It has been announced that the Scottish clubs want to explore the idea of a British League cup to replace the existing English and Scottish competitions. That’s one of the plans under discussion as the Scottish Premier League (SPL) clubs seek to find ways to improve Scottish football.
This is one of those ideas that sounds good, until you give it the tiniest amount of thought, then you realise just how terrible an idea it is.
Apart from Rangers and Celtic, it’s hard to see who would benefit from this, either side of the border. Rangers and Celtic are the only Scottish teams with a realistic chance of going deep into the competition, and that’s assuming that neither of them draws one of the better English League sides (or each other) and gets knocked out in one of the early rounds.
The Carling Cup is already treated like an inconvenience by most of the EPL clubs, who regularly send out reserve teams in the early rounds and only take it seriously if the progress to one of the later rounds. There is also a fair amount of fan apathy towards the competition as it is and adding the Scottish clubs to the mix is only going to make it worse as it will be perceived as further diluting an already weak competition.
This proposal seems to assume that the SPL and EPL are an equivalent standard and the Scottish Leagues are an equivalent standard to their English counterparts. This assumption is completely wrong.
Probably only Celtic (and maybe Rangers at their best) are of an equivalent standard to the teams in the EPL, the majority of the others, apart from a few exceptions, are probably only as good as teams in English League One. Also, you have to consider that whereas all English League teams are fully professional, most of the teams in the Scottish divisions 2 and 3 are only semi-pro, so will be at a huge disadvantage to the English teams.
Distances also have to be considered. It’s a long way for fans to travel to Scotland, particularly to teams in the Highlands. I’m guessing that these games are going to be played midweek, rather than at a weekend, so fans wishing to go could be left to make journeys of hundreds of miles. If this proposal goes ahead then it could lead to a possible fixture between Plymouth, on the south west coast of England and Peterhead in the north east of Scotland. A quick internet search says that journey would take about 11 hours, which is asking too much for fans to go. It would be a huge financial strain on the lower league teams of both England and Scotland to have to stay overnight to play one of these fixtures, and it may be a problem for some of the Scottish players to get time off from their day jobs to travel.
The way to avoid this of course is to regionalise the competition, but that would make the whole idea of merging the competitions to begin with completely pointless.
Also, while I can see the appeal in watching Celtic, Rangers and Hearts; it’s harder to see what’s in it for fans of the lower league English teams who get one of the smaller Scottish sides or vice-versa. Who’d get excited by the prospect of Morecambe v Annan? Yeovil v Montrose? Burton Albion v Brechin? Most of the clubs outside of the SPL rarely get gates of over 1,000, so unless they draw one of the big English teams, it’s hard to see how they’ll benefit from playing an English team.
With this being a 'British' league Cup, there would be a case for admitting teams from the Welsh Premier League (which is a poor standard of football), which would further diminish the standard of competition.
Then there is the problem of how you’d structure the competition to fit it into the season as the extra teams would mean at least one extra round, which may not be easy to shoehorn into a pretty packed season as both the English and Scottish competitions already start early in the season.
The major problem is what would happen to the European Qualification place that’s currently on offer to the winner of the Carling Cup, but not the winner of the Scottish League Cup. Say one of the Scottish clubs wins, does that mean they get a place at the expense of an English club? There’s no way the English teams would stand for that.
I can’t see anything in these proposals that would make the English clubs agree to this, there just isn’t enough in it for them. Similar proposals have been rejected in the past. The Scottish clubs may be all for it, and it is an intriguing but this idea just won’t fly in England.