hold wide scale support had to start in the lower echelons. Why should special rules apply to the Old Firm?

Of course, the real reason why some people are keen to see them join the Premier League, is money. It’s always money these days, and the extra excitement that these clubs could bring to the league would mean lots more income for the competition as a whole. Two more massive clubs joining, thousands more fans to support the Premier League, paying to watch its matches and support its clubs. It would add extra income to the Premier League’s already hefty financial pull.

And that’s all very well, I don’t mind the competition making money as long as that does not become the primary focus. As long as the desire to make money doesn’t outrank the succesful running of the league in terms of priorities. And in this instance (and many others) I’m not sure that is the case. Because as I mentioned earlier, I simply don’t think that the Old Firm really are worthy of the Premier League. How much success would they have?

Because in the game against Arsenal the other week, Celtic were simply outclassed. Now of course, Arsenal will outclass many Premier League teams this season too, but the whole nature of that game surprised me. Arsenal never even seemed to get out of first gear. They beat Celtic without hardly breaking sweat. It was too easy. And I don’t know that Celtic or Rangers have shown that they could compete even with the lower sides in the Premier League either.

Neither has made a serious impression on European competition in the last couple of seasons. They rarely make it to the Champions League and Rangers only made it to the UEFA Cup final a few seasons ago by playing hateful anti-football. Compare that to the exploits of English sides – consistently in the Champions League semifinals and with Everton, Villa and Man City putting in good UEFA Cup runs over the past few seasons. I don’t think they’d be able to challenge those clubs.

And the gap between those clubs and the bottom is distinct but not enormous. The likes of Wigan last season and Sunderland this look like closing it and even Hull made a go at it to begin with last time around. There are no easy wins in the Premier League, even for the ‘big four’ and yet Arsenal arguably the weakest of that ‘big four’ positively strolled past Celtic just weeks ago. Introducing such teams into the competition would then, in my belief, be irresponsible on the part of the Premier League.

They have a duty to keep it as competitive as possible, and adding the Old Firm to the competition would be done purely for the prestige and attention that they’d bring and the subsequent financial gain it would entail, not for the good of the League itself, and so two-tier league or not, I think that it would be a terrible move by the Premier League and one that would further clarify that their eyes are focused entirely on the money the competition brings, and not the football.

In total then, I’m struggling to find any positives in this proposal. And that’s without even mentioning the paradox that would see Scottish teams playing in the English Premier League. Yes, Cardiff and Swansea do set a precedent and as a fan of Wellington Phoenix, a New Zealand club playing in Australia I’m all to aware that it can happen, but UEFA “has consistently indicated that teams will not be allowed to play in leagues outside their own country” and I just don’t see that it is necessary as those other cases are.

Neither NZ nor Wales have the relative populations or financial backing to support a professional football league, but they do have the ability to support one or two professional clubs. If they weren’t allowed to field teams in the leagues of their close neighbours then such a thing wouldn’t be possible and it would on the whole be very restricting to football in those countries and would deny fans and players alike the opportunities of supporting or playing for a professional club. Scotland though, can support a professional league, so why should the Old Firm join ours?

All in all then, you can see quite clearly that I think this is a terrible idea. It seems obvious to me that the Premier League are just out to make more money, yet again, and I’m getting very tired of their attempts to use our beautiful game for their personal gain. Football is the sport of the people, and yet with every move they make the people in charge of it seem to take it further away from us. I dearly hope this scheme doesn’t go ahead, but unfortunately I’m not too confident that it won’t.

Have your say:

What are your thoughts on this proposal? Would you like to see a two-tier Premier League? Would the Old Firm be worthy additions to the Premier League? Please let me know your thoughts on this matter by leaving a comment below…

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19 Responses to EPL2?! What is this madness?

  1. Steve Bank says:

    Your points are all valid and well researched, but you’ve missed out quite a few counter arguments. It may not sway yourself, or any of the readers, but those arguments are there nonetheless.

    Firstly, it’s not the “Premier League” that is floating this idea of a second Tier, but rather Phil Gartside the Bolton Chairman.

    Secondly, the “Premier League” is a business, and was a business set up outside of football. It was not set up to have any bearing on the clubs below it or the English FA nor the structure of the English FA’s divisions. Your point that the “Premier League” has a “duty” is simply not true. It’s something we all wish to be true, but from a purely legal stand point, its only duty is contractual and that is handing down money. Personal opinion of what else a business’s duty should be to another business is just that, a personal opinion, and not one that can be over quantified.

    Thirdly, naming. The “Premier League” is only called such in England and Wales. In Scotland and mainland Europe it is referred to as the “English Premier League” or EPL (in the same way “The FA” is called the “English FA” everywhere else in the world). Focussing on the direct meaning of the word “premier”(a French word incidentally) to suggest that it can have no equal or understudy is folly, and given that England currently has 4 teams in the “Champions League”, surely we’ve all accepted that branding is just branding.

