Are the ‘Old Firm’ beneficial to Scottish Football?
Are the ‘Old Firm’ beneficial to Scottish football? Almost half of the country would say yes. That half being the people who are involved with either Celtic or Rangers: fans, players, directors and also a large section of the media. The other half, being divided into the other forty football clubs in Scotland, would have a mixed response to the same question. Having dominated Scottish football for the best part of one hundred years or more, I will look into the positive and negative aspects of Rangers’ and Celtic’s dominance and decide whether the two ‘giants’ of the Scottish game are actually beneficial to Scottish football as a whole.
Firstly, one argument for Celtic and Rangers being beneficial to the Scottish game is that whenever these two teams play away from home, there are always larger crowds than in normal games which do not involved the Old Firm. Therefore, the higher the attendance at games involving the Old Firm, the higher the income for the home team. This clearly benefits the home team in this case and, due to the larger crowds occurring at every game in which one of the Old Firm play, is beneficial to Scottish football. Adding to this previous point, the atmosphere at games with bigger crowds is usually ‘electric’ and adds to the enjoyment of the game. Whether it is the Old Firm fans who create this atmosphere is debateable, nonetheless the atmosphere improves as the crowd rises and usually filters through to the pitch where the players give better performances.
A counter argument to the point about larger crowds and a better atmosphere would be that the Old Firm (usually away from home) can be heard singing sectarian songs, shouting religious abuse at players or other public figures (i.e. The Pope) and creating a nasty atmosphere at away stadiums across the country. The sectarian chants, sung by both sides of the Old Firm, are one of the main arguments against them being beneficial to Scottish football. Most non-Old Firm fans would ask ‘What has religion and religious wars, which happened hundreds of years ago, got to do with football?’ it has nothing to do with football, but while being frowned upon, there never seems to be any punishment for the two Glasgow clubs. It is suggested that the reason for this lack of punishment is due to Scottish football’s governing bodies, who do not want to disrupt the established order in Scottish football where Rangers and Celtic are always at the top.
Continuing this argument against the Old Firm being beneficial to Scottish football, there is a two horse race for the SPL title every year. In fact, the last time a team out with ‘the ugly sisters’ won the league title was in the 1984/85 season when Aberdeen won the league. This dominance of the top league in Scotland contributes massively to the apathy and lack of enthusiasm for football in Scotland at present. It can also be said that it is one of the main reasons for falling attendances throughout Scotland. The two horse race season after season can be accounted for by the massive gulf in money between the Old Firm and other SPL clubs. It has been suggested that last year the wage bill for Celtic Football Club was thirty nine million pounds, whereas the ten other clubs in the SPL combined would struggle to compete with half of that amount. This shows the enormity of the gap in Scottish football, which is added to by television revenue mainly going to Rangers and Celtic, which leaves other clubs in a financial mess.
Contradictory to this previous point and an argument why the Old Firm are beneficial to Scottish football is that better players are attracted to the SPL due to the stature of both clubs. Better players playing in the league creates a better standard of football on show and therefore may enhance the interest in the league also. As well as this, having better players to play alongside, or even play against, may improve the standard of players already playing in Scotland and therefore this would make the Old Firm beneficial to the Scottish game as a whole.
A third argument against the Old Firm being beneficial to Scottish football involves the two clubs when playing in European competitions. At times Rangers and Celtic have embarrassed Scotland in Europe. With Rangers, the most embarrassing and shameful moment was the rioting in Manchester after the UEFA cup final, whereas Celtic’s main embarrassment has come from performances on the pitch away from home, along with chants often heard about terrorist organisation, the I.R.A. Both clubs can also be accused for using negative tactics, contributing to poor results and performances. Finally, going back to the point about sectarian chants and abuse; these songs can be heard by opposition fans who may think the whole of Scotland sings these offensive songs. On a wider scale, the songs can be heard on live television all over Europe, conveying Scotland as a cesspit of sectarian abuse.
Following on from this point regarding views on Scottish football and Scotland as a whole from a European audience, matches between Rangers and Celtic command a world wide audience and the same point applies in this instance; that sectarian songs and chants can be heard on live television which gives Scotland a bad reputation. However, it can be said that Scottish football can also be a beneficiary of Old Firm matches when discussing foreign audiences. Along with the ‘big game’ experience, these games also show passion and can be very entertaining to watch which may attract spectators from other countries and widen the interest in Scottish football.
In conclusion, there can be valid arguments for and against the Old Firm being beneficial to Scottish football. The arguments for the Old Firm can be; how these two clubs attract better players to the country or that a better atmosphere is created with larger crowds when they are playing. The negative aspects are the sectarian abuse, a two horse race for the league title each season and also the embarrassment of their European exploits. I believe the negative aspects of the Old Firm outweigh the positive aspects and therefore think that Rangers and Celtic do more harm than good to Scottish football as a whole. Having said this, it is unlikely that Scottish football will change to become a more equal playing field, therefore meaning the dominance of Rangers and Celtic will be there for everyone to suffer for years to come.