Tag Archives: Rangers

Fans Before TV: In Scotland, Fans Demand The Obvious

Last week we posted a photo of a protest by Aberdeen fans in Scotland regarding the lack of consideration shown to fans who show up in the flesh at games: Fans Before TV – 12.45 Isn’t On, their banner stated, referring to the early 12.45pm kickoff for the Dons’ Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic on April 17th. Here’s a reminder:

Fans Before TV - Aberdeen's Red Ultras Protest

What we didn’t know until Scotzine pointed it out in the comments was that fans of Aberdeen’s opponents that day, Celtic, made exactly the same point with a banner of their own that read “It’s time to put fans before TV”.

It’s not exactly a new story that television has become the dominant force in scheduling games. The days of uniform Saturday 3pm kickoffs are, of course, numbered in Britain, and have been for some time.

Still, the growing disaffection with the last-minute schedule changes and difficulties on group travel that result from fan unfriendly kickoff times is certainly spreading. For once, Rangers fans agree with their Old Firm rivals, this month also holding up a “Fans Before TV” banner.

Moreover, as you can tell from the photo, that Aberdeen-Celtic semi-final was not exactly a packed house, with Scotzine noting “The stadium was far from full with around 20,000 seats left empty, a sizeable chunk in the Aberdeen end.”

In part, this seems to be because the 12.45pm kick-off time did not take into account train timetables: the earliest train to arrive from Aberdeen that day was at 12.20pm, giving fans barely enough time to scoot over to the stadium in time for kickoff.

It was also the second protest in a month for Celtic fans, who expressed their disapproval at a 6pm kickoff on a TUESDAY by tossing a dozen extra footballs onto the pitch right at kickoff for their April 12th game against Motherwell.

There will be many who will say: who cares. Television pays their money and makes their choice. But it could also be one factor contributing to a drastic fall in attendances across the Scottish Premier League this season.  Aberdeen’s crowds are down about 10% to 9,769 per game, leaving just four Scottish Premier League teams averaging above 10,000 for the season. League-wide, the average attendance is 13,783 for 2010-11, dipping from last season’s 13,915 and even worse, down from 15,537 in 2008-09.

Again, kick-off times are only one element of many challenges facing Scottish teams that aren’t named Rangers or Celtic. That said, what had once been a habit going back generations – going to games set on a predictable schedule – is now becoming a chore just to keep track of for fans.

The Sweeper: Scotland Loses Champions League Spot, Rangers and Celtic Face Financial Crises

Old Firm

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Rangers and Celtic’s financial futures look a little bleaker today. Scotland will only have one entrant in the UEFA Champions League for the 2011-12 season, after falling below Belgium in the rankings used to determine each country’s qualifiers. Moreover, their champions will not advance automatically to the group stage, and will instead have to navigate through three qualifying rounds.

The news is a massive blow for both Celtic and Rangers, with next year’s title race in Scotland likely to be even more fierce than usual. Both clubs released their financial reports for 2009 this week, and neither club is on a rosy path without Champions League football.

The timing of this new could hardly be worse for Rangers, who continue to seek a buyer, with majority shareholder Sir David Murray looking to offload his 90% share in the club. Rangers remain mired in significant debt and beholden to Lloyds Bank despite impressive profits of more than £13m announced for the second half of 2009. Most of that profit, though, was dependent on Rangers Champions League appearance.

Celtic’s financial report, meanwhile, neatly illustrated the price of not making it to the Champions League group stage:

The cost of participation in the Europa League, to which Celtic were consigned this season, becomes clear in comparison to spoils from the Champions League. Set against the results for the same period in 2008, turnover is down by almost a quarter to £36.11 million and the operating profit has fallen from £12.68 million to £4.7 million, with the pre-tax profit similarly reduced from £8.36 million to £1.27 million.

Celtic chairman John Reid put the difference from missing out on the Champions League at £7 million, with bank debt for the club increasing to £0.97 million to £3.13.

Even tougher times could be ahead for one of the Old Firm.

