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Are we facing the death of Scottish football?

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Having spent my entire life in the west coast of Scotland I’ve been subjected to my fair share of trials and tribulations as a football fan. Growing up in a town a half hour journey from Glasgow there has always been pressure to support Rangers or Celtic, something that was doubly prominent for myself as a family member had played for one of the Glasgow ‘giants’. I decided at an early age however that I was going to support Kilmarnock. My house at the time was atop a hill and if you stood on your toes you could just see the newly built East Stand poking above the rooftops.

With Kilmarnock being positioned within easy driving distance of Glasgow and the ferry ports of Troon and Stranraer, the club always welcomed a higher than average away crowd when either Rangers or Celtic came to visit. This, whilst good for the clubs finances was not so enthralling for the local fans. The Scottish Premier League must be a statistical anomaly in European football when the majority of clubs home gates go down whenever the two biggest clubs come to visit.

You can’t imagine that Rayo Vallecano have an average of 15% less home supporters for games versus Barcelona or Real Madrid. There will be of course a number of varying factors for this strange occurrence, but I know that for myself and a lot of other supporters the reason they do not attend matches involving these teams (or do not bring younger family members) is the poisonous atmosphere created.

Sure, Rangers and Celtic will claim that they are fighting the battle against Sectarianism. However ask any supporter out with the Old Firm and they’ll confirm that the bile and hatred spouted by these so called football fans is alive and well. Part of the problem is the footballing authorities (in Glasgow as well as Nyon) are terrified to make a stand. There have been countless UEFA delegate match reports that have included mention of these songs being sung. And all the SFA/SPL have to do is turn up at any Old Firm away match and they’d hear the full repertoire of songs and chants for themselves. Miniscule fines are no longer enough.

The fact is that Scotland needs Rangers and Celtic. They are what the television companies pay for –  they are who the major sponsors want to be affiliated with. Anyone who doesn’t agree with that statement needn’t wait too long for proof however. With Rangers’ well documented financial troubles having finally surfaced, liquidation is a very distinct possibility.

If that does happen then the six man SPL board (comprising of the Chairmen from half of the member clubs – including Celtic) would have to vote on whether to allow the new incarnation of Rangers to enter the SPL. Even with Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawell’s brash claims that “Celtic can still thrive without Rangers” you can bet your completed tax returns that Celtic would be the first club to vote YES on any proposition.

In amongst all the doom and gloom engulfing Scottish football there are many positives. The national side have a large group of young and exciting prospects coming through the ranks (exhibited perfectly in a thrilling win for the Under 21’s away to their Dutch compatriots) which has been aided by the financial mess that Scottish football appears perennially to be stuck within. Clubs can no longer afford to even match the wages that a player could get from any League One or League Two side.

So more and more clubs are through necessity turning to their youth academy to produce players ready for the first team. This necessity however may in the long run be the saviour of the game north of the border. If the authorities could finally bring themselves to wheel out that proverbial giant fan to blow away the remnants of sectarianism and bigotry then the bright future for our game may just very well have a chance to shine.

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4 comments

  • Mick says:

    Actually, some of the worst sectarian abuse I have been on the receiving end of came at Rugby Park and Tynecastle. It’s not just a Celtic/Rangers problem. Hearts supporters, in fact, can be particularly vile.

  • Popes11 says:

    Total Pish… Your beloved killie is one of the most hate filled grounds in Scotland and their rendition of the ‘sash’ is only rivalled by their Glasgow cousins Rangers FC (In Administration)

  • dublinbhoy says:

    Oh deary deary me. Yet another example of some poor ill informed individual, being given the opportunity to spout their nonsense in relation to Celtic/Rangers debate.
    Factually incorrect information is one thing (it is not the Chairmen of clubs necesarily who sit on the SPL Board (Celtic for example, are represented by Eric Riley, who is the Finanacial Director of Celtic PLC), but to spout personal opinion in relation to a statement given by the Chief Executive of Celtic PLC, is either crystal ball stuff or just plain stupid.
    If it is the belief, based on a far greater knowledge of the financial requirements in relation to the day to day running of a football club, that Celtic FC “can still thrive without Rangers”, then who the hell are you to say otherwise. This is a man who has overseen the continued reduction of debt at Celtic Park over a sustained period, including when the country has been facing into its biggest financial recession since the early to mid 80’s, when a lack of sponsorship opportunities have meant that income for clubs in Scotland has been reduced and television revenue dwindled accross the board.
    Yet you, whoever you are, know better than Peter Lawell.
    You sir, are a muppet, with sincere apologies to all muppets out there.

  • Thanks for your replies.

    @Mick – There are vile individuals at every club, I thought that was a given. What I’ve seen however is at clubs like Kilmarnock when there is one or two people who start abuse whether it be homophobic, racist or sectarian – then the crowd self police Ie they are pointed out to police and stewards and banned. That very rarely happens at Rangers or Celtic.

    @Popes11 – I don’t know what game you were at where Killie fans sung that particular vile song but it’s not one of the matches I’ve attended over the past 25 years.

    @dublinbhoy – Not once did I berate Peter Lawell or demean what he has achieved at Celtic. He has put in place a financial structure that has brought in exciting players which in turn has created an exciting team to watch. However if you are seriously trying to say that Celtic could sustain the current caliber of squad in a ‘one team league’ then you need to have a serious re-think. Celtic would almost certainly walk the league title every season, then the powers at be (already perturbed by the minuscule TV deal on offer with no Old Firm games every season – It’s well documented that ESPN/Sky’s deal is dependent on 4 OF games a season) couldn’t justify having the size or quality of squad they have now. That in turn would affect the crowds they could attract (Celtic Park is very rarely a sell-out as it is) and again impact on the product on the park. Sure, Celtic will not go out of business if Rangers go under – but they would be subject to severe collateral damage.

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