The Football League Cup celebrated its 50th birthday this season but it’s not had the best of decades since its formation in 1960. With the advancement of the UEFA Champions League in the last 10 to 15 years, the Football League Cup has dropped in priority by the top teams in England; the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United have used the competition to field youngsters or reserves which has affected the overall value of winning the trophy.
It’s even been dubbed the “Mickey Mouse Cup” or the “Worthless Cup” the unfortunate tag when it was sponsored by Worthington Draught bitter. However, despite this the Football League Cup has still been able to hold onto its reward of a UEFA Europa League qualification for the winners. Only England and France can boast European qualification from their second Cup competitions.
Whilst the UEFA Europa League is another Cup competition that’s been damaged in reputation and value, it’s still a European trophy with a vast history. Check out the blog post by Daniel Blazer on the FFC site for more debate on this topic.
So what can be done to improve the League Cup? Well I propose the merger of the English Football League Cup with the Scottish League Cup and Welsh League Cup to form the British League Cup competition.
There has been vast talk of Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic joining the English Premier League over the years but I can’t see it happening, simply because of the ramifications. The Scottish Leagues will lose a lot of income and will not be able to make any progress, whilst it would only increase pressure from FIFA to form a British League and thus a British national team, which I am sure the majority of us do not want to see.
However, a British Cup competition sounds more realistic than the Glasgow pair joining the EPL or the Football League. Before you start to find criticism, the format would work on a regional basis to save the likes of Inverness Caledonia Thistle playing Plymouth Argyle in the first round, for example.
The top teams will be seeded for later rounds and the Cup merges by the last 16 or the Quarter-Final stage. The final of the competition can be rotated each year between Wembley, Hampden Park and the Millennium Stadium.
Only last month clubs from the Scottish Premier League met at Hampden to discuss plans on reforming the game north of the border, and a cross-border Cup competition was on the agenda.
Whether the English Football League accept such a merger will remain to be seen having rejected a similar idea from Stewart Milne, Aberdeen chairman in 2001.
It wouldn’t be the first time a British League Cup was introduced either, in 1902 a competition was set up using that exact name in order to raise money for the tragedy at Ibrox in which 25 people died and over 500 were injured.
The Cup was competed by the winners and runners-up in the top English and Scottish leagues.
More recently, some fans may remember the Anglo-Scottish Cup or the ‘Texaco Cup’ from the 1970’s which ran for a decade. Critics say poor attendance was the reason why the competition ended and was never restarted.
In defence of a new British League Cup, the merger wouldn’t be made until the later stage of the competition, so I believe there will be more riding on the games between English, Scottish and Welsh clubs.
With the right promotion and re-branding, the British League Cup could make an exciting addition to the football league calendar for seasons to come.