Cardiff City boss empathises with Old Firm's England ambitions

By Alasdair LamontBBC Scotland
Feature: Can Welsh clubs eclipse the Old Firm?

Cardiff City will next season become the second Welsh club to play in the English Premier League.

But their Scottish manager Malky Mackay has expressed sympathies for their Glasgow counterparts who have long coveted but also been denied a place in the world's richest league.

Celtic and Rangers' desires to somehow become part of the lucrative English set-up have been met by brick wall after brick wall, but the big Welsh clubs' historical affiliation with English football means they are now reaping the riches of the EPL.

With television contracts worth £5.5bn over the next three years, the EPL will be able to hand out in the region of £60m to the club finishing bottom next season, with the SPL champions receiving about £2m.

"Of course I can see the argument of Celtic and Rangers wanting to compete in Europe and not having the financial ability to do that because of the media deal for the likes of Wigan and Swansea of the English Premier League, who don't have anywhere near the pulling power in terms of attendances of those clubs," Mackay told BBC Sport at Cardiff's Vale training complex.

"What can be done about it? I don't know. Scottish football has always had its own leagues, so to then say you want to play in another league because there's more money in that league, I'm not sure that argument stacks up."

So how does Scottish football get itself out of the seemingly deepening rut in which it finds itself?

"For that you need Rangers back in the top division. The sooner that happens, the interest comes back from media and let's make no bones about it, the commercial deal with the media is what makes the Premier League in England what it is.

"Certainly Rangers being back in playing against Celtic and fighting for the title with Celtic is the first step for that to happen."

Celtic's Adam Matthews tussles with Rangers defender Lee Wallace
Celtic and Rangers have been unable to secure a move to England's top flight

Mackay's preparations for life in the EPL have already begun in earnest, with a mooted £25m transfer budget at his disposal, but despite the riches that accompany life in England's top flight, Mackay doesn't believe clubs like Cardiff can become bigger than the Old Firm.

"Those clubs are worldwide institutions. The pulling power and fanbase of those two clubs are astronomical, incredible," he added.

"What we're talking about at the moment is the lack of ability to bring in the finances to be able to secure top-level players. That is the difference.

"If you play in the Premier League in England, you have the ability to do that, no matter what size of club you are. When I talk about Fulham, Wigan and Swansea, they're clubs who normally get 20,000 people at their games and under, whereas both Celtic and Rangers can fill stadiums galore.

"It's purely because of the ability to play in the English Premier League that those clubs can fund players who can come in and raise the standards of their football club. Celtic and Rangers can't do that and I understand how galling it must be for them, but at the same time I don't see how that changes."

Cardiff director Steve Borley, though, believes there could come a time where his club leaves even the biggest, most successful Scottish clubs behind.

"Forget what the attendances are: the attendance revenues are insignificant compared with TV revenue and other external revenues. So in terms of turnover levels, the Premier League's significantly outstripping the Scottish clubs and that will be a problem for them," he explained.

"It's a completely different level. TV revenues, for instance, are something like 60 times what you'd get in the Championship.

"Every aspect of the commercial operation will be multiples of what it was in the Championship.

"Whereas you'd be knocking on people's doors to sponsor the club, all of a sudden they're knocking on your door. You're talking about a global product and global exposure and that brings a different level of income."

Despite the contrasting fortunes of the Scottish and English leagues, Mackay believes the job of managing either Celtic or Rangers will remain a position with genuine allure for high-calibre coaches.

"I think the ability to go and beat Barcelona and play them in the Nou Camp and have your fans there is a huge draw for a football manager. Neil Lennon deserves huge credit," he continued.

"Both of those positions are still as coveted as the days of John Greig and Billy McNeill."

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