    Fourthly, Scotland can support a Professional League. Can I ask, what figures you’re pulling this data from? Average attendance in the First Division (Scottish version of the championship), were under 1000 people for last season. 2 seasons ago in Scotland there were 6 games with less than 500 people in the Premier League! In between May (end of Season) and the end August (start of season) 8% of teams in Scotland entered the process of entering administration or insolvency. Scotland only has 16 full time football teams (less than 1 league’s worth in England). Scottish football is crumbling, infact has been for years, there is a truck load of data out there on this; and I’d suggest that someone with your obvious intelligence (because this is a well written well researched piece) should probably delve a little more into the facts and figures before making such statements.

    Fifth, Why should England take in the Old Firm, or infact any Scottish team? It’s a great question, and although you asked it, you never gave any answers. To suggest there are NO positives of one of the best supported teams in the world (and their city rivals) joining the EPL in any format would be a large mistake. In the past 5 years both Celtic and Rangers have been to the UEFA cup final, and Celtic have qualified for the last 16 of the “Champions League” (sic) 2/3 times in the past 5 years. When making comparison to taking in Welsh teams to the English league structure, I think it’s fair to suggest that (Celtic at least) wouldn’t quite be in the same bracket as Wrexham.

    You made a good point that Ranger’s style of football to get to the UEFA cup final was god awful (and I think God Awful is a nice way of putting it, though some may say it was reminiscent of Middlesbrough’s 4-5-1 humping long ball approach on their way to the final), but you forget to mention Celtic putting out Liverpool and Blackburn on their way to the UEFA cup final 2 years previous; that Celtic team was subsequently beaten in extra-time by a Porto team that won the Champions League the next season with only 1 change in squad personnel. If you’re going to make these points, at least give the balanced arguments.

    You’re also absolutely spot on that Arsenal breezed past Celtic in their recent Champions League qualifier. The gulf in class was evident for all. Then again, I seem to recall a gulf in class between Arsenal and the bottom 4 teams in last seasons EPL as well; and I’m confident you’ll agree that there is a gulf in class between Arsenal and the top 10 teams in the Championship (which is where the proposal of Celtic and Rangers joining is being floated). It should also be pointed out that Arsenal spent more money on one player this summer (Thomas Vermaelen) that Celtic have spent on their squad in the past 3 seasons. Infact, Mr. Arshivan alone cost Arsenal more than Celtic have spent in the last 5 years.

    Suggesting that a team like Celtic could not compete in (what is essentially the championship) based on two games against Arsenal 3 weeks after a new manager took over, 4 of the first team players have left, and the transfer budget was halved due to the TV supplier going bust, seems a tad short sighted – and to me it seems like you’ve purposefully ignored as many of the facts possible.

    Again, you suggested that Everton, Aston Villa and Man City have all done will in the UEFA cup (and again, you kinda forgot to mention Celtic getting to the final by putting out Liverpool and Blackburn); but you fail to register the colossal amount of money that involved.

    Its not that your points are not valid, it is just that they are not quantified.

    Your basic point, that Man City, Everton + Villa have all done better in Europe (but don’t mention the war, sorry don’t mention Celtic), and therefore Celtic/Rangers would suddenly not do well at Championship level is taking a HUGE leap.

    I absolutely, 100%, agree that the current Celtic and Rangers teams would be embarrassed in the EPL. But do you concede that in some way that has to do with the fact that this season (due to Scottish football’s collapse – haha something you said didn’t happen because you didn’t’ fact check) Ranger’s transfer budget was £0 while Celtic’s was under £4million.

    I suggest to you sir, that comparing teams given a minimum of £30million a year in TV revenue alone, to teams with under £1million; and extrapolating that nothing would change once the £1million was raised is, frankly, fucking radio rental.

    Six: Yes, its about money. Celtic (and Rangers, though through unsustainable different methods which is conversation for another day) generate incredible amounts of money, given how little they receive from the League nor Television money (Celtic and Rangers have in total received less in television money in the last 15 years than West Bromwich Albion received last year alone for finishing bottom of the EPL).

    What a lot of people out there don’t realise, is that there are a huge number of clubs in the EPL and Championship that are very close to the wall. Bolton, Birmingham and Portsmouth being the 3 obvious ones. Pompey have been bought out (again) and Birmingham look to be sold (but lets not talk about him), which leaves Bolton.

    Bolton a club whom 83% of their turnover came from Sky TV last year; and a club that would go into administration within days of entering the Championship (parachute payment or no parachute payment). You’ll also notice that it is Bolton’s chairman that is floating this EPL2 idea. Coincidence?

    For some reason, this wasn’t mentioned in your report.

    Finally:

    You failed to quantify so many of your points, and it’s a real shame. You failed to point out the decline in escalation of football revenue from television, commercial activity, and gate receipts (season tickets for the EPL have fallen steadily for the last 3 seasons).

