Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football Scottish Rangers

Rangers boss Mark Warburton lambasts European elite plan

By Andy Newport

Rangers boss Mark Warburton has hit out at plans which could transform the Champions League into a closed shop accessible only to Europe's biggest clubs.

The Ibrox manager is concerned after Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge raised the prospect of a continental super-league made up of 20 clubs from England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France.

Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster subsequently warned of a "sinister" plot to deny champions from smaller countries the opportunity to play in Europe's elite tournament and Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell has joined forces with Rangers counterpart Stewart Robertson and Aberdeen's Duncan Fraser to fight the move.

Rangers, who face Kilmarnock tonight in a Scottish Cup replay, still have ambitions of rejoining Europe's elite as they close in on promotion back to Scotland's top flight.

But Warburton fears the dominance of commercial interests over sporting merit may take the opportunity to play on the biggest stage in club football away from the Light Blues.

He said: "It has to concern us. If that is true and if that is a process that has been started, then anyone outside of the circle would quite rightly voice concern because it's called the Champions League for a reason. It's the champions of the various countries.

"Hopefully dialogue and discussion will go ahead and they can maintain it as it is.

"I can understand both points of view. I'm sure if you're looking at it from a commercial perspective then huge clubs haven't been involved for the last two years and other smaller clubs have.

"So commercially you might not be maximising the opportunity. I'm sure that is what they will say.

"But the fact of the matter is that you have to qualify for it. If you are a small club that has a fantastic year and gets in, then fantastic. You should reap the rewards for it.

"Should sporting merit always come before commercial interests? I believe so. It is down to sporting performance. That is why they call it competition. If you prepare well, train well and recruit well, then you deserve to get the reward for that."

Meanwhile, Rob Kiernan believes Rangers will make a bigger statement about their future intentions by winning promotion than by knocking top-flight Kilmarnock out of the Scottish Cup.

Killie have appointed Lee Clark as their new boss on a three-and-a-half-year contract.

The 43-year-old former Huddersfield Town, Birmingham City and Blackpool chief will be eyeing a top-six place.

Gers remain on course for the Championship title with an eight-point lead over Hibernian, having largely played some enthralling football along the way.

But the Light Blues' doubters are still waiting to see them defeat an opponent from the top division before deciding if they will be genuine contenders to topple Celtic next year.

So far, they have suffered a painful Scottish League Cup exit after being beaten 3-1 by St Johnstone, while Killie held on for a goalless draw in last week's original cup tie at Ibrox.

Centre-back Kiernan insists claiming a Premiership scalp is not high on Gers' list of priorities.

The former Wigan defender said: "We just see it as another game. We treat it exactly the same as every other game we approach.

"We proved in the last game we were more than a match for Kilmarnock.

"We could have won had we tucked our chances away.

"I don't think we get too focused on the fact they are a top-flight side. It is a good test for us and it will be another little statement.

"But we don't tend to look at it like that.

"The bigger statement to make is to win promotion. That's the goal."

Rangers will face the second instalment of a three-match run on plastic pitches when they travel to Killie.

They slipped up on Alloa's narrowed astroturf surface on Saturday as they were held to a 1-1 draw and also face an examination on Queen of the South's 3G turf next Sunday.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph