When the economic interests are over the sports interests

Published 13 October 2009

By Pablo Lopez Couto, Lex Century Abogados

Firstly, it is worth making reference to the Article 2.f) of the Statutes of the UEFA: “The objectives of UEFA shall be to: (…) f) ensure that sporting values always prevail over commercial interests (…)”.

We cite this article of the Statutes of the UEFA because it is complicated to define this statement with the last information received from the United Kingdom, where the Premiership teams are opened to discuss the possible incorporation of the Old Firm (Glasgow Rangers and Celtic Glasgow) to the English league. This debate is integrated in a proposal made by the Bolton´s Chairman, Phil Gartside, where it raises the prospect of creating a Premier League with two divisions of eighteen clubs each one, in which Rangers and Celtic would be included. UEFA spokesman, William Gaillard, has declared that UEFA will not be in opposition to the inclusion of these clubs to the English League whenever all the parts reach an agreement (Premier League, FA, the Scottish Premier League, Scottish FA and the Football League). 

We have been left to know what the Top Four of the Premiership (Manchester U., Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea) will say. It is foreseeable that the four would be against the proposal in case their incomes from television rights, etc… decrease. We must say that it is complicated for the proposal to go ahead in the first meeting of the clubs. To consent this plan it is necessary the approval of fourteen clubs of the twenty that integrate the Premier.

It will be possible to say that the feasible incorporation of these historical clubs (Celtic and Rangers) is in order to give/with the objective of giving a great incentive to the most powerful league of the world, however after having analyzed all the information, one figures out whether there are other interests different from the sport ones. A fact that we can make allusion to is the difference between televising contracts of SPL (Scottish Premier League ) and Football League (Championship (2ª division), League One (2ªdivision B), League Two (3ª division)). 

As much Celtic as Rangers would consider the possibility of resigning to Europe during years; according to the proposal it could be that they do not commence in the Premier League A, they would do it in the Premier League B. However, both clubs know perfectly well that this absence in Europe would be compensated with greater economic benefits in the long term. The truth is that these teams would have a greater television cover, better contracts and everything which will be more in the most followed League of the world.

On the other hand, we find that other Scottish clubs of SPL (Scottish Premier League), other historical clubs as Aberdeen, Dundee United, Heart of Midlothian would see reduced their incomes by the loss of sponsors, less significant televising contracts and mainly they would have less international repercussion. Conversely, there is an opinion that says that as a consequence they would have the possibility to participate in the Champions League or UEFA Cup. They have never had the occasion to go due to the overwhelming dominion of the teams from Glasgow. In my point of view Scottish League would be left orphan and it will become a less important league. The places for Scottish teams in Champions League and UEFA Cup would be less for the reason that this is moderated based on a coefficient of the clubs in the European competitions.

Finally, it is reasonably ironic that UEFA would not be against this proposal, in view of the fact that the plan to include the Old Firm (Celtic and Rangers) in the English League is more for economic purposes than sport motive, contradicting, from my point of view, the own statutes by which the European football is regulated. The UEFA, being the most important Organism in European football, should revise this question for the reason that in case the proposal was admitted it would leave touched of death one of the oldest leagues of the European continent.