The other week I was playing in a football tournament; one of the opposition teams was an Arsenal supporters team.  We gubbed them 3-1, but one of their players made a comment afterwards regarding the standard of the SPL: “We were unbeatable in England, so we’d never lose a game in Scotland.”  I suggested that wasn’t true and I didn’t see Arsene Wenger rushing up the M6 to test that theory.  He thought I was joking, and laughed in that arrogant Cockney wanker way.  Prick.

But I was serious.  There’s a lot of talk about the Old Firm joining the English Premier League (*) but why don’t we look at the problem the other way?  What if Arsenal had to play in the Scottish Premier League?  What would the situation be?

– Massively reduced TV revenue would mean they would be unable to pay their wage bill.  This would force them to offload their entire squad and replace them with players on considerably lower wages: home grown players (of which they have virtually none); Bosmans; or cheap foreign imports….

– It becomes hard to attract even those Bosmans and cheap foreign imports they would be able to afford, because they are playing in an unsexy league with midwinter games in places like Hamilton, with the occasional cup tie in Forfar or Dingwall thrown into the mix….  [I’ve never been to Dingwall, but my supporters bus once stopped in at Forfar on a Saturday evening.  The pub on the main street had one customer, who was playing dominoes with the barman.  Saturday night in Forfar.  I kid you not.]

– What home-grown players they do have would leave after a few years to earn substantially higher wages in the EPL, even going to inferior teams like Birmingham.  You might even lose a talented right-back to Tottenham….

– Because of their large historic fanbase, they are successful, breaking the Rangers/Celtic duopoly for the first time since the Ferguson/McLean “New Firm” in the early 80s.  However their ability to generate meaningful revenue to buy and retain good players is increasingly dependent on making the Champions League group stages or selling their best players – two antithetical streams of income….

– Supporters become disenchanted with being a big fish in a small pond and over time gradually become more passive or drift away altogether.  Either way, there is no season ticket waiting list to drive creation of a new stadium and thus increase income the old-fashioned way….
– Ad infinitum.

I don’t play any of the “Championship Manager” games on the PC but it would be an interesting thing to simulate.  I have no doubt Arsene Wenger would excel in the Scottish league – indeed in any league, because the professor is a great manager who produces teams that play some of the best football I’ve ever seen – but where would it leave Arsenal in relation to Manchester United and Liverpool?  (**)  Well behind, that’s where.

So, Mr Cocky Cockney: you might have pumped my team in a pre-season friendly; and then beaten Celtic more comfortably than anyone in recent history at Parkhead on a European night; but if you stop to think about it, you’d realise… there but for the grace of God go I.


(*) And that’s all it is – talk.  The teams at the bottom don’t want to be pushed down into the Championship; the teams at the top don’t want to risk their moneymaking “Big Four” position; and the teams in the middle don’t want to risk being pushed further towards the bottom or further away from the top.  The only way I can see it happening is entry via the Championship or an EPL2, and even then, it still requires some turkeys to vote for Christmas.

(**) I refuse to include Chelsea in a “Big Four” because they’re not a “big” club – they have no significant history.  Abramovich could just as easily have bought Tottenham, or Manchester City, or Aston Villa, and turned them into the brand that is 21st-century Chelsea Global Media Holdings Ltd.  [And don’t get me started on that **** Peter Kenyon; that’s for another time.]

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