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Premier League rejects Old Firm

Nacho Novo and Aiden McGeady battle for the ball
Celtic and Rangers will have to stay in the Scottish Premier League

The Premier League has rejected a plan to bring Celtic and Rangers into English football's top flight.

The Old Firm pair had hoped to be part of new plans put forward by Bolton chairman Phil Gartside for a two-tier league of between 36 and 40 teams.

The SPL pair would have been invited to join the lower league, but the proposal was overwhelmingly rejected.

Premier League clubs will now consider whether to introduce a two-tier system as part of a wider strategic review.

"Bolton Wanderers submitted a discussion paper detailing ideas concerning the restructuring of the Premier League into two tiers with the inclusion of Celtic and Rangers," read a Premier League statement.

"The clubs welcomed the additional input into an ongoing process, however, they were of the opinion that bringing Celtic and Rangers into any form of Premier League set-up was not desirable or viable.

"The other relevant ideas contained within Bolton's paper will now be taken forward as part of the wider strategic review being undertaken by the Premier League since November 2008 with the aim of providing recommendations before December 2010."

Former Celtic boss Martin O'Neill, now in charge of Aston Villa, and Spurs boss Harry Redknapp had backed the inclusion of the Scottish clubs in the Premier League.


But Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore told BBC Radio 5 live that the idea will not come to fruition.

"As regards to Celtic and Rangers it's a non-starter," he said. "So we've made a clear and unequivocal statement and we're going to move on from there. No means no.

"The clubs constitutionally voted to say we're not going to take this any further, Celtic and Rangers are not coming in."

Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey added: "It's the English Premier League. It's our product and we're working on our product. The Premier League clubs have made their decision and we move on. We wanted clarity and we've got clarity."

The proposals were a revival of Gartside's ideas aired six months ago.

They received a hostile reception from the Premier League's 20 chairmen then, but Gartside remains concerned that too much money continues to flow into the coffers of the top four clubs.

Last season, champions Manchester United earned £52.3m in Premier League television money, compared to £31.6m for bottom club West Bromwich Albion.

The fact that the four clubs in the Champions League also earned between £20m and £33m from European TV and prize money - and benefit from huge ticket and merchandise revenue - has led a number of chairmen of mid and lower-ranking clubs to ponder a possible review.

In his annual report, published last week, Gartside made it clear that he believed tackling the big differences in income was the league's greatest challenge.

I believe a 'fear factor' is beginning to emerge amongst Premier League clubs outside the top few

Phil Gartside

"Addressing this polarisation of clubs and the increasing revenue differentials will, I believe, be the major strategic issue for the Premier League over coming years," he said.

"The Premier League is an exciting product for supporters and for television viewers, but there is no doubt that as the years go by, and the same few clubs continue to benefit from the huge additional revenues from the Champions League, the remaining clubs find it enormously difficult to challenge.

"At the same time, the gap between Premier League revenues and those of the Championship continues to widen and I believe a 'fear factor' is beginning to emerge amongst Premier League clubs outside the top few."

The big clubs are likely to oppose any major change to the status quo, pointing out they have already boosted income to the smaller clubs by agreeing to every club receiving payment of facility fees for at least 10 televised matches totalling £4.8m, even if they only appear in a handful of live games on TV.

The next overseas TV deal - which is split equally among clubs - is likely to be close to £1bn, up from the current £650m and equating to an extra £6m per club per season.

But Rangers chairman Alastair Johnston believes the Premier League's rejection is not the end of the issue.

"I don't think it's the end of the talk in terms of moving away because I think there are winds of change moving across Uefa," he said.

"For Rangers or Celtic to enjoy a profile in a new world order of football, something will need to change in the next two to five years."

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see also
SPL happy to hold on to Old Firm
12 Nov 09 |  Scottish Premier
Rangers in safe hands - Johnston
12 Nov 09 |  Rangers
Rangers' debts increase to 31m
12 Nov 09 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Does England want the Old Firm?
12 Nov 09 |  Scottish Premier
Ex-Old Firm duo back move south
11 Nov 09 |  Scottish Premier
SPL considers expansion
27 Apr 03 |  Scottish Premier
Wenger warns of Scottish woe
03 Aug 03 |  Football
Rangers chief predicts SPL exit
08 Oct 09 |  Rangers
Moyes backs two-tier league plan
06 Nov 09 |  Premier League
Old Firm switch to be discussed
19 Sep 09 |  Premier League

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