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Page last updated at 14:36 GMT, Thursday, 8 October 2009 15:36 UK

SPL unfazed by Old Firm exit talk

SPL  chief executive Neil Doncaster
Neil Doncaster says the Old Firm are a vital part of the SPL

The Scottish Premier League has no plans for a top flight without the Old Firm, the body's chief executive says.

Celtic indicated on Wednesday they would consider joining the lowest level of the English League with the aim of playing in its Premier League.

But Neil Doncaster told BBC Scotland that it was his job as chief executive to promote the 12-club SPL "brands".

"What we need to do is do our utmost to use those brands to drive more money into Scottish football," he said.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell said Scottish football would benefit from increased competition if the Old Firm played elsewhere.

"There are only two teams that can win the league," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"If you accept that competition is the lifeblood of sport, the Scottish model is seriously challenged.

"If Celtic and Rangers did play in another environment, I think it would enhance the game because you would have more competition."

At a meeting in November, the English Premier League are to discuss the possibility of a two-tier set-up, which could involve the Glasgow sides.

Bolton chairman Phil Gartside is the driving force behind the idea to include Rangers and Celtic in two divisions of 18 teams.

Lawwell revealed that Celtic would consider joining the English league at the lowest level - if it meant they had a chance of playing in their Premier League one day.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell
"If we had the TV rights value that you get in England, then there is no barrier for Celtic

Celtic chief executive
Peter Lawwell

The club would be prepared to enter the English pyramid at the base if it would benefit them in the long-term, he said.

The issue has been raised several times over the years, with many fearing the loss of the Old Firm's financial muscle would be ruinous for the Scottish game.

However, when speculating about a future exit, Lawwell added: "When there is something to play for, the crowds go up.

"And, if we move, there may be some sort of interim solidarity payment to see the clubs through the transition."

And the chief executive believes Celtic have the potential to be a major European player if the club can escape the constraints of the SPL.

"If we had the TV rights value that you get in England, then there is no barrier for Celtic.

"If you look at our story and compare it to Manchester United: the beginnings, the triumphs, the tragedies, the characters, they are almost identical.

"But we play in a country of five million people and Manchester United play in the most successful league in the world.

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"We continually look in awe at what's happened in England. The English Premier League is an absolutely fantastic product."

The SPL told BBC Scotland that its focus was on promoting Scotland's top flight - with the Old Firm in it.

"My role is very different from Peter's and is to do the very best that I can by all 12 SPL clubs," said Doncaster.

"From my point of view I'm delighted that the Old Firm are very much part of the SPL. I'm delighted that we've got the other 10 clubs in there as well.

"My job is to drive all 12 clubs forward for their benefit as best I can."

Doncaster said he was aware of speculation surrounding the creation of a two-tier set-up, but preferred to deal in reality.

"We've got 12 magnificent clubs within the SPL and we're delighted to have them all there - including the Old Firm," he said.

"We've got an enormous amount of good within the SPL and two world-quality broadcasters who are showcasing our product.

"We need to ensure we get more money from broadcasting and other areas."



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see also
Levelling the football playing field
07 Oct 09 |  Business
Old Firm switch to be discussed
19 Sep 09 |  Premier League
Top-flight 'reticent' on Old Firm
23 Apr 09 |  Premier League
Celtic chief open to England plan
22 Apr 09 |  Celtic
Boyle cautious of Old Firm exit
20 Apr 09 |  Motherwell


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