March 19, 2012
Should Celtic leave SPL?
By SPORTS NETWORK
Celtic and Rangers have ruled over the Scottish Premier League for the better part of 25 years, passing the league title back and forth and leaving everyone else to play for third place.
Aberdeen was the last team outside the Old Firm to win the league, and it came back in 1985 with a man named Alex Ferguson on the bench.
The subject of whether or not it would be in the best interest of the Glasgow clubs to leave Scotland for greener pastures has been brought up before. But with fresh reports surfacing over the weekend about a proposed move to League One in England by Celtic, the timing has never been better.
Rangers is in the midst of dealing with serious financial trouble, which cost the club 10 points in the league standings for entering administration and left Celtic with a clear path to another trophy.
With eight games still remaining in the SPL campaign, Celtic has a chance to clinch the title at Ibrox with a win against Rangers on Sunday in the latest Old Firm derby clash.
Rangers is currently more interested in securing a buyer for the club than with results on the field, which has opened up the possibility of Motherwell potentially claiming second place and providing the league with its only bit of drama the rest of the season.
The financial difficulties at Rangers only illustrate how dire the situation has become for Scottish teams, even the biggest ones.
So despite the fact that Celtic is a well-supported club that routinely draws 60,000 fans to its home ground, it only has to look as far as its Glasgow neighbor to see how quickly a situation can go south.
There is really only so much money to be made by being a big fish in the small pond known as the SPL, and Celtic has hit that ceiling.
A move to England, even to the third division of the English game, would offer more money in terms of television contracts and give the club the opportunity to work its way up the Football League to even more lucrative possibilities.
It would be like a local radio host who has had the No. 1 show in the area for years attempting to move to a bigger market to maximize his potential.
There is some debate about how well Celtic would fair in the English game, which is why it would make sense for the club to start out in the third or fourth division and attempt to work its way up.
Celtic's current squad would have trouble avoiding relegation, and there is no guarantee that Neil Lennon's side would just march through the lower leagues and into the top flight.
A move to England would give the club a chance to potentially attract better players in an effort to build up the squad and compete on the highest level.
The fact that Celtic is willing to enter the English game two or three divisions below the Premiership shows just how desperate the club is to get out of its current situation.
"People keep saying the EPL is so far ahead - and in some respects it is," Lennon said.
"But Celtic could play there and do all right. I don't know where we would finish, but I don't think we would get relegated.
"It is not just about quality. With our prestige, support, tradition and history, I think Celtic would add something extra to England's top flight."
Lennon might be a bit optimistic when assessing his side's chances in the EPL, but he is right on in terms of what English football stands to gain.
Celtic is a team with a rich tradition that would draw 60,000 fans at every home game, making it a more attractive option than say a team like current Premiership participant Queens Park Rangers, which plays in a stadium, Loftus Road, that is one-third the size of Celtic Park.
Just as quickly as the idea was brought up, Football League chairman Greg Clarke did his best to pour cold water on it by announcing on Monday that the Football League had no intention of entertaining the notion, saying it would be "highly disrespectful to the Scottish FA and Scottish Premier League."
Clarke might not want to hurt the feelings of either organization, but he should welcome Celtic with open arms instead of turning his back on the club, with the clear benefit of the English game in mind.
Although losing a club like Celtic would be a major blow to the SPL, it also would make the competition more interesting and open it up for teams outside of Glasgow to entertain the idea of winning a title.
At the risk of offending the Scottish FA and Scottish Premier League, the time is now for Celtic to make the switch.
The team is clearly a big fish which has outgrown its small pond.