Sunday, 28 August 2011

Reinventing the Pyramid

There has been a lot of talk off and on over the past few years about the likes of Rangers and Celtic playing within the English leagues. There are good reasons for doing this.

Scottish league football has very little strength in depth and the top two have dominated almost completely over the past two decades. It must be said that some teams have dominated the English leagues too, or at least Manchester United have, but they are a different kettle of fish and their dominance has more to do with Alex Ferguson than anything else.

But dominance by the few is not good in any sporting situation; therefore putting more large clubs within the same league may dilute this to some extent, creating a more level playing field for everyone.

However, there are many reasons for opposing this. Firstly, a “British” league may cause FIFA to rethink the separateness of all the home nations to a greater extent, causing not only Scotland, but also Wales and Northern Ireland to lose their footballing autonomy. This may happen and may need to happen at some point anyway in the future, but for the moment is still a contentious issue.

Secondly this would have the knock-on effect of Scotland losing out in Europe in terms of guaranteeing their sides can participate in UEFA competitions. It would make sense for UEFA to allow the same number of British clubs to participate as there are now, but depending on results you may find that English clubs benefiting to the detriment of Scottish clubs. This of course is assuming that the Scottish clubs would fair poorly within a British structure.

However, this week we saw all the Scottish clubs go out of Europe before the competitions proper even started. As such there is much self-flagellation within Scottish football and the Scottish media, typical of modern hysteria when it comes to these sorts of situations. It is likely that this will be nothing more than an aberration and next year Scottish clubs will fair a little better.

However, no Scottish team has performed as well as English teams in Europe for many years, this cannot be denied. It is probably due to a lack of good competition for the top Scottish teams who usually find it easy to beat their more average opponents. And if their poor results continue, then the formation of British leagues could well be the solution.

Re-imagining the British league system may not be as complicated as you might think. There are 134 clubs within the English and Scottish league system, so you could easily place the top 54 within three leagues of 18 teams to make a British Premier, British 1st Division and British 2nd Division. The remaining 80 teams are placed in four regional leagues of 20 teams to comprise the fourth tier.

How promotion and relegation would work within these divisions would have to be decided, but it seems to work well for non-league football where regional divisions are more commonplace. It would also allow the fans of poorer teams who are often poorer themselves, to see more matches against local opposition rather than having to travel the rather long distances that you see today.

As an example, I took the top 42 English teams and the teams within the Scottish Premier and using their final positions last year, compiled the top three leagues as follows. Perhaps in future it will be commonplace to see a match between Bolton and Dundee United, the results for Scottish clubs in Europe in the next few years will tell.

British Premier League

1 Manchester Utd

2 Chelsea

3 Manchester City

4 Arsenal

5 Tottenham

6 Liverpool

7 Everton

8 Fulham

9 Aston Villa

10 Sunderland

11 WBA

12 Newcastle

13 Stoke

14 Bolton

15 Rangers

16 Celtic

17 Hearts

18 Dundee Utd

British 1st Division

1 Blackburn

2 Wigan

3 Wolves

4 Birmingham

5 Blackpool

6 West Ham


8 Norwich

9 Swansea

10 Cardiff

11 Reading

12 Notts Forest

13 Leeds

14 Burnley

15 Kilmarnock

16 Motherwell

17 Inverness

18 St Johnstone

British 2nd Division

1 Millwall

2 Leicester

3 Hull

4 Middlesbrough

5 Ipswich

6 Watford

7 Bristol City

8 Portsmouth

9 Barnsley

10 Coventry

11 Derby

12 Crystal Palace

13 Doncaster

14 Preston

15 Aberdeen

16 Hibernian

17 St Mirren

18 Hamilton

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