Quick Hits

  • Arsene Wenger calls for UEFA to adopt a more transparent process in how they select referees: “It has to be clarified first of all how they [Uefa] nominate referees for games. They have to be much more open on how they rate their referees. Nobody knows really how they name their referees. Where is the ranking of the referees? I believe too much has gone on in the last 30 years. What has happened is not good for football.” And for once, Alex Ferguson agrees with Wenger, expressing his own concern about referee selection for the Champions League.
  • FIFA have given Portsmouth special permission to sell-off their players outside the transfer window, with some questioning the integrity of the Premier League for the exceptional action. West Ham’s co-owner David Gold said: “I do have a problem with a club being able to buy those players and gain an advantage over a competitor. I wouldn’t want a competitor buying a player not usually available to them to help them stay up, and neither would my club’s rivals want West Ham doing that. A principle needs upholding.”
  • Meanwhile, FIFA have admitted ticket prices for the World Cup in South Africa were set too high.

The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

The Sweeper: Premier League Restructuring Considered

Premier League logo

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The headline story in this piece on the Premier League’s consideration of Bolton chairman Phil Gartside’s proposals for restructuring the league focuses on the nix put on the idea of Rangers and Celtic joining the Premier League, with that immediately ruled out now and forever. This is no surprise, as it would be a huge headache in so many ways (upsetting tradition, UEFA and FIFA in one blow).  I really hope we simply hear no more of this for some time, but I’m sure it’ll be raised soon enough.

More interesting was news that the Premier League are taking the rest of Gartside’s proposals seriously: “The other relevant ideas contained within Bolton’s paper will now be taken forward as part of the wider strategic review being undertaken by the Premier League since November 2008 with the aim of providing recommendations before December 2010.’”

This includes Gartside’s proposal of a two-tier Premier League of 18 clubs each, which has been revised from its original closed-shop plan to include some very limited promotion and relegation with the rest of the football pyramid. As Martin Samuel points out, “It would no longer matter how poor your team became, how hopeless your leadership, because you could never go down. It would turn English club football from a merit system to a franchise system overnight.”

Gartside is right to be concerned about the increasing gap between the Premier League elite and the rest of the league, and it’s no surprise that it’s a chairman of one of these clubs is pushing the idea, given Bolton’s massive debts: a second tier that received more of the revenue than relegated clubs get now via parachute payments would certainly help a club like his.

Yet this would only widen the gap between what would be a new, closed elite and the rest. David Conn suggests a broader approach might be needed for the riches of the game to be distributed more evenly throughout the league system: “Others might propose that the solution to the huge financial chasm between the world’s richest league and the venerable Football League below it is, as it has been for 17 years, to re-unite them, and redistribute money more evenly throughout the system.”

Supporters of clubs outside the top few in England can but dream. . .

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The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

The Sweeper: Rafa on the Rack

Champions League

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Yesterday’s stunning day of UEFA Champions League action is of course the focus of discussion today, with every game providing talking juicy points for the press.

The British press naturally focused on Liverpool after their home defeat to Lyon. Paul Hayward considers the future of  Rafa Benitez (“Everything that can go wrong is going wrong at the moment”, Rafa said after), and Kevin Gardside says fans are losing faith in the Spaniard, though Henry Winter reminds us how many players Rafa was missing in their defeat to Lyon and Gabrielle Marcotti gives sensible reasons for why Liverpool would be “mad to sack Benitez now”.

An even longer-term crisis is focused on up north in Scotland, as Rangers crushing defeat at home 4-1 to Romania’s FC Unirea has Ewan Murray saying that “The most comprehensive thesaurus in the world would barely contain the words to describe this Rangers performance. The latest evidence that Scottish football may be in terminal decline rather than just suffering a rough spell arrived on another harrowing night in Glasgow.” Rangers boss Walter Smith faced calls for his immediate resignation.

Still, probably the most surprising result of the night came in Spain – Barcelona’s coach Pep Guardiola tried unconvincingly to sound unperturbed by their defeat to Rubin Kazan at Camp Nou. And the last minute goal conceded by Arsenal to AZ Alkmar is picked over by Rob Kelly in the Telegraph, who had seemingly been waiting for a chance to make the obvious conclusion that the current team is not a patch on Wenger’s old “invincibles”.

Worldwide News

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

Seasonal Disorder: Summer Soccer in Scotland?

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A summer season for Scotland? John Boyle, chairman of Motherwell, raised the prospect once again as he advocated a switch to a summer season and a long winter break.

This adds to the support for the move from Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, and Gordon Smith, the SFA chief executive, but Boyle was far more assertive in making the economic argument for the move — saying “To be candid, I think the financial case for summer football has overrun the football case.”

Boyle went to explain the need to make football more attractive with more games in better weather.

