David Glen,a partner at the world's largest professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, produces an annual report on the financial state of the Scottish game and it's his opinion that this proposal should be taken seriously. Although there are many administrative hurdles to overcome, UEFA would have to be convinced, for instance, as would footballing authorities both in England and Scotland, these are not insurmountable and Glen can foresee the day when both clubs could be challenging at the very top of EPL 1.
Glen thinks that the idea of a second tier added to the EPL will make it easier for the clubs in the lower levels of the top division to accept the introduction of Scotland's big two and Gartside's proposal would need the backing of at least 14 of the top twenty clubs. "This plan might have more chance." he said. "Any time it has been talked about, it was on the basis they would go direct into the top flight. Clubs near the relegation zone would never have voted for it, it would have been like turkeys voting for Christmas. The difference here with the two league set-up is that they would have to come into the bottom league."
"Rangers and Celtic have always had a very large income stream despite not being in England or in one of the large European leagues," Glen said. "They have always teetered around the top 20 in the money league in Europe. It always seemed to me there's a fantastic income base already. If you add the television income to that, they would become very powerful."
"I think what it's going to boil down to is how the TV money gets split between the two divisions." continued Glen. "At the moment, the bottom club is getting £26-28m whereas the top of the table gets £50m, which totally dwarves what we get in Scotland. The current Setanta deal supplies £13m a season across all clubs. That is due to be increased but, as we have heard in recent days, Setanta are looking to renegotiate."
The Scottish footballing authorities have made no comment on Gartside's plans but it's not thought that they would encourage their prized assets to leave the fold. In Glen's opinion, though, it's possible that a huge pay-off could see the SPL reluctantly free their flagship clubs. "There's the potential to have less excitement without the Old Firm but also the potential to become more competitive," said Glen. "I would suppose that, if the Old Firm were allowed to leave, it would be on the basis of a parachute payment. Some of the riches might have to be passed back down. You would not have as strong a package to sell to the media without the Old Firm, which is why I think some parachute payment would be needed."
These proposals wouldn't necessarily mean the end of Celtic's involvement in Scottish football though and maybe not even the end of SPL involvement. Celtic have already floated the idea of having a junior team in the lower divisions of the SFL and it's thought that the club would prefer to continue in Scottish Cup competitions too. "We're already seeing talk of plans for a Celtic reserve team to get into the lower divisions," Glen said. "You might find Rangers and Celtic reserves getting promoted back to the top flight."