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Pondering the Possibilities of the Atlantic League

Ajax v. Benfica

While the Aughts have been full of speculation/proposal about the Old Firm joining the EPL, the 90’s was about the Old Firm joining what was dubbed as the Atlantic League. It was a joint proposal from the big clubs in the Netherlands, Scotland and Portugal. ESPN is reporting that there may be another attempt at this break away league, which would involve the aforementioned clubs along with Belgium and the Scandinavian clubs.

I’m all for tradition, but I like the idea of this league.

For one reason, historic clubs such as Ajax, Celtic, Rangers, Porto (Mourinho-era aside), Sporting, Benfica, PSV, Anderlecht and FC Copenhagen have no hope of competing in the Champions League any longer as they are financially dwarfed by the clubs in the big six leagues of Europe. These are massive clubs and don’t deserve to become also-rans because of the size of their country’s population.

For another Scandinavia, which once produced clubs that could cause an upset in Europe, have been reduced to two clubs in the Europa League. Norway and Sweden, which produce many talents for other clubs, haven’t had a team in the knock-out stages since the mid-90’s. Both confederations sit in the 20’s in the coefficient rankings. And Denmark hasn’t been much better, although they do typically have a team in the group stages.

If Michel Platini is about strengthening these leagues, then allowing smaller countries to consolidate to fight the money and populations of Italy, Spain, France, England, Russia and Germany is only fair. And with German clubs again complaining about the 50+1 rule, as was discussed here earlier, such a change would only help push the Netherlands, Scotland, Belgium, Portugal, Denmark, Norway and Sweden further adrift.

Finally, if a breakaway league can be formed for these countries, it could provide a blue-print for the Eastern European nations that find themselves in the same position.

And it’s not like we haven’t had this before. The old Yugoslavian league during the Communist era was essentially the same thing being proposed, and was competitive in Europe without the availability of foreign transfers.

If they could set up a league, perhaps even with two tiers, it could gain enough popularity to rival Russia or France, which are broadcast widely. They could have relegation and promotion with a two tier system. And for the second division, teams could drop back to their country’s league system if they finished in the bottom three. Say Hibs came in last in league 2, they could be replaced by Aberdeen, the winner of the SPL. This could work if it were just one league, too. The question would be, how many teams would be allowed into the Champions League. This new league might need to be given a fifth slot to account for the eight countries.

Think about this league:
Sporting Lisbon
Valerenga (included because I love them)
FC Copenhagen
Club Brugge
Standard Liege

That would be a highly competitive league with historical clubs oozing out of it’s pores. It would take place in eight countries, two teams each for the 5 million nations and 3 each for the 10 million nations. The league would encompass a population of 67 million people, taking it past Italy, Spain, England and France. And other than travel to Portugal, would rarely compete with the travel involved in an Bayern-Hamburg match. Linguistically, it would entail Dutch, Danish, Norweigian, Swedish, Finnish, English, French and Portuguese. However, the Scandanavian countries can communicate as their languages are so similar, except for the pronunciation differences from Danish to Swedish. 25% of all Finns speak Swedish as well. Walloonia speaks Dutch. And to be perfectly honest all of the aforementioned nations, speak better English than the Scots 😉 So really we are talking about a league that could concentrate on English and Portuguese.

By the way, the Gaffer may soon be seeking an AtlanticLeagueTalk writer 🙂

*Population notes: Belgium 10.5 Netherlands 16.5 Portugal 10.7 Sweden 9.2 Denmark 5.5 Norway 4.7 Finland 5.5 Scotland 5

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  1. Ron

    November 1, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Relegation and Promotion. How is that handled?

  2. BallinBrad

    October 21, 2009 at 3:09 am

    This is very interesting to me. But I do wonder about the green issues of all that travel,
    It just doesn’t seem right. But what if there was a new champions type league for these
    Teams? Their own trophy and competition in which maybe there were actually more games
    Than the Champions League but this would still be far less than a regualr play
    every week league. Maybe even create a lesser trophy geared towards the Scan
    /Belgium teams or perhaps not. Its all exciting to think about. With my idea too
    It wouldn’t take away these teams from their normal leagues. I do think that combining
    some keagues like one of the other commenters talked about would be good as well.
    Anything that woukd strengthen teams and create more competition I am for.
    Its true the Champions League has become the “show me the €/£ money league,” and these
    teams can’t compete anymore we are speaking of.

  3. Muuh

    October 19, 2009 at 7:47 am

    The idea of combining smaller leagues arround Europe to compete with bigger ones sounds very interesting. Maybe that big a league is too big a first step though. Why not think about merging some regional leagues first, like Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg into one, or like the 4 Skandinavian countries. This way u still have quite a few of the old revalries going on and not only just a lot of almost strangers playing each other. Also I cant agree with your argument that Hamburg – Munich is the same as going to Finland, Portugal, Schottland and so on every other week. It´s different time zones, it´s different climate … just to name some. Also its a difference to have a far away game twice a season or every away game.

    Also, if you take away the 2/3/4 best teams in every league, all the many other small clubs play like a meaningless first country league. If you have lets say about 7 teams from every country in the combined first league though all the rest can be a second division and still have some sort of competition thats worth mentioning I would imagine.

  4. mikebsiu

    October 18, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Even with these teams, there are some big disparities. The Portuguese, Dutch and the two scottish teams would still dominate. Financially the Scandanavian and Belgian leagues couldnt compete. As a lifelong Anderlecht fan it would be fun to see for a couple of years, but I would miss the local rivalry, and would miss playing in Europe, since we probably couldnt compete with these top teams to qualify.

  5. Chris

    October 14, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    I, for one, would love to see the Atlantic League come to fruition for all the reasons you describe. I want to see some of the “big” clubs from my youth (the, ahem, 70’s)–Ajax and Anderlecht and Copenhagen–have some relevance again in the world.

  6. Double Pivot

    October 14, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Yes, I included MyPa because it’s one of the best football club names ever.

    Valerenga because they’re a leftie club….same as Cadiz and St. Pauli. One day, I’m going to do a Valerenga, Malmo FF, St. Pauli, Werder, Cadiz, Vayecano trek 🙂

  7. diana

    October 14, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    ‘Valerenga (included because I love them)’
    Any reasons, DP? 😉

    For me among those you listed, MyPa just stands out for some reason for me.

    ‘While the Aughts have been full of speculation/proposal about the Old Firm joining the EPL, the 90’s was about the Old Firm joining what was dubbed as the Atlantic League.’
    So the talk of the Old Firm joining the EPL has been around in the decade when I was born (or actually I was born towards the end of the 80s). That long indeed.

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