    You fail to quantify how many of the clubs in the EPL are reliant on Sky TV for more than 70% of their turnover, making relegation or a sizeable reduction in TV revenue lethal.

    You fail to quantify how many clubs are in debt to a greater amount than their assets, and therefore need to negate negative equity.

    And you fail to quantify how a comparison of Celtic/Rangers on less than 1/10th of the transfer budget over 15 years against the top 6-8 teams in the current EPL’s progress in European competition over the last 5 years, in any way suggests how they would do against teams in the championship.

    That said, given the image used at the top of this article, it’s safe to say that a balanced and fair discussion was never going to happen. Which is a shame.

  2. Steve Bank says:

    *sigh*

    Sadly i copied an pasted the non formatted version. Apologies for that, it might be more difficult to read than intended.

  3. A. Howard says:

    Steve, to start with: thanks for your very thorough reply. I realise my article seems to have wound you up a little and for that I apologise but, like everything I post on this site, it is intended only as an opinion piece and to initiate discussion and responses from the reader – in that I seem to have succeeded.

    Also, I’m honoured that you describe it as “well researched” because in truth although I do try to gain some more detailed background information on my topics before posting, much of my information comes straight from my own memory of footballing events as I’ve followed it over the past decade or so. I do try to be accurate but as an amateur writer who does this in his spare time and purely for pleasure, I don’t always have time to engage in the research that the topics probably demand. If any of my facts are wrong (which a few seem to be), then this is more than likely the explanation.

    I’ll have a go at responding to some/all of your points now!

    Firstly, you are right to say that it is Phil Gartside and not ‘the Premier League’ that is proposing these changes, and you are of course correct. However, Gartside is an FA Board Member and someone with a fair amount of clout when it comes to matters of the Premier League. That he is floating the idea suggests (or at least, it seems this way to me, but I may be wrong) that he has ascertained a significant amount of support for the idea so as to believe that it is worthwhile making public. If that is the case then the idea can be inferred to have the backing of ‘the Premier League’ as a grouped entity, at least up to a point. Obviously that I generalised in my article wasn’t ideal, but that was my justification for doing so.

    Secondly, ‘the Premier League’ is a business and one that was set up outside of football, you are quite correct. You are also right when you suggest that it doesn’t have a duty to football as a sport or to the other organisations and leagues with which it interacts. My suggestion that it has a “duty” to these other entities is as you rightly point out purely my personal opinion (and if I misrepresented that as fact then that was my error) but given that this is an opinion piece then I’m fully within my rights to express it.

    And while not legally obliged to maintain any sort of “duty” towards these other footballing bodies, I do feel that as a business it should feel certain obligations and responsibility. You admit that “we all wish” that it felt this responsibility and that is because we all recognise that it would be in the game’s best interests if it did. Of course, I know that the interests of ‘the Premier League’ are not those of football itself, they are business interests, but given that the business of ‘the Premier League’ rests upon and were founded out of the sport of football I would like to think that in a more morally responsible business climate they would feel obliged with a certain sense of responsibility to the system of which it is a part.

    Thirdly, I am fully aware that the Premier League is known as the EPL in foreign countries as I live in New Zealand, though what relevance that has to your point I’m not sure. I am also fully aware of the moniker’s French linegae, and I contest your suggestion that a league known as “premier” should not be considered to have “no equal” as surely that is what such a name is intended to imply. It is England’s highest domestic league, hence it was named approriately.

    As you rightly suggest, naming in football has come to mean little with the “Champions League” now being an entirely misleading title, but I don’t condone that either (and may have written an article about it in the past, if memory serves). As you will have read in the above article too, I questioned the naming of the Championship on similar grounds, and maintain that a lower division “Premier” league is one that makes little logical sense, though that naturally doesn’t mean that it could not exist.

    All I suggest is that the introduction of an extra league between the existing Premier League and the Championship could surely be named more appropriately as England’s second tier. However, England already has a second tier, so I see no need for such a move (especially given the points I made regarding the lack of extra clubs to fill the gaps created in the league setup by the addition of this league – something for which you had no response).

    Fourthly, my claim that Scotland can support a professional league are supported by no figures whatsoever – this is one of those occasions where my research has perhaps let me down. However, my assumption was based on some fairly practical evidence, in that Scotland currently does support a professional league, whatever state of disrepair it is in. As you suggested I’m criminally unaware of the state of Scottish football and particularly it’s lower divisions but while the SPL isn’t in great shape it does continue to function and I’ve heard no suggestion at all that it’s continued existence is under threat.

    Compare that to New Zealand, one of the countries who I suggested in contrast to Scotland, who currently supports just one professional team, Wellington Phoenix, who play in Australia’s A-League. Even supporting this one pro team is a struggle with previous incarnations of an NZ pro-setup “The Kingz” and the “New Zealand Knights” both having gone under in recent times. There is zero chance that an entire league could be supported, and even in Australia there are only nine professional sides, comprising (with the Phoenix) a 10 team league. So while Scotland may have only 16 full time football teams, that is still more than the entire continent of Oceania.

