Glasgow Old Firm united in opposition to plans for Champions League closed shop

Rangers boss Mark Warburton has hit out at plans which could transform the Champions League into a closed shop accessible only to Europe’s biggest clubs.

The Ibrox manager is concerned after Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge raised the prospect of a continental super-league made up of 20 clubs from England, Spain, Germany, Italy, and France.

Scottish PFL chief executive Neil Doncaster subsequently warned of a “sinister” plot to deny champions from smaller countries the chance to play in Europe’s elite tournament and Hoops chief executive Peter Lawwell has joined forces with Rangers counterpart Stewart Robertson and Aberdeen’s Duncan Fraser to fight the move.

Rangers still have ambitions of rejoining Europe’s elite as they close in on promotion back to Scotland’s top flight.

But Warburton fears the dominance of commercial interests over sporting merit may take the opportunity to play on the biggest stage in club football away from the Light Blues.

He said: “It has to concern us. If that is true and if that is a process that has been started, then anyone outside of the circle would quite rightly voice concern because it’s called the Champions League for a reason. 

“It’s the champions of the various countries. Hopefully dialogue and discussion will go ahead and they can maintain it as it is.

“I can understand both points of view.

“I’m sure if you’re looking at it from a commercial perspective then huge clubs haven’t been involved for the last two years and other smaller clubs have.

“So commercially you might not be maximising the opportunity. I’m sure that is what they will say.

“But the fact of the matter is that you have to qualify for it. If you are a small club that has a fantastic year and gets in, then fantastic. You should reap the rewards for it I think. 

“Should sporting merit always come before commercial interests?

“I believe so. It is down to sporting performance. That is why they call it competition.

“If you prepare well, train well and recruit well, then you deserve to get the reward for that.”

Celtic captain Scott Brown admitted he would be “devastated” if his team were denied the opportunity to play on the big stage.

“We’d devastated but hopefully it’s not going to happen,” he said. “Especially at Celtic Park, when we get that stadium filled and the fans behind, it’s a hard place to be. 

“If you ask some of the best players in the world, they have also mentioned that as well. It would be a hard one to take.”

Meanwhile Norwegian teenager Kristoffer Ajer is set to complete a move to Celtic. Celtic have agreed a fee with FK Start for the 17-year-old to join the Glasgow club in the summer.

The midfielder trained with the Scottish champions for a week in January before returning home to Norway. However, he is flying to Scotland today to finalise terms.

Ajer, who is in La Manga, Spain, where he played for Norway U19s against Portugal on Monday, was quoted as telling Faedrelandsvennen: “Yes, I travel down tomorrow and the clubs agree. So we will look at my appointment and the medical test. It is amazingly big for me.”


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