The history of the structure, trying to play at the same time as other countries, is the only reason we play when we do. But we are situated in northern Europe. We are not Spain and we are not Italy. But, purely from a fans’ point of view, you cannot argue with the fact that a game is a far more enjoyable experience, and you are far more likely to attend, on a balmy summer or spring evening than to go out when it is snowing and windy.

“It is a no brainer. Tomorrow night will be a perfect example.

There will probably be an extra 1500 people who come along because it is a nice evening. If the game was played in December, I can assure you there would be 1500 less. Sometimes I find it difficult, on a wet Wednesday night in the winter, to get out of my house to go and watch a game. What must the fans think?

SFA chief Gordon Smith’s argument was focused on the playing conditions, as he said that “Better conditions mean better football.”

Scotland has tried a winter break before, stopping play during January from 1998-2003. But this halfway house didn’t succeed, with fixture congestion piling up by the end of the season.

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Less keen on a change are Celtic, with manager Tony Mowbray saying he was a traditionalist — “I prefer playing games under floodlights with an atmosphere in the stadium. We’ve been doing it for 120 odd years so I don’t see any reason to change.” (Umm, I don’t think Celtic have been playing under floodlights for 120 years, Tony).

For Celtic, who already have no problems filling their stadium through the winter, summer football makes less sense economically — especially as it would interfere with their increasingly lucrative summer friendlies schedule, such as Celtic’s recent participation in the Wembley Cup.

Still, on the other side of Glasgow, Rangers manager Walter Smith has been touting a rationale that would even benefit the Old Firm — an earlier start would see Scottish clubs better prepared for European football’s summer preliminaries and perhaps prevent the kind of humilation Motherwell suffered this week. Motherwell’s 6-1 aggregate defeat by Steau Bucharest in the Europa League prompted manager Jim Gannon to say that his players were “not match-fit”.

Smith, suggesting a June kickoff, said that “If this is helpful to any of the clubs playing in Europe then it’s something we should consider seriously. Over the next few years even the champions and the second placed teams will have to play earlier in the season and if this could help them – and help our coefficient – then it would be a good thing.”

Summer football has of course been a success (and something of a necessity) elsewhere in Europe, such as Norway, and the Football Association’s proposed Women’s Super League is to take place over the summer (though its start has been postponed to 2011). What would you think about Scotland following suit?

The Mo Johnston Signing: Sectarianism and the Business of the Old Firm

His house was petrol-bombed, his father was attacked, and he was called the “Salmon Rushdie of football”. It was twenty years ago this week that former Celtic star Mo Johnston became the  first well-known Roman Catholic to sign for Rangers, and Glasgow erupted. One enraged Rangers fan said that, “My blood is boiling. Is Mo Johnston going to run about Ibrox with his crucifix?”

The religious and political overtones were evident when the Belfast Telegraph broke the news in Ulster: a group of “angry loyalists” marched to their office and demanded they retract the unbelievable “fairytale” of Rangers signing a high-profile Catholic. Twenty years later, the Telegraph notes that Rangers signing a Catholic would not even “raise an eyebrow”. How much has changed, and why did Rangers make the decision to break with their unpleasant “tradition”?

The history of the sectarian divide at the centre of the furor was embedded in the divisions of Scottish society, but it was also a history that in the case of the Old Firm, had almost as much to do with business as with religion. For a long time, religious bigotry made both clubs rich; by the late 1980s, the opposite was the case, and the Johnston signing broke a taboo that would never again have the same meaning for Rangers or Celtic.

The History of Sectarianism and the Old Firm in Glasgow

The intensity of sectarianism in Scotland dates back to the severe extent of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, where according to Bill Murray’s 1984 book “The Old Firm: Sectarianism, Sport and Society in Scotland”, “every sign, sound and sight of popery was removed from the reformed creed”. In 1790, the total Catholic population in Glasgow numbered 39; yet there were no fewer than 43 active anti-Catholic societies in the city. As Catholic immigration to Scotland from Ireland increased with industrialisation, tensions only intensified in the nineteenth century ahead of the founding of Rangers and Celtic in its final decades.

Religious tension soon suffused the derby matches between Rangers and Celtic, though it was notable that the mutually beneficial commercial appeal of their matches led to the nickname “The Old Firm” — the Scottish Referee ran a cartoon for the 1904 Scottish Cup Final with a sandwich board reading “Patronise The Old Firm”.  Football had exploded in Scotland, Glasgow in particular, with three of the biggest stadiums in the world opening at the turn of the twentieth century, Ibrox, Parkhead and Hampden — and by becoming the cultural symbols of sectarian divide in Scottish society, Rangers and Celtic soon eclipsed all other clubs in popularity as supporters rushed to them as religious markers.