    What’s more, you (wo clearly have done your reserach) point out the crumbling state of Scottish football and the problems that it faces, while seemingly lobbying for Rangers and Celtic – who I would imagine are key to the small revenue that the game in Scotland does produce – to abandon ship and join the English setup. Now I don’t know, but I’d imagine this would perhaps condemn professional football in Scotland to an early death and have adverse effects on the national side too – is that something you’d be willing to sacrifice to see the Old Firm join the Premier League?

    Fifth, your arguments for inducting Celtic and Rangers are pretty convincing, though when you suggest that I compared Celtic to Wrexham you certainly put words into my mouth. As I alluded to above, I justified their inclusion because they cannot play professionally in their home nation. Celtic and Rangers would be inducted for different reasons and owever compelling, however much history and prestige they bring, and howevere capable they would be of playing in the Premier League, I don’t think there are any arguments that suggest that football in England would ultimately benefit from such a move.

    In fact, with your insistence that Rangers and Celtic would be capable (after having benefitted from the increased income that the move would provide) of pushing for Europa and Champions League placings, I’d have to say it would have a negative effect on English football, given that they could occupy the spots allocated to English clubs for these competitions. Naturally, UEFA should in this instance increase the quota of English qualifiers allowed in the event of the SPL’s remaining clubs (should any remain) being laregly unable to compete but they would have to leave at least one place for them to maintain the competition’s integrity as wholly European.

    You spend a great deal of time bemoaning the lack of funding that Rangers and Celtic receive, but I’m not sure why. You’re trying to justify their inclusion in terms of their being able to challenge in the EPL upon benefitting from that sort of funding and you’re right. Given access to the TV money etc. that Premier League clubs receive, of course they would be able to compete in the competition.

    But that in no way means that they should. You could take any professional club from any country in the world, give them that sort of money and they would also compete in the Premier League after being given time to rebuild, but why should they? I argued that the Old Firm wouldn’t have success in the Premier League and you concurred – they wouldn’t until they’d made use of this extra financing.

    So until they’d done that, the competition would be weakened, which would be irresponsible on the part of the Premier League, and would undermine it’s integrity. And that they would become competitive doesn’t justify the move either – clubs promoted from the lower English leagues become competitive, and they have earnt the right to be there. I guess the question I’m really asking is why should the Old Firm be added to the English league? What will they contriubte that other English clubs, who have a more valid claim, couldn’t? I can’t think of anything.

    Apart of course, as you mention in your sixth point, extra revenue. And here I can’t argue with you. Yes, adding Celtic and Rangers would bring extra revenue in for the Premier League, and so as a business strategy, it’d be a very good one. But, and forgive me for expressing my opinion here again, I really feel that the Premier League has a responsibility to the sport that makes it’s existence possible, and that very occasionally, it might think about the good of the game as well as it’s own bank balance.

    I’d like to believe that although they could make lots and lots of money from it, they might consider that the integrity of the league is also important. Adding teams to the league just to make money is the first step down a dangerous path: a Premier League with Barcelona and Real Madrid in would be great too, that’d make them bucketloads of cash. Thrown in the Milan clubs too, and why not Bayern Munich for good measure. What I’m saying then, is that adding Celtic and Rangers to the English Premier League would be the first step towards destroying it.

    It would be the first step towards a European Super League, and that is sonething that I for one don’t want, and I think many people share my desire to retain an English Premier League. So when I say that I don’t want Celtic and Rangers in the Premier League, this is why. Because it completely and utterly changes the purpose of the league, which at present has the sporting function of determining which the best football team in England is. That’s what it’s for and that’s why we love it.

    In all then, this article was written to voice my opposition to the plans announced by Gartside to fundamentally alter the Premier League. I tried to argue for my viewpoint with considered reasoning and I feel that I did that up to a point though as I mentioned, I have not the time to compose a fully researched and statistically verified report. This is simply an opinion piece designed to encourage discussion from other readers, not to try and brainwash them into agreeing with me.

    I enjoy nothing more than seeing someone argue eloquently against my point of view, as you have certainly done, but I’d prefer it if you didn’t continually imply that I was trying to unfairly colour the discussion. I simply present my opinions and try to back them up as well as I can, as is my right to do in this society that values freedom of speech and ideals. The picture that headed the article was not meant to reflect badly on the Old Firm, it was supposed to be a reflection and a visual pun on the caption that accompanied it:

    “The Premier League and the Old Firm: soon to be joined… and divided?” relates not only to the proposed unification of the teams with the competition (as intimated by the visual represntation of the Premier League trophy and players frome each old firm club) but also to infer the other part of the proposal which is to split the league into two, for which the image of the Old Firm players fighting is a clear visual symbol of division.

