Lofty Position in Europe To Come?

Last updated : 27 May 2002 By The Resident Alien


If the close season is the ideal time, for anorakish musings, this may be my best chance. A lot was made recently about Scotland's coefficient and where Celtic and Rangers would be starting in next Fall's Euro competitions. As it turned out, Celtic will have to play a crunch qualifying round tie while Rangers, as the Scottish Cup winners, advance straight to the first round of the UEFA Cup, which brings with it the very practical benefit of starting training for this important season at least a two weeks later than they've had to in recent seasons. The season is long enough as it is, so this is welcome.

What's even more enticing, however (with visions of Nationwide League and no European play apparently put to bed again), is what the following season could be like for Gers.

We are all confident that the team can do the business this coming season and bring the league championship trophy back to Ibrox. Given that Scotland are 12th in the UEFA Team Ranking for the five seasons ending in 2002, Scotland will return to having its top two clubs in the European Cup (for the 2003-2004 season). But if the Scots clubs can have some success in this coming season's Euro competitions, Rangers could very easily qualify directly for the group stage of the Champions League, which has to be considered the best of both worlds.

For the coefficient table that will conclude NEXT May, Scotland are 10th, and the top 10 nations put their champion directly in the first group stage (sometimes it's the top 11, depending on who the defending CL champion is, etc…) But for seasons 98-99 through 01-02, Scots clubs have performed better than all European nations in Euro club play, save the top 9 (Spain, England, Germany, Italy, France, Greece, Holland, Portugal and Turkey). Scotland are at 23.00 while the Czech Republic are at 21.75 in 11th. Belgium, Switzerland, Ukraine and Austria are the next closest competitors, and likely the only states within reach of Scotland.

In the upcoming Euro season, Scots clubs will get .50 for each win, and .25 for a draw (these numbers are halved in preliminary rounds). There are also bonus points for advancing past the first group stage, and reaching later stages of the competitions. Scotland are by no means in the clear, but decent runs by Rangers and Celtic will greatly help the state's chances of retaining that 10th position, thus benefiting whomever the league champion will be.

It should be noted that while Rangers will be breaking a short Celtic string if they win the championship, they by no means will be benefiting from Celtic's European labors. Of those 23.00 points over the past four years, Rangers earned 11.750 and Celtic 7.125 (with the minnows getting the rest). So Rangers take the lead role in earning this status for Scotland, if it can be maintained over the coming season. Having said, that, Celtic are the only club with the chance to play a guaranteed six matches, if they can get past a tough qualifying round.

So as if the normal incentive for winning the SPL wasn't enough (and it is), there is that much more riding on it this time around. 2002-2003 season will truly be pivotal for the fortunes of Rangers, Celtic, AND Scots football.