Rangers and Celtic 'odds-on' to stay in SPL

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The Independent Football

Ralph Topping, the new non-executive chairman of the Scottish Premier League, believes the Old Firm are odds-on to remain in the SPL.

Topping, who will remain as chief executive of William Hill, takes up the newly-created role at a time when Rangers and Celtic have never been more public in lobbying for an exit from Scottish football.

A Hibernian fan from a Hearts-supporting family, Topping is well aware of the Glasgow giants' desire to move either to England or into some sort of European league.

However, wearing his bookmaker's hat, he played down the prospect of any breakaway, urging both clubs to "live in the real world."

"The story about Rangers and Celtic leaving the SPL has been running for about eight years," he said. "It hasn't happened yet, they keep knocking on the door, I'm told, but it's a very difficult thing for them to achieve.

"In fact, as a bookmaker, we are quoting Rangers and Celtic remaining in the SPL until 2019. We are taking a very realistic view on that.

"Rangers and Celtic are fantastic brands, they have fantastic management and that management wear two hats. One is the commercial development of their club and one is the development of the SPL.

"In day-to-day terms, they manage their clubs well and make a significant contribution to the SPL and I'm happy with that.

"Every chief executive has the duty to look at developing the commercial environment of their club so I can see what they are doing to satisfy shareholders.

"But there is a difference between having ambition and living in the real world. "I prefer to live in the real world and I don't see it happening."

Topping admits marketing the SPL without either of the Glasgow giants would be problematic. "It would be very difficult," he said. "They are international brands, well-known, and it would make the job a little more difficult.

"They go back a long way, part of the fabric of Scottish life and we would like them to continue in the SPL."

Topping, whose post with the SPL is unpaid, will ease himself in to the job before he makes recommendations as to what improvements should be implemented, although he insists the current focus on youth should continue. "After four days in the business I am not going to presume that I know everything," he said. "When I became chief executive of William Hill I took my time.

"I took a good look at the business and gave my viewpoints and I will be prepared to do the same in three or four months' time.

"Early in the new year, I would be prepared to say where this business needs to go.I love the Scottish game," he added.

"I would like to see more youths coming in to Scottish football, although I think that direction of travel has been set anyway.

"As a Hibs fan, I remember you used to get a whole panoply of players coming through at Easter Road from John Blackley to Alex Cropley. I believe the young players are still there."

Meanwhile, Barry Robson is determined to resurrect his Scotland career after making his first SPL start since February. Robson started Celtic's goalless draw against Motherwell on Saturday after finally overcoming groin problems.

The midfielder had become a key player for his country and Robson is eager to make his return when Scotland face Wales in a Cardiff friendly on 14 November. "That's something that is very much on my mind, to get back involved with Scotland and try and help Scotland progress," Robson said.