    Obviously I don’t condone violence like that on the pitch, but I’m fully aware that it is certainly not something that is restricted to Old Firm matches – having attended many Merseyside derbies and other matches that have seen violence flare up. You’ve clearly taken opposition to my viewpoint from the beginning and read too much into your interpretation of my stance, which means that it was inevitable that you wouldn’t find my article “balanced and fair” despite the efforts I made to make it so.

    On this site I always attempt to justify my arguments and beliefs and I rarely have any accusations of doing otherwise. However, football is something that naturally and inevitably divides opinions, so I fully expect my own opinions to be challenged, and enjoy it when people do so. I hope you’ll continue to read and challenge my articles where you disagree but I ask in future that you don’t try to continually condemn me as being impartial and unreasonable. Thanks.

  4. Steve Bank says:

    Thanks for the reply Adam.
    I’ve given up reading it for now (i’m on my phone while driving) but will give it a good read when i hit the office.

    Appreciate it bro.

  5. Steve Bank says:

    Hi Adam,

    Thanks very much for the reply. It’s long and detailed and full of great points. I’ll try to make my own a tad shorter today; I’m still shattered after all the cup games last night and staying up late to watch highlights.

    (in re-reading this, is not shorter, infact it’s longer. really sorry. Grab yourself a cup of tea – actually maybe a flask)

    I suppose, without getting into specific points, I wanted to convey that I’m not advocating or lobbying for the Old Firm to join the EPL2 set up. It’s a case of stating the points that they “could” be successful in England rather than “should”. I have no problem at all with you, nor anyone else, looking less than favourably on the proposed EPL2 or on Scottish clubs joining the English set up; as that’s a personal view point (and one a great many people share), I just felt that some of your points had gone out of the way to not mention certain counter arguments. Now while that may not have been intentional, it certainly came across that way to myself, and if you took offence from the strength/phrasing of my arguments I apologise. It is of course your blog, and one I enjoy reading, so I’m really happy to have opened up this dialogue with you.

    I’ll also try and remember to copy and paste the formatted copy today (and not the pre-spell check, pre-removal of swear word copy I posted yesterday – truly sorry for that); it probably gave the impression of some Irish-American madman furiously typing away on his keyboard – one of the joys of the internet – tone and intonation rarely come across as we’d intended (especially with my rather poor vocab).

    Steve

    ================================================================

    While the combined transfer amount spent by Scottish clubs in the past 12 months was less than C.Ronaldo’s signing on bonus at Real Madrid, and less than Arsenal paid for Fabregas when he was 15, I feel my point about money was possible phrased wrong, and indeed I’ve left you with the wrong impression.

    Celtic and Rangers are already paying “championship” level wages, and attracting (every now and then) premiership level players – Chris Sutton, John Hartson, Neil Lennon, Gravesen, Jarosick, Samaras, Gascgoine, Laudrup, and the De Boer twins etc.

    There would be no “ramp up time” for which they would need to cope with teams in the Championship even given their current squads, let alone if they knew they were going to be given £20million at the end of the season. Your own phrase is “after being given time to rebuild”, and my point is that Celtic and Rangers would already cope in the Championship level and should be able to do more than just cope with a 600% increase in transfer budget. Remember, Celtic are one of only 6 clubs in Europe this year who are totally debt free – not including yearly serviceable overdraft (roughly 1.9% of their turnover at 1.5million), which is in stark contrast to the £400million Liverpool owes, £300 million arsenal owes, and lets not mention the amount of debt Man U are saddled with.

    I suppose where we differ, and it’s your blog so you are allowed to of course, is that I think you’ve made an extrapolated leap. By comparing Celtic and Rangers to the top 8 teams of the premiership, and their perceived performances in Europe, you’ve then made the leap that Celtic and Rangers would then not “have success in the Premier League and you concurred – they wouldn’t until they’d made use of this extra financing”. You’re right, and I do absolutely concur that Celtic and Rangers would need to spend to compete in the Premier League. But that’s the leap you’ve made mate (in my opinion). They would not be going into the Premier league, they’d be going into “EPL2” to face Doncaster, Scunthorpe and Peterborough. Arsenal and Manchester United they are not!

    For me, the thing that I found hard to reason, was that you moved the goalposts of your arguments. Initially I was based on Success in Europe (Man C, Villa, Everton all doing better than the old firm), but then when the old firm did better you changed your argument to they type of football they played to get there, then when Celtic played beautiful football (3-4-3) to put out Liverpool and Blackburn, it was simply not mentioned. Then when comparing teams to, what is effectively the top 8 teams in England, you then extrapolated that the Old Firm would not do better against the Teams 18th-36th in England. I know, and you know, that as football fans, that’s actually how our brains work, especially when having a “chat” with our mates; but your post was well written and thought out, so I truly felt your points were being… somewhat twisted slightly to meet your already drawn conclusions. That might not have been your intention at all, but it looked it.

