League Restructure

Celtic and Rangers should join Ligue 1, claims sports economist

Leading professor Jean-Pascal Gayant proposes 18-team league incorporating Scotland's biggest two clubs in huge shake-up

2:05pm on Tuesday 30th March 2021
Paul Macdonald

Celtic and Rangers should be included in proposals for a new 18-team Ligue 1, according to a leading sports economist in France.

The recent collapse of the Mediapro TV deal for Ligue 1 is likely to have huge ramifications on French football, and with the financial dominance of PSG, the league is in danger of losing all element of competition.

And so Jean-Pascal Gayant believes that teams need to considering cross-border competitions in order to survive.

The Dutch and Belgian authorities are scoping out a merger of their major leagues in order to become 'the sixth force' in European football, behind the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1.

Gayant believes this to be the correct approach, telling publication SoFoot:"I am convinced that we must anticipate rather than undergo an internationalisation of so-called “domestic” leagues. European football is characterised by a fragmentation that seems more and more anachronistic.

"The Champions League and the other European cups form a system allowing the best teams to compete against each other on a recurring basis, but, in the national championships, the gap between the cadors [the biggest teams] and the 'rank-less' continues to grow.

"It is also a real proposal, because the Scottish championship is a bit wobbly: 12 teams that meet three times each, then five more games to find a way to end the season by trying to correct the structural imbalance.

"In addition, the two Glasgow clubs crush the others. Yes, making room for these two Scottish clubs in our Ligue 1 seems to me to be an opportunity jointly for Scottish football as for French football."

Gayant also makes it clear that this would be a step towards the inevitable Super League, which will happen sooner rather than later.

He added: "I think that the advent of a European Super League is inevitable: Europeans must be careful not to see the emergence of a dominant football Major League in North America or Asia.

"The best players will go where the best salaries are. Let us not forget that the greatest potential for football consumers is located in Asia. It should also be recalled that FIFA has declared itself in favour of a merger between MLS and the Mexican League to create "The best league in the world".

"For now, the statement makes you smile. But when the Spanish speakers in the US and Mexico only have eyes for this league, the dollars will flow. Then the best South American talents will start to hesitate between North America and Europe, and so on."

Gayant is quite clear as to why this plan may work. He recommends a reduction in the number of teams in order to spread the TV money among a smaller pot and, therefore, increase the level of the competition as a whole.

Adding in the two Scottish sides, with their international support, would create an 18-team competition.

He laid out his agenda: "As a first step, go to 16 teams in Ligue 1, or 18 possibly with the two Scottish teams, therefore, to create a competitive shock.

"With approximately the same payroll spread over 16 or 18 teams rather than 20, the average quality numbers will increase and the clubs will have time to play European matches.

"Of course, we have to cushion the shock for the clubs which will be relegated to Ligue 2 and National. We must therefore also create a professional Ligue 3, and even a mixed Ligue 4 with pro and non-pro clubs."

It is unlikely that such a proposal - taking two teams from one major competition and dropping them into another - would be something that UEFA would entertain, but there is of course precedent of cross-border teams. Not least Monaco, with the principality taking part in Ligue 1 already.

But regular trips to France to take on Marseille rather than Motherwell will likely have a sustained impact, not only on both competitions but the travelling fans of both teams.

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