'No chance' of Old Firm switching to Premiership

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The Independent Football

The Premier League said yesterday there is "no chance" that Celtic and Rangers will be allowed to join England's top flight. The emphatic rebuttal came after Dermot Desmond, the majority shareholder at Celtic who is also a shareholder in Manchester United, had claimed a cartel is thwarting competition on both sides of the border.

"The Premier League clubs, the smaller ones that is, have issued a mandate to the executive that they don't want Celtic and Rangers in the Premiership because they might undermine their position in the league," Desmond said.

"Do you take Real Madrid and Barcelona and Juventus out of the Champions' League because people don't want to play them because they are too good? I don't think that's the way to go forward, it's illegal, it's wrong and it's not in the interests of clubs.

"The resistance is in the main from those clubs that feel threatened by Celtic and Rangers and who may get relegated or be denied a Champions' League place. We've carried out surveys and reviews, and neutral people want to see Celtic and Rangers in the Premier League in the UK.

"They would bring in over £100m a year to the Premiership. Uefa and Fifa do not object to Celtic and Rangers joining the Premiership if the SFA (Scottish Football Association) and the FA (Football Association) agree, so it is not a legal restriction. I think football would be better in Scotland and in the Premiership."

Desmond's stance is far from neutral. Celtic would increase their earning power enormously and it would also make the Premiership a more attractive proposition to broadcasters. The Premiership's biggest clubs (those in no realistic danger of relegation, such as Manchester United) would benefit.

Asked about the chances of the Glasgow giants playing in England, a Premier League spokesman replied: "There is no chance." The FA also indicated it is firmly against the idea. David Davies, the FA's director of football affairs, said that if Celtic and Rangers played in England, it would set a dangerous precedent for teams to ignore national borders for financial or sporting gain. "This comes up perennially in August, but it never actually takes off," he said.

If the Old Firm ever did play in a British league, the separate status of the home nations at international level would also be threatened.