    Of course these things are all hypothetical, but in the last 6 years, Celtic have reached the last 16 Champion’s League twice, last 32 of the Champs League Stages, last 16 of the Uefa Cup and Final of the Uefa cup. I can’t think off the top of my head of an English team out with the top 4 that has done as well in Europe over the same period of time. To that end, I really don’t think the competition would be “weakened” (as you put it) by having Celtic or Rangers in the league in comparison to Peterborough, Doncaster or Scunthorpe.

    “I guess the question I’m really asking is why should the Old Firm be added to the English league? What will they contribute that other English clubs, who have a more valid claim, couldn’t? I can’t think of anything”.

    I have to say, I’ve no problem at all with this thinking. You are absolutely spot on with it, and you and many others feel the same way. In part, I responded to this article, because that wasn’t a view point you put over too strongly in your original. Instead I felt your points about Scottish Football, and especially the Old Firm in Europe were pretty much wrong across the board.

    Its not an issue with me at all to hear that someone wants the English football leagues to have teams from England in it, (or vice versa if someone from Scotland/Ireland/Azerbijan/New Zealand said the same); but if that’s the gut reaction and overriding feeling; then lets do away with the pretence that it has anything to do with football.

    ***Celtic are the 5th best supported team in the world (in terms of worldwide merchandise), their 2 year old home strip still outsold Liverpool & Arsenal’s new strips around the world last year (and have done so since the late 90s), they were the first British team to win the European Cup, they play in the 3rd biggest stadium in Britain, have the second most season ticket holders in Britain, and are in the Top 20 of Deloitte’s World’s Richest Club’s list. They have also been more successful in Europe than any other English club outside of the current “top 4” in the past 5, 10 and 20 years. To suggest that Celtic alone would not bring better football, prestige, awareness, branding, globalisation, money and competition to the EPL2 (essentially the championship) seems, well in my opinion it seems totally daft. Or, and maybe I’m wrong, Scunthorpe, Peterborough and Doncaster I’m sure are of the same pedigree…

    But if the deciding factor is purely that by Celtic and Rangers taking 2 places in the EPL2 would stop/demote 2 English teams currently in the Championship, then that’s cool, but lets say that and do away with all the previous points.

    ***I’m sorry for the rather obvious Celtic slant in this post, but my better half is a Bhoys fan and flies up regularly, so I see and hear a lot of this stuff; and I’d rather give you specifics than generalise in what might not be totally accurate about Rangers.

    ================================================================

    “but I’d prefer it if you didn’t continually imply that I was trying to unfairly colour the discussion.”

    You have my apologies on that. Years of dealing with spin as a job I’m afraid. Also having been commenting on Scottish football while in England for the last 9 years, I’ve seen a rather specific trend occur. Namely, if talking positive call the teams British, if talking negatively put up a picture of the Old Firm teams shoving/fighting, and leave out as many actual stats as possible. When you mentioned success in Europe, especially the UEFA Cup, but failed to mention both Celtic getting to the Final (knocking out Blackburn and Liverpool to do so) and then getting to the same level as Man C, Villa & Everton the next year; I truly felt that changed the tone of the conversation to Old Firm bashing to enhance your point.

    I apologise unreservedly for implying you were doing that on purpose, your article just ticked all the boxes of the usual English bias. I suppose if TV/newspapers/Blogs from Scotland and Ireland spent the next 20 years sticking a picture of Millwall fans, or 80s violence in the English game, eventually people from England would stop giving some leeway to start with. I was wrong on this matter and I do apologise for that, and especially if I came across as being angry in anyway; but I hope that you realise that starting an article with a picture of Celtic and Rangers in a physical confrontation, is only ever going to lead the conversation in one way.

    Your blog is a great one, I enjoy it immensely, and have no problem with us disagreeing (isn’t that the sort of banter that makes football more than a game to us all); I suppose that I was disappointed that a very overly negative picture of Scottish football was portrayed at the start, when your images have been so well chosen through out the rest of the site.

    ================================================================

    On a side note Adam, in terms of the “4 teams” that would have to move down a division (and the subsequent knock on effect), well that won’t really be a problem. A great number of the far lower division teams cut their cloth according to Setanta money (much like Scottish Football did), which of course no longer exists, and are close to, or are going into, Administration.

    Accrington Stanley for example, a team Sol Campbell should have been playing in 2 weeks (again, a conversation for another day mate), owe the Tax-man £320,000, which they don’t have and have no further way of raising. Aside from Burnley’s very generous charity game last Tuesday, Accrington (and local towns) have been giving money to the club and have raised close to £200k, which is brilliant apart from 3 things. 1) they’ve no way of raising the extra 120k, 2) donations to local/national charities has plummeted and 3) Even if they pay it, they don’t have it to pay for this years (tax and VAT were never accounted for in the business plan for some reason).

