Scott Brown slams '˜elitist' big five Champions League plan

Celtic captain Scott Brown has urged Uefa to resist plans to transform the Champions League into an elitist tournament involving only the leading clubs from Europe's 'big five' nations.

Scott Brown admits he would be gutted to lose Champions League football. Picture: SNS

Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has caused controversy with his suggestion teams from Germany, England, Spain, Italy and France could comprise a revamped competition.

In his role as chairman of the European Club Association, Rummenigge has mooted the proposal which could see the champions from nations such as Scotland excluded in the future.

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It has been described as a “sinister development” by SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster and Brown has denounced the plan.

“It’s not really the Champions League anymore if they do that,” said the Scotland skipper. “It suits them, eh? Maybe we should make a plan as well.

“It should be the champions of every country in it. It is always hard already, because England, Germany, Spain and Italy have four teams in it every year.

“We have to get through three qualifying rounds as it is, so it is always hard to take. You look back to the good old days when the Scottish champions went straight in to the tournament. So it’s a hard one to hear about this new plan and hopefully Uefa don’t go with it.

“It would be terrible and I’d be devastated if it happened. I know we haven’t made it for the last two years but not to have it ever again would be gutting for everyone.

“We would all be disappointed – I would be and the fans would feel it as well. Lionel Messi said that playing at Parkhead was one of the highlights of his career when Barcelona came to us in the Champions League a few years ago.

“That just shows how different grounds and different clubs make it the tournament it is and we should definitely at least have the opportunity to play in the Champions League.

“The size of our support makes us one of the biggest clubs in Europe and they follow us wherever they go. They’ve been brilliant and caused no trouble whatsoever.

“It’s easy for clubs who are automatically in the tournament year after year to decide that they’re the only ones who should be in it, but it’s not right.

“This isn’t just about Celtic – there are other big clubs like Ajax and Benfica and Porto, who have also been European champions. It just sounds like someone’s had a great idea and it’s gone pear-shaped.”

Rummenigge’s plan was also panned by Rangers manager Mark Warburton whose ultimate ambition is to lead the Ibrox club back into the Champions League.

“I don’t know all the details but if that is the process that has been started I think it’s a very dangerous one,” said Warburton.

“I can understand from a commercial perspective that certain huge clubs have been out of the Champions League for the last couple of years and smaller clubs have been in the Champions League for the last couple of years.

“Commercially, they will say they are not maximising an opportunity. But it’s a competition. If you’re a small-time club and you have a fantastic year and you recruit well and you train well and you qualify, then I think you should get the rewards. The moment you take that away you devalue any competition. It’s a Champions League so the champions of the respective countries should be in it.

“It’s not just about Rangers’ ambitions, it’s about the whole ethos, the whole idea of it. The fact is that if you look at the English Premier League, there are some massive clubs that don’t qualify. Teams that come fifth and sixth don’t qualify. This year it could be Manchester United and Chelsea. That is two of the biggest clubs in Europe that don’t qualify possibly and smaller-time clubs will do.

“But that is just the nature of it. It is all part of the competition and rewards teams doing well. I can remember one year Deportivo La Coruna came in and they were soon romping it and doing fantastically well. That was their time. That is how the competition is. If you take that away, if you are going to focus purely on the top clubs, it will be like having a league without promotion or relegation. You will devalue the competition. From my limited knowledge of what has gone on so far, it would be a great shame if that was to be the case.

“Belgium are the number one country in the world just now in terms of producing players. Their players are going off to the best clubs and yet the champions of their domestic league might not get into the Champions League? I find that ludicrous. I am sure the powers that be are doing everything possible to challenge this. You would like to think that some reassuring statement comes out to allay any fears or concerns.”