The Old Firm in recent times

The Old Firm in recent times

Neither Rangers or Celtic were technically sectarian clubs, unlike others including Edinburgh’s Hibernians, whose constitution initially stated that all players had to be practising Catholics. But it soon became clear that the identity of each club as the representative of their respective religious faction fed strongly into the appeal of each, and made their rivalry only more lucrative. As Murray writes of Rangers, early presidents such as Sir John Ure Primrose Bart “were clearly aware of the financial benefits they could gain from their challenge to Celtic, and the clearer the religious lines in these games, the better for rivalry.”

Celtic were founded by Brother Walfrid in 1888, from the Irish Catholic Marist Brothers with stated charitable purposes, but also to give young Catholic men a social outlet that would keep them away from Protestant influence — and it became a limited liability company by the century’s end.  Celtic’s success was immediate. They became indelibly linked with Catholicism and Irish sympathies (many in the club were closely connected to Irish republican causes). Despite this, they employed non-Catholics as players and administrators from their early days. Sectarianism at Celtic, for what its worth, was more sympathetic than discriminatory, though it certainly brought politics into sport and remained at the heart of their identity.

Sectarianism was even more obvious at Rangers. In its first hundred years, no Rangers management was Catholic, and staff found out to have been Catholic were often dismissed, according to Murray. Rangers players even found to be dating Catholics found themselves in trouble. For decades after Word War II, the club did not knowingly sign a Catholic player (Laurie Blyth was signed for the 1950-51 season, and the discovery of his Catholicism led to his release at the end of the season). Even before World War II, only one Catholic, Archie Kyle, stayed with the club for more than a couple of years, out of the mere dozen or so Catholics who even played at all for Rangers.  By the mid-1970s their manager, Jock Wallace, was encouraging players to roar the Unionist catchphrase ‘No Surrender’ on their way up the tunnel before matches.

Rangers Supporters in Dublin

Rangers Supporters in Dublin

Old Firm matches had become tinderboxes of bigotry and violence. Certainly, this was not a result of the football itself, or the creation of the clubs: it fed off sectarian rioting that went far beyond the terraces. But the naked sectarianism was so embedded at the clubs, it almost passed without mention in the decades after World War II that Rangers would never sign an open Catholic, or that politics pervaded the Parkhead terraces.

Sectarianism was part of the culture of the clubs, who did little to challenge what had become the lucrative bedrock of the Old Firm rivalry, though Celtic were notably more open to addressing it honestly than Rangers. Jock Stein, after all, became a Celtic legend — and he had been their first Protestant manager, appointed in 1965; there was no comparable opening up by Rangers, who had a hard time denying their bigotry. Rangers director George Brown explained in a Daily Express article in 1972 “Why we will not sign a Catholic”, based on the club’s tradition.

By the 1970s and 1980s, Rangers’ sectarian policies were no longer tacitly accepted by the public or authorities; outside the hardcore Orange Order sympathisers, their closed attitude attracted more and more criticism that the club ignored. European competition, in particular, demonstrated the difference between the clubs: where Celtic fans were considered a credit to the club on travels abroad, Rangers fans brought disrepute that soon became attached to the club’s hardline sectarian attitude. Riots in Barcelona and Birmingham in the mid-1970s brought shame on the club, with Managing Director Willie Waddell tacitly admitted the cause by announcing in public the club would sign a Catholic if one was “good enough” — thus dissociating the club from a policy it officially denied even existed!

But no high profile signing came, and the club continued to bury its head in the sand, with fears that signing a Catholic would drive thousands from the terraces. The sectarianism even drove away Alex Ferguson from signing on as Rangers manager in 1983: a former Rangers player, Ferguson would not countenance managing the club until it unequivocally abandoned its unofficial sectarian ban on signing Catholics.

The Mo Johnston Case

For the rest of the 1980s, little changed until the day Mo Johnston was stunningly snatched away from Cetic by Rangers manager Graeme Souness and Chairman David Murray on his return from Nantes in France in 1989, shocking Ranger supporters, many of whom burned scarves and season tickets outside Ibrox in protest. And of course, he became Judas to Celtic fans. Johnston was not the first Catholic to play for Rangers, but he was certainly the most controversial.