    So far, almost ever club in England to have gone into administration has been “saved” in one form or another; but this was before the “recession” – or at the very least “global belt tightening”. How many of these clubs will fall? How many will be saved, time and time again (like Southampton, Portsmouth, Chester, Darlington, Leeds etc – and Newcastle is today’s reports are to be believed). In fact, according to FootballEconomy.com, a minimum of 9 conference teams and 5 League2 teams could/would/should/maybe be forced into Administration or given wind up orders by the Government this season, and that’s over and above the normal spate of “crap, we believed the hype and have overspent” that’s been the blight of English football for the last 5 years.

    While absolutely it’s wrong to wish ill harm to any football club, its also not far from the realms of possibility that up to 4 clubs could be relegated, removed from the Football League or have gone bust in the minimum of 2 years + 1 year notice needed to get the EPL2 up and running.

    Such is it’s likelihood, that attempting to plan against it, is not going to happen.

    Though clubs entering administration and the knock on effect that has, is definitely, a conversation for another day (though may I add that conference teams owing the Government over £2million which is effectively our money for hospitals, Doctors, Police etc is sickening).

    ================================================================

    Take care Adam, and thanks for a great blog promoting good conversation.

  6. A. Howard says:

    Steve, another set of excellent points leading to a conclusion that I feel unable to agree with 🙂

    I think we shall have to agree to differ over this one, but it has been enjoyable and enlightening discussing it with you – I simply don’t have the time/energy to keep it going any longer!

    I hope you’ll carry on reading my site though and look forward to future discussions!

    Cheers, Adam.

  7. Chris Dorman says:

    I have just read in detail the excerpts from above reagrding the potential development of the EPL2 and the introduction of the old firm. Look here are the facts. How many teams have won the English Premiership since 1995, the answer to that question is 3. This big 3 of Chelsea, Man Utd and Arsenal monopolise this league. I find it highly interesting that people go on about the old firm winning the league year in, year out in Scotland, however it is equally un competative in England. The resulting consequences of this, is that attendances for the provincial clubs are plummeting. The introduction of the old firm would break this cartel up. I also think the comments about Nottingham forest being the same size as Celtic, you should stay off the special brew mate, that’s like comparing a Audley Harrison to Mike Tyson. However all this rhetoric is irrelevant becuase its not Phil Gartside or the Chairman who will decide if this goes ahead, it will be the ultimate benifactor Sky Sports. Their will come a point when the murdochs concede that the english premiership is becoming stale due to the big 3 dominance. I say big 3 as liverpool have not won the league in 20 years nor will due to their financial problems. At that point Celtic and Rangers will be asked, its the natural evolution. Not only will this aid the EPL, it will be beneficial to the scottish league as hearts, hibs etc will have a chance of winning something. Look at Harry Redknapps comments today regarding the old firm and that of owen coyle, sir alex, martin oneil, they all want this to happen.

  8. A. Howard says:

    Interesting comment Chris, but I have to disagree.

    There is absolutely no way that Rangers and Celtic joining would break up the “cartel” of the big three/four in the Premier League. Given the quality of their current squads, they’d struggle to finish in the top half. You’re mistaking the size of a club for the quality of a team.

    And you suggest that the move would be “beneficial to the scottish league as hearts, hibs etc will have a chance of winning something.” The truth though, is that if you take Rangers and Celtic from the SPL it loses all of its marketability. There would be very little money going into the league in terms of sponsorship or TV money and it would effectively kill professional football in Scotland.

    So no, it would not have the positive consequence of upsetting the dominance of the big three/four in England. And no it would not have a positive effect on Scottish football – it would destroy it. The only justification for this is the greater wealth it would bring to the big shots in England, and that’s no justification at all as far as I’m concerned, but sadly, it is all they will need to go ahead with it. It’ll be a tragedy when they do.

  9. Steve Bank says:

    Hi Adam,

    I think you missed the point of the above poster a little. Celtic and Rangers would in no way break up the top3/4 in England; but it would bring a new dimension to the Premiership.

    The problem is, i think, that the discussion is a mixture of the EPL2 proposal and “should the Old Firm be allowed into the premiership” discussion.

    The realism is, an EPL2 in some form will arrive in the next few years, it has to; as English football is going bust.

    The top 4 teams in England owe a combined £2.3 billion (Man U £800m, Chelsea £719m, Arsenal 416m, Liverpool £350m – all on last set of accounts) – to put into context, that’s more than 1% of the entire debt of the country! On 4 teams!

    Its not better as you go down the list, Everton? Well you know this one. Aston Villa? £73m in debt. Fulham? £179m in debt.

    West Ham, Hull and Portsmouth “went bust” last year, but were saved by personal injections of cash. All 3 had winding up orders served against them.

    Bolton (63m debt last year) receive 83% of their turnover from SKY. What happens if they get relegated?

    /wave

    Viewing figures for SKY have dropped by a substantial amount. Setanta UK couldn’t even get 1m subscribers out of England and Wales (which included commercial/pubs and homes).

    Average attendances for Premiership Games has dropped by 10% in the last 3 years, with 9 of the teams in the EPL getting less the 85% of stadium capacity through the gate (and given that 4 teams have less than 25,000 capcity – that’s poor).

