To stand still is to fall behind
Scotland and Belgium aren’t bedfellows by any stretch of the imagination, yet when I look at the continental progression I can’t help but get a sense of ‘look at what you could have had’.
Both nations share borders with a much bigger footballing setup, however Belgium opted not just to supply their neighbours with players, but to gatecrash their party and form a tie-up league, the Beneliga.
Of course, desire alone is not enough to create a new partnership, the will must be there, and in that respect money talks.
A merger that dilutes the cash pool is never going to get the go ahead, one that drastically increases the income will though, as just shown.
Europe’s new league is estimated to become the sixth most valuable on the continent, knocking the Championship down a notch. Belgium it seems negotiated from a position of strength.
They are Internationally ranked above their neighbour for starters, not just some mickey mouse outfit wandering around with the hand out but a proper footballing nation of its own accord.
Their players are the equal of their neighbor at least, some of its clubs also giants in their own right.
Just as important, this isn’t just a flash in the pan, a nation stumbling upon a golden generation. The foundations have been laid for Belgium to flourish as a football nation, and Holland will now reap a lot of those benefits, so will fans seeking something new and exciting.
Old Bonnie Scotland once had the chance to turn the page and begin a fresh chapter of the national sport. The McLeish report should have kick-started a new era for the game up north, something surely the man himself intended and he definitely didn’t intend for his time consuming work to gather dust in a drawer somewhere in Hampden. While Belgium’s top teams help each other and sign deals that will bring huge improvement to the domestic game, Scotland’s dynamic duo bicker about Guards of Honour while one stadium takes strong steps to ensure it won’t be damaged during events surrounding the nation’s premier sporting attraction.
Over the last decade Scottish football has seen it’s lowest point, Belgium has witnessed it’s footballing surge.
Ironically, ‘our’ giants would topple theirs, on any other metric but the playing field that is. The more renowned, world famous as a matter of fact, larger stadiums and one team with history they could only dream of, plus that iconic strip to be found on every corner of the globe, an oxymoron surely? You don’t find an Anderlecht Supporters Club in every major city, never mind obscure places, no harm at all to them and their fortunate support.
Fortunate to be on the rise that is, a feeling Celtic fans dream of. At this moment I might fancy giving Anderlecht a decent game, but they and all involved will soon leave us in their wake footballing wise, despite us statistically dwarfing most if not all of them.
Dutch football threw out it’s plastic pitches and now it’s latest partner in crime will be forced to, lucky bassas. It’s technical and brings through a lot of youth, who previously were forced to move to one of the big five leagues for life changing wages. With the expected hugely improved revenue, a higher wage tier is on the table, keeping some of those stars whilst also raising the leagues profile to keep the dollars rolling in.
Starting as the sixth biggest league doesn’t mean staying there, the big five are just waiting to be knocked off their perch, unprepared for competition and mostly hype anyway.
Any new league should though look around the landscape and try to take the best of other leagues, while taking steps to avoid their mistakes.
For instance, dont let Champions League money skew the league into a small bunch of possible winners from now until eternity.
Try to keep the competition as open and unpredictable as humanly possible, there’s ways. Spread the lion’s share of all clubs European prize money possibly alongside giving every club in the league an even amount no matter the finishing position?
Salary cap? Anything but watching a new creation go the same flawed route as its predecessors.
Will they have home nation referees who declare their sporting allegiance?
Opt for VAR after seeing England’s tussles with it?
Will this initiative help both nations on the International stage?
Will it improve general relations between the two nations involved?
Reasonably priced with easy viewing options?
As the first merger (of many) plenty eyes will be scrutinizing this fresh start-up, wondering could they transfer it’s model elsewhere, IF it is successful, success of course being subjective.
Club Brugge’s owners may judge their swelling coffers as success while their fans gawk at the fact they aren’t favourites to win the league. Those same fans just may accept that, if they are suddenly gawking at world class players and teams gracing their stadium regularly.
If the games remain accessible to Joe Bloggs while the standard of player and team improves, it could easily be claimed as success.
After ignoring the McLeish report then Brexit killing any chance of an Atlantic League, watching the Beneliga emerge and grow will be very bittersweet.