The Atlantic Football League
A new European soccer league consisting of teams from Portugal, Holland, Scotland, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. There would be promotion and relegation between the Atlantic League and the remaining domestic leagues, and the top teams from the new division would qualify for the UEFA Champions League and Europa League.
Why it makes sense
The idea of an Atlantic ‘super-league’ was first mooted in 2000 when Harry van Raaij, the then-chairman of PSV Eindhoven, suggested forming a transnational league in order to ensure that his club – and many others like it – would remain able to compete with the giants of the European game.
Seventeen years later, European football is to an even greater degree dominated by teams from the continent’s richest leagues, while the smaller domestic competitions remain dominated by just a handful of clubs. With the lion’s share of TV money now heading to Spain, England, France, and Germany, the direction of travel in European football is squarely toward large glamour leagues with fan bases numbered in the tens of millions.
While Europe’s minnow leagues might not be inherently doomed, if high-profile clubs from small-market countries wish to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the giants of the game, joining forces and creating their own glamour league might be the only solution. An Atlantic League containing teams from Portugal, Holland, Scotland, Belgium, and Scandinavia would be replete with “blue-blood” clubs with sizeable fan bases and prestigious histories. Just like the Premier League and La Liga, the Atlantic League could have its own fan base stretching to the tens of millions, making the creation of a mega TV deal a realistic possibility.
Which teams would be included?
Here’s a rundown of the clubs that would likely be included in an Atlantic League:
- Ajax (4x European Cup)
- PSV Eindhoven (European Cup 1987-88)
- Feyenoord (European Cup 1969-70)
- FC Twente
- Porto (2x European Cup, 2x UEFA Cup)
- Benfica (2x European Cup)
- Sporting Lisbon (European Cup Winners’ Cup 1963-64)
- Rangers (European Cup Winners’ Cup 1971-72)
- Celtic (European Cup 1963-64)
- Aberdeen (European Cup Winners’ Cup 1982-83)
- Anderlecht (2x European Cup Winners’ Cup, UEFA Cup 1982-83)
- Club Brugge
- Standard Liege
- IFK Göteborg (2x UEFA Cup)
- FC Copenhagen
- Brøndby IF
In the above list of twenty clubs, there’s a wealth of European pedigree and plenty of brand names. Match-ups like Ajax v Benfica and Celtic v Feyenoord would almost certainly be extremely high-profile affairs capable of attracting sizeable television audiences. The league would also have a level of depth currently seen only in the continent’s biggest divisions.
But while the Atlantic League might be a great idea for clubs like Ajax, Copenhagen, and Rangers, opponents of the scheme are generally concerned that the remaining domestic leagues will fall into obscurity and irrelevance. The problem with this argument, however, is that these leagues are already irrelevant and attract no interest from outside the countries within which they operate. If the Atlantic League included a system of promotion and relegation where the lowest-placed club from each country was replaced by the winner of its country’s club competition, the domestic leagues would remain relevant and intriguing.
There’s simply no question that the Atlantic League is an idea worth getting behind. Clubs from Portugal, Holland, Scotland, Belgium, and Scandinavia really have nothing to lose at this point, and by joining forces they would give themselves a chance to attract the kind of money necessary to compete at the highest level of European football.
Likelihood of happening
25% (Wouldn’t bet on it).
A+ (needs to happen).