    According to figure published by KPMG for Virgin One finance, the cost of going to an EPL game has risen by 21% in the last 3 years alone.

    Clubs in the EPL are so desperate to avoid relegation that will lead to near-certain-administration that they’re rolling the dice for all they’ve got.

    TV money from SKY is agreed to rise by 3% to 2014, which will be a rise of 5.5% since the current deal was agreed two years ago. In that time, the average wage for a footballer in the EPL has risen by 4%, and if that trend continues will have increased by 7-8% by the end of the next SKY deal.

    Outgoings are increasing faster than incomings. Less people are paying to see the game, be it in person or on TV.

    Clubs who do not have a “sugar daddy” or “johnny foreigner investor” (depending on which paper you read) have 3 options: 1) gamble gamble gamble on staying in the premiership 2) try and reshuffle the pack for an EPL2 3) go bust when relegated.

    The madness you mentioned in the title has nothing to do with The Old Firm, but more the way in which English football has been allowed to be run over the last 15 years; propelled by this idiot notion of “best league in the world”.

    EPL2 is coming, in one format or branding or another.

    And when it cant stop the tide, only slow it, you bet your bottom dollar that people will vote in the Old Firm over Peterborough, Darlington and Scunthorpe.

    He who pays the piper calls the tune, and when you’re top4 football clubs account for almost 2% of the national debt, and are solely reliant on money from television… eventually, it’s television money that will make the decision.

    Have a great week Adam.

  10. A. Howard says:

    We meet again Steve, and once again you bring considerably more statistics to the table than I do.

    However, I’m not too keen to get into another big debate about it, so I’ll just make one quick statement which is that contrary to your above claim that the people with the money will “vote in the Old Firm over Peterborough, Darlington and Scunthorpe” the Premier League this week met and rejected the idea of the Old Firm joining.

    So if the EPL2 is, as you claim, inevitable, it seems that the Old Firm won’t be a part of it. You’re right that the Old Firm and EPL2 debates are different arguments, so at least one is now settled (barring a u-turn, which, knowing football, can never entirely be ruled out).

    I still think an EPL2 is unnecesary really, because it just creates a new league to occupy the current role of the Championship. No matter how you brand it, any league that isn’t the pinnacle of English football will struggle to bring in the big money – we are unfortunately a society that has a fascination with elitism, so for me an EPL2 is a pointless and unnecessary waste of time.

    As always though, that’s just my opinion and you and everyone else are welcome to disagree.

  11. shaun says:

    don’t want them,let them stay where they are,to stagnate,rot,and die.We are the ENGLISH,so no more jock freeloaders

  12. Chris Dorman says:

    In response to the muppet above who said that league does not want jock feeders. Lol face facts mate your top clubs are all in demise financially and although difficult to contemplate, could invariably go bust. It is irrelevant what the special brew drinking devil dog owning individuals want. As I said in my prior post, Mr Murdoch is the piper and he plays the tune and in doing so all the teams will just have to dance to it. In doing so Celtic and Rangers will be done plundering the prizes in less than 10 years. It is the natural evolution with the financial state of the English game. Unlike RBS and Lloyds, the government will not step in to rescue a club which goes tits up and as you know pretty well, most of your lot are highly leveraged. Embrace change and stay off off that tonic wine.

  13. Chris Dorman says:

    In relation to A howards comments above. I think he is another special brew consumer. You mention that the old firm would be luck to finish in the middle of the table, your arguement though hypothetical lacks rationale and is flawed. Here are the reasons, Celtic for example has already a 62,000 seater stadium in place producing significant revenue streams based on charging punters 25 pounds to watch the SPL. The stadium is full week in week out, obviously in the English premiership, we would be charging double, also we would be acquiring the 20 million a year from Sky. This coupled with the brand would put the club neck and neck with any of the big 3 or 4. In doing the calibre of player acquirable would be as good as any. Therfore their is no way with this infristrukture, debt free balance sheet and brand would a club like Celtic end up at the bottom. The english game is insolvant, DEBT is only a 4 letter word to a supporter but not to a creditor. When the creditors come calling and your clubs can’t fulfill the the terms, b.U.S.t

  14. Western European Super league
    My idea for football is the western European Super league.
    So instead of the old firm joining the English premier league they could create a new league with countries in Western Europe outside of the big leagues in England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy.
    Have half the season as the Scottish league but cut it to 22 matches a year then have the second half as a European super league., with promotion and relegation.

  15. shaun says:

    ho..ho..ho. so the jocks want to join the epl,what a load of two faced twats.want independence,vote for it then you bottleless whingers.same goes for the sheep shaggers,brown,blair etc wouldn’t dare give us english a chance to vote for independence,because they know us english would vote for it.so you porridge wogs can stay in your crap football setup where you can stagnate,wither and die.scotland national football team LMAO..S.N.P.(scots not playing).watch england instead.ho..ho..ho.

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