The Atlantic League concept has been revived
recently. And unlike the Old Firm attempts to escape to England,
this is one idea it may be worthwhile exploring further.
Forget the ridiculous name youll see Martin ONeill
in a bowler hat and sash before Belgium and Holland acquire an Atlantic
Why this idea merits consideration is that is more than just a bolthole
for Scotlands big two. Clubs like Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord,
Benfica, Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Anderlecht find themselves
with the same problems as Rangers and Celtic. Lack
of domestic competition, restricted to small countries, falling
ever further behind clubs from the big five western and southern
European leagues England, France, Italy, Spain and Germany.
The Ajax team that won the European Cup in 1995 had to be sold
off within a year.
So instead of just our greedy pair, we have a cluster of famous
clubs looking for a new league. Also, this League would be no simple
cut-off from the old domestic tournaments. There would be room for
around four Scottish clubs and promotion and relegation would apply.
The SPL ten would all have the opportunity to play in this competition.
Yes, there are many problems facing such a League. The relationship
with UEFA for one. How European qualification and promotion/relegation
would work also presents problems. But this is a concept which sticks
with the basic principles of football that promotion is based
on merit and that membership can be aspired to from within the countries
taking part. Utrecht, Bruges and Boavista may not
be as far behind domestically as Aberdeen, Hearts or Hibs
but, like the Scots, they will never be giants in their own right.
This is a League they could be comfortable in.
It meets the concerns of the Old Firm, offers hope to the rest,
provides the ideal platform for TV and safeguards the autonomy of
the SFA. None of this can be guaranteed by the Nationwide League.
This is one idea which should be taken further.
How depressing. The only two teams in Britain
that cant celebrate winning a major trophy are in Glasgow.
The FA Cup Final saw two London sides with a long
history of rivalry travel to Cardiff to play their match
and return home with no mention of any bother. Yet a scintillating
Scottish Cup Final was once again ruined by what happened
after the match was over. Fighting and stabbings in Glasgow.
Riots in Belfast. Sickening.
The aftermath of an Old Firm final is never pleasant, even when
there is no violence involved. The triumphalism of the winners is
always nauseating. One correspondent tells me of the scenes in his
local bowling club, some 30 miles from Glasgow. There was singing
and dancing and all sorts of sectarian bile on show. Nothing too
unusual in that. But my correspondent adds that he reckons none
of those taking part in the celebrations have
ever been to Ibrox in their lives.
Now why doesnt that surprise me?
Appertaining to the above, there was a humorous moment
on a recent BBC Radio Scotland phone-in. A Rangers
fan from Larkhall complained about a Man Utd supporter
from Edinburgh. He reckoned the Old Trafford aficionado
should be supporting his local side. All said without any hint of
tongue in cheek. The last time I looked at a map, Larkhall
was a damn sight closer to Hamilton and Motherwell than
it is to Govan!
Of course it is not just players who face redundancies
at the end of this season. The knock-on effects of the TV debacle
are taking their toll among admin and office workers too, most of
whom are less well placed in terms of both finance and future prospects
than the likes of the moaning-faced Greg Strong.
Instead of complaining about his treatment at Motherwell, Strong
should consider that, like a lot of others, he has been the lucky
recipient of inflated wages and will now have to earn a living at
a more realistic level.
Another champion in the whingeing stakes is Derek Whyte who
is reputed to have turned down a wage cut of £600 per week.
What sort of salary must he have been on? For most people that
£600 per week in itself would represent a highly acceptable
On a personal level I was sorry to hear that Kevin Collins
is leaving Kilmarnock. Regular readers will be aware that
I have written two books on Killie and, particularly during the
first of these, Kevin gave me the run of Rugby Park. It would
have been a lot harder to write without his assistance and I hope
he soon finds a position worthy of his considerable talents.
Similarly, there are also rumours that Jim McSherry is on
his way out as Commercial and PR guru at Rugby Park. McSherry must
work close to a 100-hour week on Killies behalf and is responsible
for generating acres of publicity for the club.
Even in this time of cutbacks, clubs will always need someone who
can deal with the media. I doubt if Kilmarnock will find anyone
as good or as hard grafting as McSherry. Im not just saying
this because of the countless occasions he has been a help to me.
Im saying it because it is true.