Tom English: Longmuir sounds like Old Firm talking
Did he sit there with Charles Green and Peter Lawwell and work it through? Did they collectively decide that this was the answer?
“So, lads, here’s the plan. We tell the SFL clubs that Rangers and Celtic are moving on, that it’s inevitable and that they may as well start thinking about life after the Old Firm.”
“Excellent. We can’t just up sticks, though. What about this colts thing? Could we float that turd again?”
“We’ll mention legacy. It worked for Seb Coe at the Olympics. The colts teams will be our legacy, our parting gift. They’ll have Old Firm Lite and we’ll have our way out of Scotland. Everybody’s happy.”
“The best of best worlds. For us, I mean. We’ll be gone to England or we’ll be in some cross-border competition making fortunes but our colts can still win all the trophies in Scotland. Perfect. I can see it now. Celtic colts versus Rangers colts in the Scottish Cup final. David, send out an email pronto. . .”
Green and Lawwell have very different approaches when handling the jaded business of the Old Firm’s potential route out of Scotland. Green barks and Lawwell purrs and, seemingly, in the middle of this ménage a trois sits Longmuir, chief executive of the Scottish Football League.
To those who say that Rangers can not join English football, Green cites sex discrimination law, vows legal action and writes to the Prime Minister. Lawwell shows more restraint, preferring to do his business in the shadows, but his desire to get out of Scotland is just the same. You can absolutely see their point and neither can you fault them for trying to create a more lucrative future for their clubs. That is what they are there to do. That is their modus operandi.
The worrying thing, though, is that Longmuir appears to be going along for the ride.
The other day, Longmuir wrote an email (later leaked and now the cause of some consternation) to his member clubs telling them they’d better start thinking of a domestic landscape without Rangers and Celtic. Why should they? Why should Scottish football be thinking that any kind of post-Old Firm plan is required when there is precisely zero evidence to back up the view that they are going anywhere.
And why is Longmuir even mentioning it?
Longmuir is a prospective head of the one league body that may run the reconstructed game – if we ever get that far. He could be the guy, as opposed to the unpopular Neil Doncaster, doing the deals with television companies, could be the guy charged with the job of being principal cheerleader for the new format, the guy who is supposed talk up the strength of the product. His two main weapons going forward are obviously Rangers and Celtic, but he thinks that “Scottish football should be thinking longer term and putting in place now a strategy which potentially futureproofs our game to the loss of both these global brands.” Who says so? Green? Lawwell?
This is what he emailed to the SFL clubs. “If Scottish football wishes to move forward as a progressive and commercially interesting proposition, then perhaps we have to be mindful of what the future landscape of European football may look like. Already trials are taking place supported by Uefa within the ladies game across the Benelux group of countries, whereby the top clubs are coming together in a Supra National league competition.”
Marvellous. So, if Longmuir finds himself in the top job in the new league body and ends up sitting across the negotiating table from Sky, what does he do? Does he tell Sky that he’s “mindful of what the future landscape of European football may look like” and that he is preparing for the “loss of these global brands”?
Sky would be perfectly entitled to get up and walk out of the room.
What is Longmuir at? Apart from spending too much time listening to Green and Lawwell, perhaps. It’s quite extraordinary that Longmuir would seek to influence the reconstruction argument by presenting a vision of the future that has Scotland’s two main assets playing somewhere else, particularly since there is nothing to back up what he says. He mentions the future landscape of European football and, yes, things look to be changing. But not for the Old Firm.
Uefa have given approval to a Balkan Football League featuring upwards of 16 teams drawn from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Hungary. There’s been talk also about a merging of the top divisions of the Russian and Ukrainian leagues. There has been even further chat about a BeNeLiga involving 20 clubs from Belgium and Holland. Longmuir referenced the BeNe women’s league that’s been introduced on a three-year trial and seemed to extrapolate that it is some kind of fait accompli that Rangers and Celtic will depart on this new wave of cross-border thinking in UEFA.
It’s nonsense. The reason that there is change happening in Europe is because of what Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino describes as “geographically aligned” countries with like minds. The Balkans want each other, the Russians and the Ukrainians want each other, the Belgians and the Dutch want each other, but nobody wants the pair of Glasgow giants. Certainly nobody in England. For Longmuir to float the idea that we all need to start steeling ourselves for their departure is bizarre.
In all the years they have been willing their way out of Scotland, the Old Firm have not advanced their position one inch. Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the Premier League, is on record as saying that there is no place for them in England and no amount of Green belly-aching is likely to change that.
“No means never,” said Scudamore. That sounds pretty emphatic, don’t you think? This is Longmuir again, a gobsmacking attempt at dressing up the disaster that would be the Old Firm leaving Scotland as something bright and cheery. Perhaps the SFL chief executive thinks that his clubs and their supporters came down in the last shower. “The legacy of a colt team would allow Scottish football to profit from the global success of the parent club or team, but also provide a level of domestic football which would be competitive, interesting and attractive to fans, sponsors and media alike.”
Green and Lawwell couldn’t have written it better. Funny, that.