Mo Johnston and Graeme Souness

Mo Johnston and Graeme Souness

Many Rangers fans make the point that it wasn’t so much Johnston’s Catholicism itself that was the cause of the furor; it was that it was Johnston in particular, a former star for Celtic who had head-butted Rangers’ Stuart Munro in the 1986 Skol Cup final and taunted Rangers fans on his way off the pitch after receiving a red card. But if it was something personal, Rangers fans were soon to forgive as Johnston started scoring goals for Rangers, including a winner against Celtic. Despite the minority of Rangers fans who foreswore returning to Ibrox, the great fear that a Catholic signing would drive away the crowds proved to be far from true for the great majority of Rangers supporters. Instead, the signing would be the crucial catalyst to ensure Rangers had a place at the table of the European elite in the 1990s.

For a few, certainly, signing Johnston was beyond the pale.  One Rangers fan, Rob Kenny, lamented on the day of the signing that “This is a kick in the teeth. . .We’ve managed for over 100 years without Catholics, why should we need them now?”

In fact, as was often the case with the Old Firm, the answer was money. Where before there had been good business in keeping with what had become a ‘tradition’ of barely disguised bigotry to guarantee the teams the greatest support in the Protestant and Catholic communities across Scotland and even in Ireland, it became evident in the 1990s that the commercial, gobalising imperatives of football required a less obviously bigoted identity, especially for Rangers.

Major global sponsors would not invest in clubs associated with sectarianism and the global transfer market made it foolish to exclude players based on religion. David Murray, the Rangers chairman who had taken over the year before Johnston’s signing, explained it all succinctly: “Sectarianism has no place in a European Super League.” Bigotry was now bad for business, and both teams have run public campaigns to stamp out sectarianism at games since then, with considerably more effect than earlier, less than half-hearted efforts in the 1970s and 1980s.

Sectarianism has far from vanished from the culture of support around the Old Firm despite the campaigns by both clubs, but much has been done to sanitise the Old Firm’s bitter rivalry since the signing of Johnston twenty years ago broke the back of Rangers discriminatory “tradition” — and the lucrative business of the Old Firm rolls on, with the European Super League still in their sights.

Mutually Assured Destruction? The European Super League

I remember playing a football manager game on the Amiga around 15 years ago that was based around a European Super League. It seemed pretty exciting at first; I was managing Real Madrid, and watched a 17-year old Raul pile up the goals. It seemed exotic at the time; in the nascent days of the Champions League, and with England’s years of exclusion from European football after Heysel still a recent memory, regular matchups between Europe’s best seemed a rare treat in computer games and in real life.

Soon, though, the thrill of playing Liverpool or Milan wore off in the virtual world. I don’t even remember what the game was called anymore; Championship Manager (now Football Manager) was a far more addictive long-term game, simply because one could take a small club from the bottom of European football to the summit, just as the Run of Play recently demonstrated with their brilliantly amusing series on Pro Vercelli’s rise to become European champions.

In real life, the excitement of Europe’s top teams taking on each other has gradually gotten less exciting as well with every passing season of the drawn-out Champions League, with more-or-less the same teams playing each other every season, particularly in the past few years.

As you’ll have heard, Real Madrid’s President Florentino Perez said last week that he wants to extend this monotony to ensure no big club (like Milan this year) misses out on the big time: “What we need to work out with UEFA is a European Super League that guarantees all the top teams play each other all the time. That is something that does not happen in the current Champions League.”  Perez is apparently willing to abandon UEFA to get his wish if they object and set-up a break-away “closed-shop” league.

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Would the rest of Europe’s elite be interested in following Perez’s dream?  It’s not surprising the Old Firm would back such a move, and it would presumably also suit a few other teams who dominate weaker domestic leagues. Writing in The Times, Matthew Syed argues every English owner has been just waiting for this opportunity as well:

The problem with the status quo — speaking commercially now, and God knows that club bosses see the world in such terms — is simple: Europe’s top teams play against each other too seldom. A Super League replacing the existing European and domestic fixtures would allow Europe’s best teams to play against each other twice a week, providing them with huge additional income.

Why else have American owners piled into the Premier League? Why else do they think they can drive up profits when the Premier League collective bargaining structure is squeezing maximum value from the television rights? Why else are they confident of increasing turnover when match-day and merchandising revenues seem to be maxed out?

