For many years there has been continuous debate over whether the Scottish ‘Old Firm’, Rangers and Celtic, should join the English leagues in order to seek higher levels of competition. However this has so far not come to fruition, and the debate seems to have been halted since Rangers’ resurrection and subsequent climb back up to the Scottish Premier league in time for next season.
While the debate may have so far been futile, it begs the question whether or not there should be a domestic competition between all British clubs, not just English and Scottish teams but also including their Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts.
The idea for a ‘British League Cup’ was recently floated, but Northern Irish teams were not considered in this structure. However, I feel it would be more appropriate to consider these teams as part of the structure if such an idea was to go through.
The idea of a British League Cup poses some problems, both logistically and financially, for all clubs concerned. I will now attempt to submit my ideas for how to overcome these problems.
Travel distance is a issue that is always raised whenever potential for cross border activity within football is discussed. The argument is made that in the lower leagues some teams could not financially afford to travel the distances between, for example, the south of England and the north of Scotland.
However, with the combined financial capabilities of all four Football Associations united on one particular competition, coupled with the potential of a major conglomerate as a corporate sponsor, I feel a potential prize-money structuring would greatly offset the travel costs which would be attributed to these clubs.
Another dilemma that people bring up with regards to travel is the ability of clubs’ fans to be able to attend games so far away, potentially during midweek. I would propose that fixtures for a British League Cup could be spread out over the course of a week, with the furthest travelling distance games for away fans being played on weekends in order to lessen travel problems for the fans concerned.
However, one issue that this might create that I do concede is that taking up an entire week for this competition would greatly lengthen the seasons of all the respective leagues.
Another argument is the amount of teams that would participate in such a tournament. However in order to reduce numbers there could either be qualifying rounds with teams entering at later stages, or some form of group and knockout stages within the competition.
Also brought up is what would happen to the distribution of England’s Europa League place, currently given to the winners of the Capital One Cup (England’s League Cup). This, in my opinion, would depend on UEFA’s flexibility. The Europa League spot could either be given to the winner of the new British League Cup, or if UEFA are unwilling to change their current coefficient rules for this competition, it could be given to the furthest advancing English team, or further assigned through league position.
The final argument I will seek to address is what would happen to the current domestic league cups. I feel that certainly the English and Scottish clubs are not taking full advantage of their League Cup competitions in their current form. Therefore replacing these competitions with a version including teams from throughout the British Isles could be the way forward in order to increase the excitement of and interest in the third domestic competition on the calendar. A British wide competition would also eliminate the similarities with the more prestigious FA run competitions in England and Scotland, and other domestic competitions in Northern Ireland and Wales.
In conclusion I feel that a British League Cup would be a good way to modernise the game and excite British football fans. It would also offer clubs the opportunity to play against clubs which they may otherwise never meet outside of European competitions.