WHILE the Scottish game was tying itself in knots about Hall of Fame invites, Betfred Cup venues and coin throwing, the wider football world was continuing to turn – and at quite a pace. If the trail of secret e-mails and documents which German newspaper Der Spiegel suddenly found in its possession are to be believed, the “binding term sheet” which will finally establish a European Super League could be signed any day now.

Der Spiegel sensationally alleged this week that a 13-page draft of this dreaded document, which would see the Champions League as we know it cease to exist as of 2021, has been circulated and the signatures of the 16 teams who will take part in season one of this super-duper new competition will be in place by the end of this month.

The initial in-take includes 11 so-called ‘founders’ of the European Super League, who would not apparently face relegation, a bit like the franchise model which currently operates in the NFL, plus five invited guests. Also like the NFL, the competition would most likely conclude with a knockout phase.

According to an attachment, the ‘founders’ are Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus, Chelsea, Arsenal, Paris St-Germain, Manchester City, Liverpool, AC Milan and Bayern Munich, with the five “Initial guests” listed as Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Olympique Marseille, Inter Milan and AS Roma. It will come as precisely no surprise whatsoever that Celtic, nor any Scottish club, aren’t to get an invite to the top table.

While the revelation that Europe’s big clubs are always keen to find ways of giving themselves more money at everyone else expense is hardly news, the advanced stage and detail of such discussions should give everyone pause. Driven by clubs like Bayern Munich, who can master their domestic environment but fear being blown out of the water financially by the global economic success of the Barclays Premier League, the paper alleges that even back in 2016 the Bavarian giants had instructed their lawyers to examine the potential commercial booty of an elite league and anticipate what legal wrangles might stand in the way.

How simple or otherwise, for instance, would it be for them to break free of their obligations, both to the Bundesliga and to their players, many of whom are locked up on long-term multi-million contracts? Could they be held liable for any loss of Uefa revenue? Would they still have to release their players for international duty in Uefa and Fifa competitions? Or could their players be punished if they didn’t? A Swiss company was apparently established to handle the commercial revenues for the company.

The documents – which claim not to have been hacked – make for a fascinating read, not least because a lot of these discussions were taking place behind the backs of smaller clubs. Or big clubs who just happened to be locked in smaller football markets - like Celtic. Peter Lawwell has been part of the ECA executive board since 2014 is well respected in European football’s corridors of power but invites to smoke-filled rooms like these ones are clearly harder to come by. Instead, he has had to settle for small victories such as introducing a third European competition to go alongside the Champions League and Europa League, which will expand the total number of competing continental clubs from 80 to 96, from the start of the 2021-22 season.

Whether the Champions League still exists in its current form by then, however, remains to be seen. Years after a proposed breakaway of the G14 clubs saw the Champions League swell in size from 16 to 32 clubs, the compromises at the last time of negotiation were the guaranteed entry of the top four clubs in each of the four top-ranked leagues – England, Spain, Germany and Italy. Another handily placed little clause also delivers more money to these big guns who cannot access the Barclays Premier League dough, by allocating a projected 585m Euros a season to clubs with a legacy of success in this competition over the previous decade.

Already adrift in the sleepy backwater which is Scottish football, time is of the essence for our biggest clubs to try to get their oar in. If they haven’t already missed the boat already, that is.