SPFL's Neil Doncaster predicts more cross-border games

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster believes Scottish football is "ahead of the game" when it comes to cross-border competition

Neil Doncaster believes cross-border competitions will become a widespread feature across European football.

Northern Irish and Welsh teams featured in the draw for the last 16 of the Scottish Challenge Cup.

And Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Doncaster says member clubs should be "open-minded" to playing teams outside their borders.

"Over the next few years we're going to see the whole question of cross-border competition coming from Europe," he said.

Football League clubs in England are currently considering proposals to introduce a fifth division for the 2019-20 season, and which clubs to invite to the new set-up, including the possibility of involving Celtic and Rangers.

Proposals for a cross-border Atlantic League continue to be discussed, while other regional leagues in Europe have also been mooted.

In the fourth round of the Challenge Cup, Irish Premiership leaders Crusaders will host Livingston and Linfield visit Queen of the South.

Welsh Premier League leaders the New Saints visit Forfar Athletic while Bala Town welcome Alloa Athletic.

"There seems to be a willingness from Uefa to see cross-border competition develop," Doncaster explained.

"The Irn-Bru [Challenge] Cup and the innovations we've seen this year demonstrate that we're somewhat ahead of that game.

"Be in no doubt, cross-border competition is going to feature increasingly on the European football landscape. To have tried it out and had it endorsed by Uefa in a UK-football context is a positive development.

Former Celtic striker John Hartson helped make the Irn-Bru draw for the last 16

"We have to have an open mind about anything that is going to aid the game in Scotland and be of benefit to all 42 member clubs."

Any proposals for senior Scottish clubs playing outside the SPFL pyramid would need to be ratified by league clubs and governing bodies and may involve colt teams continuing to play in Scotland's senior leagues.

However, former Celtic and Arsenal striker John Hartson believes there would be a financial impact on other Scottish Premiership clubs if Rangers and Celtic played in one or more other countries.

He said: "You've got all the politics, do the chairmen and owners of the English league want Celtic and Rangers, does Scotland want to lose them?

"Look at the revenue and the finances, the crowds, especially now with Rangers back in the top flight. Teams like Motherwell, Dundee, they're very reliant on Celtic and Rangers, especially with the feel-good factor back now and playing in front of full houses.

"If you watch Motherwell most weeks there are 4,500 there, when Celtic go there are 18,000 people there. In terms of what Celtic and Rangers bring to the Scottish leagues, you can't put a price on that.

"Scottish football suffered when Rangers were out [of the top flight], so they'll suffer badly if both teams are out."

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