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Atlantic League Torpedoed

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It's that time again, although in this iteration, it seems that EmergencyFC has holed the freighter itself. 


An "exclusive" from Mick Grant in The Times


New Atlantic League plans sunk by Celtic


Michael Grant, Scottish Football Correspondent

Tuesday November 17 2020, 12.01am, The Times





Revised plans to create an Atlantic League have been hit with a major blow as Celtic decided they were no longer interested in being involved.

Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen and Hibernian were all informed of a detailed proposal to resurrect and modify the 2016 Atlantic League project with the claim of a guaranteed £900 million of media rights to share between 20 clubs over its first six years. Hearts were also included in documents seen by The Times and which involved the five biggest Scottish clubs leaving the Premiership to play all their league football against sides from Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Ireland.


The entire project has now been put on hold after Celtic’s major shareholder, Dermot Desmond, said his club would rather continue with the status quo or pursue a possible British league. Celtic’s withdrawal, the Covid-19 pandemic and last month’s reports of a breakaway European “Super League” all contributed to the Atlantic League plan going into cold storage.


The concept of a competition for bigger clubs from leagues in small and mid-sized northern European countries first emerged in 2000. It was last seriously redrawn and advanced in 2016 by the Irish sports investor and corporate governance lawyer Andrew Doyle, co-owner of League of Ireland club Shelbourne. Doyle is the driving force again and his firm SAL Sports Capital has the multi-national investment bank JP Morgan on board for the latest Atlantic League plan.


The new version, evolved from the project of four years ago, envisioned an entirely new tier of competition in Europe which would be collaborative with Uefa and the national governing bodies. In addition to Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen, Hibernian and Hearts, the clubs to be included in the proposal were Malmo, Norrkoping, AIK Stockholm, IFK Gothenburg and Hammarby (Sweden), FC Copenhagen, Brondby, Esbjerg, Aarhus and Midtjylland (Denmark), Rosenborg, Viking Stavanger, Valarenga and Molde (Norway) and one club from Republic of Ireland.

Those countries would merge their Champions League and Europa League qualification routes so that their clubs made it into the Uefa tournaments by finishing high in the Atlantic League. The big five Scottish clubs would remain members of the Scottish Football Association and Scottish Professional Football League, though, and there would be annual promotion and relegation play-offs so that others such as Motherwell or Kilmarnock could also step up to the Atlantic League.


Major solidarity payments to the remaining Scottish clubs were proposed. The Scottish Cup would continue as is, with the winners still qualifying for Europe. It is understood some senior figures at Uefa and the SFA were aware of the plans and open to them.

SAL Sports Capital began market research, developed an original business plan and initially engaged with clubs including some in Netherlands and Belgium in 2016.


At the start of this season Doyle informed clubs that SAL and JP Morgan had spent “the last several months” identifying the right financial partner for an Atlantic League and had succeeded in attracting multiple bidders willing to underwrite the media rights.

But, on November 6, Doyle emailed stakeholders saying: “We received a call a few weeks ago from the principal shareholder of Celtic to say that he and Celtic were not interested in pursuing the project any further, preferring the status quo or the concept of a British isles league. This was both a surprise and a disappointment to us given our lengthy engagement with the clubs and our success in receiving proposals for underwriting the league worth well over one billion euros. However, of course, we must respect their decision.

“We remain of the view that the interests of all stakeholders in small and mid-sized European countries are best served by consolidating their markets and that resolving the competitive balance issue . . . can only be achieved in this way. We know this is Uefa’s greatest concern and were very encouraged by our stakeholder engagements to date.

“However, having consulted with various clubs on this we have come to the decision, in light of feedback, that when we combine this news with the issues caused by Covid and by the proposed ‘Super League’ and related developments, we are best to press pause on this project until the landscape has changed. This may not happen in the short term. We will take time to consider alternative models and may engage with some of you over time on them.”


Doyle was unavailable for comment yesterday.


Atlantic League Q&A


What’s the idea? 

20 clubs from Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Republic of Ireland leave their domestic leagues to compete against each other in a new competition worth at least £900 million over its first six years.

Who would be involved? 

Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen, Hibernian and Hearts from Scotland; Malmo, Norrkoping, AIK Stockholm, IFK Gothenburg and Hammarby (Sweden); FC Copenhagen, Brondby, Esbjerg, Aarhus and Midtjylland (Denmark); Rosenborg, Viking Stavanger, Valarenga and Molde (Norway); and one club from the Republic of Ireland.

Those who finish 19th and 20th would contest two-legged play-offs with national champions from their own country, and the winners would secure places in the Atlantic League for the following season.

What do the Scottish Professional Football League clubs think? 

Celtic have dropped out. Rangers, Aberdeen and Hibs were open to the concept but would have had to be convinced that the money was there. Hearts have not been formally consulted.

What would it mean for the SPFL itself? 

t would lose its five biggest clubs from the top flight but they would remain as Scottish Football Association and SPFL members and each of them could be relegated back to the Premiership in a bad season. Finishing in the top Premiership places would no longer have the rewards of Champions League or Europa League places, but play-offs to get into the Atlantic League.

Why would the other 37 clubs vote for it? 

The promise is significant solidarity payments from the Atlantic League and the possibility that any team could be promoted to it on merit via the play-offs.

What are its prospects? 

With Scottish involvement? Slim. Celtic’s decision to pull out was a significant blow and, if the project goes ahead at all, it is likely to involve only Scandinavian and Irish representatives.

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53 minutes ago, Thinker said:

Back when the pipedream involved Portugal, Netherlands and Belgium it was at least exciting.


But playing against teams from Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden? Torpedo away!

And Aberdeen, Hibs, Hearts, etc?

That was not part of the original idea, was it? 

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47 minutes ago, MacK1950 said:

If we and the other teams left it would let the Mhanks achieve an ubeatable run of titles from now to infinity:roflmao2:

They would receive an annual "Lifetime Achievement Award", in perpetuity, as that would be the least that they deserved. 


Of course, they would still fail to reach the Group Stages of any European Competition. 



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From a commercial perspective it's a league with a combined population of around 30 million, which would make it the eighth largest in Europe. It wouldn't be as attractive as the others as they all operate in one economic area with one main language, this league would have 5 different economic areas, 3 in the EU, 2 outside, 5 different currencies and at a push 3 languages if we group the Swedish and Danish together. In four of these countries English football teams are the best supported club sides. Football isn't even the most popular sport in Ireland and none of their clubs attract any kind of significant support. 

It has the potential to be a stronger league than the SPFL financially and certainly it would be more competitive, but it'll still be miles behind the big 3 or 4 in Europe. It's not an easy sell. 

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