Atlantic League: Everything you should know about the proposed breakaway football division that could shape Celtic and Rangers' future

Atlantic League: Everything you should know about the proposed breakaway football division that could shape Celtic and Rangers' future

TALKS are taking place over an international division, dubbed the Atlantic League, which could see Celtic and Rangers leave Scottish football to play in a continental set-up.

With UEFA proposing a shake-up to the process of qualifying for the lucrative Champions League, their plans will squeeze Celtic out of the picture should they become a reality in the near future.

This likelihood of the Champions League becoming an exclusive competition for Europe's top four leagues has the continent's also-rans exploring new avenues to ensure their financial futures.

Here's what the latest discussions mean for Celtic and their rivals Rangers.

Can Celtic and Rangers move to English football?

No. The long-standing prospect of Celtic and Rangers joining English football is finally dead and buried following the latest meeting between the English Football League, during which members agreed that no more non-English teams would be allowed to join their divisions.

So the Old Firm rivals are stuck in Scotland?

Not quite. The notion of Celtic and Rangers leaving Scottish football to join a so-called Atlantic League with other clubs in Europe was first suggested by PSV Eindhoven director Frank Arnesen in 1999, and talk has resurfaced since England finally closed the door on the Scottish giants.

Why do Celtic and Rangers want to break away from their domestic league anyway?

Well, Europe's biggest clubs outside of England are keen on an overhaul of the Continental club competitions as they are conscious of a growing financial gap between themselves and English Premier League clubs following their bumper £9billion television deal, which financially dwarfs all other leagues.

But Celtic can no longer be considered elite, where does this leave them?

According to the Daily Record, Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell has approached other sleeping giants, such as Ajax, about countering mooted proposals put forward by Europe’s elite clubs (some of whom want to develop an invitation-only version of the Champions League, which would likely exclude the Bhoys), suggesting they create a division of their own.

So this means no more Champions League football at Parkhead?

That looks to be the case. The Champions League is set for an overhaul from 2018 whereby the top four divisions in Europe (currently the top tiers in Spain, England Germany and Italy) will each be given four automatic qualifying berths to the group stages. However, the decision to include only clubs from Europe’s top four divisions is yet to be fully ratified.

Who else wants to be a part of this Atlantic League should the Champions League be limited purely to the elite?

FC Copenhagen director Anders Hørsholt, one of the key advocates of a breakaway division for Europe’s mid-ranked clubs, has been in on-going discussions with other clubs about setting up a league involving teams from Scotland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and Sweden.

Would clubs still be able to take part in their domestic league?

No. Any European club that wants be part of any such Atlantic League will have to leave their domestic division. Celtic, who qualified for this season’s Champions League for the first time in three years, can expect to receive an invite if such plans come to fruition, along with their great rivals Rangers.

What difference would playing fellow mediocre clubs from Europe make?

It would generate better TV money for Celtic. Few are interested in tuning in to Celtic v Partick Thistle on a Sunday afternoon, but pit the Bhoys against Dutch giants Ajax on a Saturday night and you have yourself an audience. The extra TV money would make the club - and others in Celtic's position - richer and better equipped to compete with the elite once again.

What do the powers that be in Scottish football make of all these proposals?

UEFA's proposed changes to the Champions League could 'irreversibly damage' Scottish football and other leagues across the continent, says Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster. "You would see interest in all the leagues that are excluded inevitably declining and that would damage the game," he has said.

What's next?

The Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) will meet on October 21 to discuss proposals and their options on how to proceed.