JOHN BENNETT, the Rangers deputy chairman, fears the 'direction of travel' in European football means the top level of the game is heading towards a closed shop situation on the continent.

But he believes there could be an opportunity for Rangers to expand their horizons south of the border as he touted the possibility of the Old Firm participating in the Carabao Cup in years to come.

The topic of cross-border competition came to the fore earlier in the season as the ill-fated and ill-conceived European Super League plans were launched and quickly fell apart.

A backlash from supporters was pivotal to some of Europe's biggest clubs pulling out of the competition within hours of it's launch but Bennett had a premonition that moves were afoot.

"I was surprised and not surprised," Bennett said. "I will deal with the not surprised in that you could see the direction of travel.

"If you think of the breakaway clubs, the elite clubs, the super-duper clubs, their owners, some of whom clearly see them as global sports franchises before they see them as football clubs embedded in and born of their communities.

READ MORE: Rangers deputy chairman John Bennett in emphatic player sales message at Ibrox

"The surprise for me was that some of them, at least, seem to have forgotten that bit right there. You don’t need me to tell you that, you saw the fans reaction and it was an understandable reaction.

"I wasn’t surprised in that I could see the direction of travel, it is what these owners of these clubs clearly were angling for for some time.

HeraldScotland: Rangers directors John Bennett, Douglas Park, Graeme Park, and chairman Dave King

"I wouldn’t say I was surprised that it came. The manner in which it came, the timing at which it came, the lack of sensitivity to the very lifeblood of those clubs in terms of fans, that really surprised me."

The collapse of the ESL concept came as UEFA undertook work to tweak the Champions League format and launched the new Conference League that will start next season.

READ MORE: Dave King addresses Rangers share deal and Malcolm Murray's Club 1872 board bid

Rangers will have to embark on a qualifying campaign in order to reach the Champions League group stages and many more successful sides will find themselves in a similar situation.

“I would love to give you a resounding ‘yes’ to that question,” Bennett said when asked if he believed UEFA could award additional Champions League spots to domestic league winners such as Rangers.

“For obvious reasons I would love to give you a resounding yes. But I don’t give you a resounding [yes], I hesitate because I talk about the direction of travel of the elite or super clubs.

"The direction of travel of UEFA has also been in a similar direction, hasn’t it? It has – the co-efficient thing you talk about – has played to something of a closed shop or in danger of being a closed shop.

HeraldScotland: Steven Gerrard

"We eradicate the whole idea of meritocracy at our peril. I think the only constant in life and in football is change. I have to say I would love to think the answer is ‘yes’ to your question.

"I am not brimming with confidence because if I look at how UEFA has behaved and the direction of travel of UEFA historically, it has been to play to the strengths and desires and wills of the global elite, the European elite, clubs. My heart says yes, my head says, at best, not quite yet."

The idea of the Old Firm moving to England has been bandied around for many years but the chances of Rangers and Celtic playing in the Premier League remain remote.

Bennett won't close the door on contending south of the border completely, though, following a discussion which raised the prospect of entry in a knock-out competition.

"I think the Carabao [Cup] would be very interesting for the Old Firm to be invited to and also to participate in," Bennett told the Price of Football podcast.

"I think of the colour, the fans, the excitement that it would bring and actually the attraction that it would bring to broadcasters. We had that conversation.

"Actually, I am not sure that it is limited to the Old Firm. Could it be an invitation that is extended, to say, the top four clubs in any season in the Scottish Premier League?

"I think that is something that we should explore. It is something I am keen to explore and I think it is something that the English Football League should explore.

"Forecasting is always a dangerous game but I will give you this forecast: We would sell out our away allocation. No problem."