Celtic and Rangers £100m plea as former Hearts boss Craig Levein calls for Old Firm to leave Scottish Premiership
Former Hearts and Scotland boss Craig Levein reckons Scottish football would benefit if Celtic and Rangers join the English Premier League and says he would "drive the Old Firm down there myself" if the offer comes along.
Levein believes the Scottish Premiership is now the least competitive in Europe and thinks moving the Glasgow giants to England would offer a potential solution – as long as they pumped £100m a year back into the Scottish game.
The expanding gap between the Old Firm and the Edinburgh clubs has been highlighted in recent weeks. Celtic comfortably won home and away against third-placed Hearts in the league and cup, while Rangers thrashed fourth-placed Hibs 4-1 at Easter Road. Second-placed Rangers are 25 points ahead of Hearts in third with 10 games still to play. Celtic have lost only once and Rangers just twice in 28 league games and the record 34-point gap between second and third, set in 2002-03, is no under threat.
"We’ve probably got the least competitive league in Europe," Levein told the Daily Record. "And the problems are the same as they were 20 years ago when my Hearts side finished third by whatever points gap you mentioned. They’re financial. Joe Savage [the Hearts director of football] wants to split the Old Firm and that’s great. It’s a good ambition to have. But having that and making it happen are two completely different things.
“My views are very straight forward – when the next financial crisis happens in the Premier League in England and they are looking for something different then I would absolutely drive the Old Firm down there myself. I would love the two of them to play in England and represent Scotland, get the money that’s associated with that which would allow them to grow and be competitive in that league.
“And at the same time if they both gave the teams in Scotland £50m a year, so a combined £100m, for allowing them to move down there, then that would allow the Scottish game to grow immeasurably. Scottish football would thrive.”
Levein, who was linked with the Dundee United job earlier this month, guided Hearts to third place two seasons in a row during his first spell in charge at Tynecastle, but believes it is now impossible for clubs outside the Old Firm to finish any higher. He added: “The last time Hearts finished second was when Romanov was there and threw £40-£50m at it. Until someone else is prepared to do likewise then the gap won’t close.
“Hearts will get to the point where they can handle Europe and the league campaigns simultaneously. The regular Euro money will help as well. But the Old Firm will still be making more year on year, so that doesn’t bridge that gap. There’s signs that Hearts are the team that could gain that level of consistency that will pull them closer to the Old Firm. But trust me, they won’t be competing at the same level for a long, long time unless those two disappear down to England.
“I honestly think it will happen one day. When a broadcaster gets a bit bored of the Premier League and is looking for something different. There’s a precedent set with the Welsh teams playing in the Premier League so I don’t see why it would be an issue.”