Old Firm moving to England is 'theoretically possible', says FIFA

FIFA has softened its stance on the prospect of Rangers and Celtic quitting Scotland and has described the prospect of an Old Firm move to England as "theoretically possible". In a statement to Scotland on Sunday, world football's governing body seemed to offer some hope to the Glasgow clubs' oft-discussed desire to play in a more lucrative and competitive environment.

The issue surfaced again following responses by Celtic's chief executive Peter Lawwell and Rangers counterpart Martin Bain to questions concerning where they saw their clubs playing in ten years' time. The two men, speaking at the Leaders In Football conference, both stated they believed their clubs would be operating principally outwith the Scottish Premier League. It seems now that FIFA has not closed its mind to the prospect.

"There are plenty of examples of clubs playing in leagues not governed by their own national associations," said a spokesman for FIFA. "We need look no further than here in Switzerland (FIFA's headquarters are in Zurich] where a team from Liechtenstein (FC Vaduz] play in the national league set up, so it is theoretically possible that Celtic and Rangers could do that (play in England].

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"If we received an official request that would be judged under the terms of Article 80 of the FIFA statutes, which states: 'any Association, League or club that is affiliated to a member cannot belong to another member or participate in competitions on the territory of another member without the authorisation of its current and prospective members and of FIFA, except in exceptional circumstances.'"

UEFA followed a similar line with press officer Rob Faulkner re-iterating that the basic requirement for any switch was agreement between the Scottish Football Association, the SPL, the English Football Association and the English Premier League. "Only if these four bodies gave their approval to the clubs' moving would UEFA need to consider the matter and decide if the arrangement allowed the new league to meet the qualification criteria for our European competitions," he said.

Lawwell acknowledged last week that "we need someone to want us" and there is little appetite among the English clubs, according to a source within the Premier League who rejected suggestions that Bolton Wanderers chairman Phil Gartside's much-cited proposal for the creation of an EPL II to include Celtic and Rangers has been the subject of high-level discussions at English football's top table. Or indeed will be at November's gathering of the clubs, as has been reported in recent days.

"It has never been on the agenda at any of our shareholders' meetings and there are no plans for that to change next month," the EPL source told Scotland on Sunday. "There is no collective will from our clubs to invite Celtic and Rangers into an EPL II. Individual owners may have expressed an interest in this, but that's it."