Celtic in the Carabao Cup: a radical venture explained

By Euan Davidson

June 11, 2021

There are calls for top Scottish clubs, including Celtic, to join the Carabao Cup.

England’s League Cup, often seen as a lesser trophy by the bigger names, doesn’t enjoy the same reputation as the FA Cup.

The Scottish Challenge Cup, meanwhile, features competitors from Northern Ireland and Wales [BBC]. With clubs needing extra income after the impact of Covid-19, it’s possible we’ll see more cross-nation cup competitions in the future.

There’s a historical precedent, of course. The 1953 Coronation Cup was won by Celtic, with four teams from each of Scotland and England competing. The British Home Championship used to be a significant event between the ‘home nations’. Between 1975 and 1981, the Anglo-Scottish Cup was a regular fixture, although Celtic only entered the competition once.

So, what chance a revival, of sorts? Speaking to the Price of Football podcast, Rangers deputy chairman John Bennett expressed an interest in having Scottish teams enter England’s League Cup competition:

"Carl Starfelt to Celtic is a big possibility" | Swedish journalist Anel Avdić

“The Premier League clubs have very little, or a declining interest in the Carabao Cup… so wouldn’t it be good to invite the Old Firm [sic]?

“I think the Carabao Cup would be very interesting for the Old Firm [sic] to be invited to, but also to participate because I think of the colour, the fans, the excitement it would bring.

“And I actually think the attraction it would bring to broadcasters.

“I’m not sure it’s limited to the Old Firm [sic]. Could it be an invitation that’s extended to, say, the top four clubs in any season [of] the Scottish Premier League [sic]?

“I think it’s something we should explore, something I’m keen to explore, and something the Football League should explore.”

Not the worst idea for Celtic, but is it a priority?

The current Scottish League Cup, sponsored by Premier Sports from next season, has been a happy hunting ground for the Celtic. We’ve won it 19 times, 5 of those coming within the last decade [Celtic FC].

You can’t argue it wouldn’t be attractive in a sense. If Celtic drew a significant Premier League team, for example, it’d be very good fun to see. We already play Scottish Premiership clubs at least twice per season; to mix that up would be an interesting proposition. It’s worth at least trying for a year.

Celtic players celebrate winning the 2019 edition of the League Cup / (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Of course, given the financial climate, clubs have to experiment to a degree. But you can imagine some opposition from EFL clubs, based on where these four potential Scottish clubs would join the competition. Really, we’d be taking someone else’s space there, if we had a bye into, say, the third round.

So there’d be details to iron out, but in the post-Covid landscape, it’s an avenue worth exploring. We just hope that if our board talk about it, they’ll get our league’s name right, is all.

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