Friday, 16 October 2009

Good idea/Bad idea

Hi folks,

Regular readers will know that myself and Mark have a frankly shameful lack of knowledge when it comes to the League of Ireland. It’s something I’ve been meaning to address and I’ve caught a few games this season on the TV, watched MNS and listened to the LoI banter on Off the Ball. It’s a shabby effort, but like Kevin Kilbane, I’m trying, plus a break from the relentless Premier League machine is welcome every now and then.

I know this is a Johnny-come-lately thing to say but, while the league has plenty of faults (years of poor promotion around the country, overstretching themselves in the boom years with players’ wages etc), one of the great moves of the last decade anywhere in European football has to be the change to summer football in this country.

Starting the season in direct competition to England and the rest of Europe stopped making sense some time ago and since it was brought in it can’t be a coincidence that Irish teams have performed relatively strongly in Europe (well in comparison to previous years) as well as the knock-on effect of players hitting the ground running when they make the trek across the water to sign for English clubs in Premier League or Championship pre-season, which is of course mid-season for Irish players. Keith Fahey and Kevin Doyle are two examples of an admittedly rare breed but it’s a good trend nonetheless and one that is likely to continue.

All in all though, summer football is definitely a good idea. However, the only reason I bring it up is that football organisations so rarely get major decisions right. From bans to fines to TV deals and much more there is usually a great amount of bungling that goes on in the halls of footballing power around Europe and beyond.

Here is one very bad idea though, and one that could only have been dreamt up by men running the game who know as much about football as a blind goat. I give you the Atlantic League.

Set to include the Celtic and Rangers it has been backed by clubs from Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, and it’s now all set to be presented to the talking heads at UEFA as a serious prospect.

How much longer do we have to deal with these awful attempts by the Old Firm to divorce themselves from their own league? Admittedly Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell last branded the whole a "Frankenstein" concept, but you’d suspect if UEFA gave them the green light they’d jump at the chance, while over at Rangers (where old men tell fantastical tales of transfer budgets above £6,000….) they badly need any cash on offer.

The Atlantic League idea has been floating about in some form or another for a decade, while we’ve had a good 15 years of both Celtic and Rangers banging on about how they’d like to join the Premier League. Both clubs of course blissfully ignore the facts that (a) nobody in the Premier League wants them to join and (b) the three tiers behind the Prem would rightly be outraged should such a merger happen. Usually only resurrected as an emergency topic when a journalist has nothing left to say to Walter Smith, these days the English dream of Scotland’s two biggest sides is pretty much history but this new idea is gaining pace.

Its major problem though is that, unlike the very good idea of summer football in Ireland, this is a very bad, very, very, bad idea. Hugh Grant 'hmmm I wonder if I drive down there can those ladies give me some directions' bad.

It’s an idea that will, most likely, cause immense damage to the leagues in each and every country that takes part yet Dutch giants Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven, Belgium’s Anderlecht, Danish side Brondby, and Swedish club AIK Stockholm all want this. One voice of reason has been FC Copenhagen who are said to “believe the competition would compromise Champions League ambitions”. Club secretary Charles Maskelyne said: "If you are qualifying for the Champions League group stage then when can you fit in an Atlantic league? It is not really an option for us."

And therein lies the problem, sides like Celtic, Rangers, PSV and others listed above watch the Champions League (well Rangers will watch it once they’re fucked out of their group before the real competition gets going) and feel that they belong in this company as well. That they should be part of a league that will excite Europe, create revenue and be seen as a league where the best players in the world will want to ply their trade.

If the revamped UEFA Cup can’t do this for teams outside the Champions League tier, then the Atlantic League hardly will. Will anyone anywhere want to watch Rangers vs Brondby? Hardly. Yet these clubs are all willing to sell their own leagues up the shitter for a few extra euro, all in the quest to, irony of ironies, eventually gain enough revenue to compete in the Champions League before dropping the Atlantic League like a bad habit as soon as possible.

It will be a vicious circle full of desperate clubs who, rather than looking at UEFA or other leagues to sort out their problems should just get on with promoting the game locally, getting in young talent and trying to compete as best they can. It’s not the ideal solution but it’s certainly the least destructive when compared to the notions of the money grabbing blazers across Scotland, Belgium, Holland and Scandinavia. The shoddy gits.

Later, JJ

1 comment:

isle of man houses said...

They should create a European Super league. With big sides in small nations joining together. Just imagine Celtic, Rangers, Ajax, Psv, Porto, Rapid Vienna, Copenhagen and many more big sides. That would compete with the English leagues.