How Celtic, Rangers and Scottish football could be affected by historic European league merger plan in Belgium

Belgium has signalled that its clubs are ready for a cross-border competition with their Dutch neighbours in a proposal for a ‘BeNe League’ – could it pave the way for a British or new competition for Scotland’s clubs?

Could Belgium's proposals bring more frequent scenes like this Legends game between Liverpool and Rangers a step closer in reality? (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Could Belgium's proposals bring more frequent scenes like this Legends game between Liverpool and Rangers a step closer in reality? (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

The concept for a cross-border competition involving Scotland’s clubs has never been far away – be it Old Firm inclusion in the EPL, a full-blown British League or even a north Atlantic league.

Few have got far off the ground – however Belgium’s pioneering moves could open up new possibilities and will be worth monitoring over the coming weeks and months.

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What’s happening?

Feyenoord would be one of the teams earmarked to take part in the new set-up (Photo by PIETER STAM DE JONGE/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

Belgium’s top teams have voted unanimously for a cross-border league amalgamation with neighbouring Holland’s Eredivisie.

The proposal would create an 18-team tier – and projections suggest a merger could be worth up to €400m from marketing, sponsorship and TV.

It’s only a suggestion so far, and has only had support from one side... so far.

Will this affect Scottish leagues?

Celtic shareholder Dermot Desmond has spoken of a British League in the past. (Picture: SNS)

Right now, no – but that’s not to say it wouldn’t open up new possibilities. It would be worth following the European football authorities’ reaction if it does come to pass – and even their suggestions if it doesn’t.

Rangers and Celtic have been subject of much discussion over potential defection to the English Premier League – but it has never come to pass. Phil Gartside, then of Bolton Wanderers, was a big advocate of the Old Firm entering the top flight down south but there are many obstacles.

Back in November Celtic’s major shareholder Dermot Desmond predicted the British League would return for discussion in future and this ‘BeNe League’ could prompt comparisons for a British Isles version.

Has there been something like this discussed before?

While Belgium and Holland decide, Scotland has its own decision to make on Colts teams in the SPFL (Picture: SNS)

Oh yes. As well as the periodic suggestions of Rangers, Celtic and a few other clubs joining the English set-up there has also been sporadic mention of an ‘Atlantic League’.

Talk has rumbled for over two decades for a group of bigger clubs in smaller leagues around the north-west of Europe – like Scotland, Belgium, Holland and Norway to be placed in a competition with growing marginalisation from the Champions League.

It resurfaced again last year though Celtic ‘pulled out of plans’. Rangers, Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen were also approached in 2016.

The BeNe League itself has been contested before too – as a competition for the two countries’ women’s teams around a decade ago.

What about elsewhere?

Talk of a European Superleague has been gaining traction over recent months.

The league format – said to be backed by the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Real Madrid – would create a ‘closed shop’ of top-level European competition for the cream of the continent’s top five leagues.

However, UEFA has its own proposals for a revamped Champions League competition which would comprise an expanded league table set-up rather than groups and break into knock-out phases for the closing stages.

What next?

Following the agreement in principle from Belgium, clubs in Netherlands will be asked before assessing the proposal’s potential.

Meantime all eyes are on the Champions League changes and the new Europa Conference competition being drafted by UEFA.

Closer to home there is talk of league revamps too – with Colt teams and additional sides from the Highland and Lowland League potentially being considered for SPFL entry.

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