The Celtic and Rangers new dawn as £70million Champions League bounty accelerates seismic Euro shift

It’s been a long time since Scottish football could claim to dine at Europe’s top table but a brave new dawn could be on the horizon for our sides.

As has long been known, this season’s Premiership winners are almost guaranteed to go straight into the group stage of the Champions League, with all the financial rewards that it brings.

As it stood the only scenario that could rule Celtic or Rangers out of contention was the winners of this season’s competition failing to qualify via their domestic league – but even that wouldn’t scupper things as it stands.

With teams from Russia indefinitely suspended from UEFA competition an automatic place will go to this season’s champions unless they are reinstated in time for the beginning of the new campaign AND the previous scenario applies.

But this isn’t just a one-season affair as our teams could be set to reap the rewards for years to come.

Here’s how the European shake-up could benefit Scottish teams.

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Group stage money

The first and most obvious benefit is the money that comes with being in Europe’s premier competition before you’ve even kicked a ball.

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Estimates have put that at around £35-40m when you combine the current €15.64m (£13m) qualification bonus with the television money on offer.

With a top 10 coefficient place guaranteed this season after the Russian teams were expelled, the 2022-23 Premiership champions will be guaranteed their place in the group stage.

Prize money is only likely to increase but even if we take current levels that’s £70m on offer across two seasons.

The UEFA Champions League and the Europa League trophies

There’s also prize money on offer for results obtained during the group stage, with €930k (£773k) for a draw and €2.8m (£2.3m) for a draw.

Realistically Scottish clubs would need a kind draw to see big returns – Malmo managed a single point in the group stage after knocking out Rangers – but even one victory would be worth its weight in gold.

Getting through to the knockouts would bring another £8m in prize money but that’s something of a pipe dream.

Since Dynamo Kiev and Zenit St Petersburg did it in 2015-16 only three clubs from outside England, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Portugal have made it.

RB Salzburg did it this season, while both Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk achieved the feat in 2017-18.

Pre-season money-spinners

There was a time when Rangers and Celtic would face off against Europe’s giants in lucrative friendly matches across the globe, but the early start to qualification has put paid to that.

With group stage football though there’s far more leeway for pre-season fixtures.

Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool with Steven Gerrard manager of Rangers

The 2022-23 Champions League is scheduled to start on September 6 – and that’s an earlier start for the winter World Cup.

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This season’s began on September 14 and that would leave plenty of space for big pre-season games, especially coming out of the Covid pandemic where international travel should be a more realistic option.

Europa League bonuses

Fans outside of Glasgow’s big two will rightly say that one or both of Rangers and Celtic getting huge new financial rewards isn’t good for an already inequitable league but there is also good news for their own prospects in Europe.

This season’s Scottish Cup winners will go straight into the play-off round of the Europa League, putting them just two games away from a £2.8m prize money jackpot and whatever TV revenue is added on top.

Even elimination would guarantee European group stage football, with the team dropping into the Conference League for a £2.4m prize.

Should Celtic or Rangers win the cup that placing would go to the team in third, with fourth entering the ECL third qualifying round and fifth in the second.

Transfer planning

Having certainty over which competition you’ll be in will also make the summer window a less fraught time for our clubs.

We’ve grown used to seeing Celtic – and this season Rangers – waiting to see if they’ll have Champions League riches to bank on before making any big moves.

With a guaranteed place and the competition not starting until September there’s far more leeway to plan, and that goes for other clubs too.

As detailed above, the Scottish Cup winners are guaranteed group stage football of some kind and the drop-off from Europa League to Conference League is unlikely to be enough to cause excessive caution.

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There’s also the not insignificant fact it’s easier to lure players if you can guarantee them European football.

New format

So that’s 2022-23 and 2023-24 laid out, but there’s a huge change on the horizon from the following season.

A revamp of the Champions League will see four extra admitted teams and a total change to what is now the group stage.

The 36 clubs will go into one league format, playing 10 matches – an increase of four on the current setup.

The top eight will qualify automatically for the knockouts, with the teams ranked 9th to 16th playing off against each other.

More matches means more TV money and more opportunity to win prize money – though of course Scotland will need to maintain a top 10 ranking.

That’s no easy task given the double-edged sword of an automatic group stage place – it’s hard to pick up coefficient points if you’re getting battered by Europe’s giants.

But there will be an extra qualification slot from the ‘Champions Path’ and entry for the two clubs with the highest club coefficients that have not qualified automatically, so even going through the preliminary rounds should be easier.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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