Door is ajar - why Rangers and Celtic move to English Premier League can't be totally dismissed

When Dermot Desmond claimed last month that the Covid-19 crisis could inadvertently propel Celtic and Rangers into a new British Premier League, it may have prompted many to stifle a yawn and observe wearily - ‘Here we go again’.

Celtic's major shareholder Dermot Desmond (L), pictured alongside the club's chief executive Peter Lawwell, believes the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis could increase support in England for a British Premier League which includes the Old Firm. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

For more than 20 years, after all, a variety of those at the helm of the Old Firm clubs have hankered after, plotted, negotiated and consistently failed to find a way of securing a place in the lucrative top flight of English football.

The major roadblock in their way up until now has always been the basic instinct of self-preservation among the vast majority of English Premier League clubs who recognise the size and potential commercial reach of the Glasgow giants and have no desire to see it flourish at their expense.

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But the words of Celtic’s major shareholder Desmond, a man who can spot a business opportunity from a thousand paces, suddenly seem more than a little prescient.

The revelation that the American owners of Liverpool and Manchester United, backed by Wall Street bank JP Morgan, are leading moves for a new FIFA-backed £4.6 billion European Premier League to start as early as 2022 has raised the possibility of a revamp of the English Premier League.

That, inevitably, has also prompted suggestions - backed by former Celtic winger and Sky Sports pundit Davie Provan - that the Old Firm clubs could finally be invited to leave the SPFL and be part of the new set-up.

It remains a long shot – but can’t be dismissed out of hand. A door which once seemed firmly shut may just have been left ajar, as Desmond predicted it would be.

“Everything now is about the size of clubs and their followings,” said the Irish billionaire. “It’s become a digital world - streaming, Zoom. This pandemic has changed things.

“Digital forces will, I think, make English clubs reconsider the construction of their leagues.

“Celtic and Rangers are in the top eight clubs in Great Britain by any metric - support, attendance, international appeal. At some stage, there’s going to be the realisation that if they want to maximise their revenues, then there’ll be a British Premier League. And there should be a British Premier League, because you already have a couple of Welsh teams in the English leagues. So why not?”

Desmond’s sentiments will certainly have support on the other side of Glasgow. Rangers manager Steven Gerrard, one of the greatest players in the English Premier League era, has even gone as far as to suggest every major Scottish club should be merged into the English set-up.

"I would love the Scottish league to filter into the English leagues, all of them, to save and help the Scottish game," he told his former Liverpool team-mate Jamie Carragher in an interview earlier this year.

"People from England don't realise how big Celtic and Rangers are, because they only watch Old Firm games.

"Can you picture a Premier League with those two clubs in? The atmosphere at Celtic Park and Rangers is off the scale. It's a unique experience.”

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