Two words resolve an otherwise unresolvable conundrum: “biding” and “time”.

These owners have not said it in so many words, but is it credible that they have not considered the financial potential of a breakaway league operating on the model of the American conferences, where the likes of George Gillett Jr, Tom Hicks and Malcolm Glazer cut their teeth? Could they have failed to factor in the prospect of a group of top European clubs operating a closed shop protecting them not only from irksome competition but opening the door to market restrictions that could transform profitability?

By making it a closed-shop, Syed argues, clubs could finally implement an NFL-style salary cap and PROFIT.

It’s a simple idea, and we can be sure that it’s been studied and considered by the likes of Hicks and Glazer, and there’s no particular reason why non-American owners would be less interested in making more money as well.

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Indeed, it was only earlier this year that the European Clubs Association seriously discussed the prospect of a Super League with three divisions and promotion and relegation between them. Given the fierce competition the top 20 European clubs would provide each other, it seems unclear if this would suit the likes of Perez — how could Real Madrid still claim to be the top team in the world if they were playing in the second division?

If not — if it were only a 20 club closed league — how could they implement a salary cap when the rest of the world would still have strong enough clubs and competition to compete financially?  Wouldn’t a billionaire just come along and pay superstars enough to draw them to the new Man City and away from Madrid in the Super League?

In all probability, Perez and the ECA are priming the pressure on UEFA by raising the prospect of an unlikely breakaway to force Platini to reverse course away from opening the Champions League to smaller clubs, as he’s done to some degree, and guarantee more ‘big club’ participation in the lucrative group stages. Maybe Platini will be asked to allow all former winners of the tournament automatic entry?  That would certainly suit Madrid and satisfy Perez. Maybe Scotland will be awarded two automatic places in the group stages instead of one? That would suit the Old Firm, and remove the need for them to back a break-away.

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This is all very similar to a decade ago, when Milan led the calls for a breakaway European league as a scare tactic to force UEFA to give the big countries more places in the Champions League. It worked, just as the top English clubs threat to break-away and form their own elite competition twenty years ago forced the F.A. to approve the creation of the Premier League as a more profitable entity for the big clubs. Perez and the ECA are simply playing the same game of high stakes poker with Platini and UEFA to get more of the loot in European football guaranteed to them.

The danger to the principle of the sport is pretty obvious should a breakaway European Super League ever happen, and UEFA has to weigh the consequences if they end up playing a game of chicken with the clubs threatening a breakaway and lost. If it actually ever happened against UEFA’s wishes, it would tear apart world football; FIFA would have to ban players competing in such a renegade European league from international competition, putting the World Cup at risk.

Of course, UEFA knows the big clubs themselves would face intense pressure not to destroy world football for their own greed, and that players would have lucrative sponsorship contracts of their own at stake if they were banned from the World Cup — one imagines Nike and Adidas would hardly be happy if their biggest superstars were not on the biggest stage.

The question is who will blink first.

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If UEFA caves and creates some kind of permanent Super League structure, it would all be as depressing for local supporters of big clubs as it would be a final defeat for the dreams of fans of smaller clubs. The still sporadic excitement for Manchester United fans when they take on Barcelona would become routine fixture list fodder. Travel expenses would skyrocket and every last penny drained from supporters to pay for the endeavour in higher ticket prices and new pay TV deals. Atmosphere at games would collapse with less travelling fans every week.

It’s pretty obvious that such a closed league and expanded European fixture list at the expense of the domestic calendar would destroy the entire principle of European football as based primarily on domestic football and  a pyramid to the top, even if this principle is only hanging by a thread on the coattails of Super club hegemony as it is.

If it happens,  I’m certainly not looking forward to the release of the European Super League video game.

Club Over Country: Dick Advocaat, Alex McLeish Take Offers They Cannot Refuse

Alex McLeishAlex McLeish and Dick Advocaat go back a bit. As the latter moved upstairs from the manager’s chair to the general manager’s office at Ibrox in 2001, he recommended to Rangers Chairman David Murray that he should pluck Alex McLeish from Hibernian to take up his old job. The two have been friends ever since, even though both have moved on since, McLeish first to the Scotland job, and Advocaat initially to manage the Netherlands.

One wonders if McLeish called Advocaat for advice this week, as he mulled over a not obviously tempting offer from Birmingham to guide them during a relegation battle.

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