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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Scottish clubs 'must stick together'
Motherwell in action against Celtic
Motherwell has been put up for sale by its owner
Celtic and Rangers have been urged not to abandon Scottish football - for the sake of the country's other top clubs.

Sports Minister Mike Watson has called for unity in an effort to stabilise the game north of the border.

He was speaking at a meeting in Glasgow to discuss the perilous state of Scottish football.

Airdrie players
Airdrie has gone out of business

"In the short term the Old Firm would benefit from leaving while the teams left behind would have a more competitive league," he said.

"But they have to stick together at the moment for the sake of Scottish football and attract a TV deal."

The 10 other clubs in the Scottish Premier League have already served notice of their intention to quit the league in two years' time.

The move came after the two Glasgow clubs blocked plans for the SPL's own subscription-based television channel.

There has also been speculation on the future of the Old Firm, with the Glasgow clubs being linked to a move south to join the English Nationwide League.

The idea of nationalised football clubs might be attractive to political romantics but is not viable

Mike Watson
Sports Minister

It looks increasingly likely that the BBC will be the only bidder for next season's television rights.

Sky has decided not to throw its hat into the ring, a decision which the rebel 10 clubs blamed on the latest speculation that Celtic's future may lie in England.

Recent weeks have also seen SPL side Motherwell placed in administration and put up for sale.

First Division side Airdrie has become the first Scottish football club to go out of business for 35 years.

In the light of these problems, the Scottish Trades Union Congress brought together a range of experts to debate the way forward for the game.

'Radical changes'

Players' representatives, academics and Cabinet ministers were among those discussing how to stop more clubs collapsing.

Players' union boss Tony Higgins said: "I think we recognise that in the short-term there has to be a TV deal done for Scottish football to allow the clubs to survive over the next two years."

However, he said there needed to be "radical changes" in the longer term to ensure that more clubs received the income which would enable them to stay in business.

Tony Higgins
Tony Higgins: "There has to be a TV deal"

Mr Watson said he was confident that a television deal would be struck.

He also ruled out the possibility of troubled clubs receiving a financial lifeline from the Scottish Executive.

"It is difficult to see how that could be operated," he said.

"It was suggested that we give financial assistance to Airdrie, but if the executive came up with 3m then what next?

"The idea of nationalised football clubs might be attractive to political romantics but is not viable."

He said it was not appropriate for the executive to act as a "cash cow".

"I have offered my assistance to the league but I don't think there is a direct role for the executive," he added.

BBC Scotland's Raymond Buchanan reports
"Scottish football is taking a harsh financial reality check"
See also:

10 May 02 | Scotland
Rebel clubs blame Celtic
02 May 02 | Motherwell
No quick fix for 'Well
01 May 02 | Airdrieonians
End for Airdrie
22 Apr 02 | Scot Prem
Non-Old Firm 'stay united'
11 Apr 02 | Football
TV row sparks jobs fear
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