Tuesday, April 21, 2009

So long, farewell?

Is this the endgame of the bitter, uneven relationship? There is nothing new in Rangers and Celtic courting English football but Phil Gartside's intervention would seem to change things. The idea now has support down south. Not with the fans but with some of the money men.

From this point, I think, the outcome is inevitable. Maybe not in the timeframe set out by Gartside, maybe not as quickly as the boys in blue or green and white would like, but they are now on the path to England.

In his BBC blog - that sacred corner of the internet where the English language goes to die - Chick Young accepts this argument and reads Scottish football the last rites.

The comments are mixed. The English say "keep your bloated bigotry, your inflated sense of your footballing worth away". Some Scots say "we'll be better off without you."

Who's right? Well, I'm afraid the English fans can complain all they like but they have all the influence of East Stirlingshire in the SPL title race. If the millionaires that own English football think this is a good idea then it will happen eventually.

Fan power enjoyed its last hurrah when Old Trafford was delivered from the preying, evil of Murdoch to the generous purity of Malcolm Glazer. We are now consumers and whatever the game means to us we are essentially no more than customers in Tesco.

So what of the Scottish game? John Boyle's ongoing battle to keep the fans out of Glasgow would continue. This may be a divorce from the Old Firm but the spouses would still be sharing a house.

The product on show at Ibrox or Celtic Park would be more glamourous and more awash with money than anything at Tynecastle, Pittodrie or Tannadice. How could Scottish football compete?

Some say we would manage quite easily. That Hibs, Aberdeen, Hearts, United and the rest fighting for the SPL title would enthuse the lost generations of fans who have become despondent in the face of the relentless wave of Glaswegian success. Without the bigotry and bile, Scottish football could again become the people's game.

So which is it? A jumped up, provincial league with a gaping Old Firm shaped hole? Or an Old Firm free utopia, thriving as the ugly sisters struggle in England?

I honestly don't know. The experience of Wales (along with, for what little it's worth, UEFA's promise) should set the precedent for allowing our national side to continue. As for the domestic game? There can be no more than conjecture just now - this really would be a leap into the unknown.

It may be an opportunity. An opportunity to restructure the leagues and the governing bodies free from the often destructive and alway self preserving power of the Old Firm. An opportunity for other teams to have a go at winning fans by enticing them with tangible success. An opportunity for clubs to commit to producing attractive, punter and TV friendly football.

An opportunity, certainly, but also a risk. We've moaned, ridiculed and decried the Old Firm for well over a century. How comfortable would we be proving that we really didn't like them, that we can be better off without them?

Or have we been protesting too much? We fall over each other to slag off Rangers or have a go at Celtic. But do we secretly enjoy cowering behing them, taking the money that their allure brings?

Time will tell. The only certainty is that the ball is now rolling. Watch this space.


  1. I like your thoughts on this subject and it is one that I have discussed at length with my old firm supporting friends. Their thoughts are that football in Scotland would die without them. I on the other hand think differently, I am a season ticket holder at tynecastle and have seen what a little success can bring to a Scottish club, now imagine the league without the Old firm you have 3 maybe 4 clubs battleing for the league title, the football may not be any better but the competition would be good. The biggest thing would be to restructure so that clubs cannot dominate like the old firm have. English football is not competitve only 3 or 4 clubs can win the league and they only get stronger due to the money. Any money into the league through champions league should be evenly split this would allow the weaker clubs to get some success and you would then have them picking up fans. the other thing is so many youngsters follow the success of the old firm but with the prices going up the normal fan cannot follw the big 2 and therefore to have enjoyable football would follow their local team. My thoughts are generally we will survive without them and good riddance.

  2. Good article mate.

    I think you could look at this two ways, as you said and there are arguments both for and against getting rid of them.

    Personally, I think the league will struggle without them. It's evident from Setanta's SPL schedule that the big draw for the people who subscribe is the Old Firm.

    It's hard to see where we would get another television deal from and if we were to get another one, it would be for much less money no doubt.

    I think the few years after the departure of the OF would be dark times for Scottish Football.

    That said, other teams would have their chance of success, but the chances of anything remotely close to a "challenge in Europe" would be slim. Clubs just wouldn't have the money to splash out on the players. It's hard enough for clubs to get a high enough class of player now, without having to do so with less spending power.

    Don't get me wrong, I would very much love to see the OF removed from Scottish Football, along with the bile that follows them but sadly, I thinks it's a case of we need them to survive.

    Then again with the OF gone and teams having more chance of success, gates might very well increase bring in revenue to replace that of the OF crowds.

    And who knows, there are a few teams, Utd, Hibs, Hearts, Aberdeen and maybe Motherwell, capable of challenging in an open league, so maybe a new football deal would come through, the entertainment of 4/5/6 teams challenging for the Championship would certainly make it interesting.

    And as you said, if the do leave for pastures new, it would give a chance for a must need restructure of the leagues and hopefully the governing bodies.

    So yeah, I'm leaning more towards wanting them to leave but at the same time worry how we would cope without them.

  3. Thanks for the comments. People do seem to split into the "wither and die" or the "stronger without them" camps. I suppose the third option is that we would just muddle along!

    There's certainly a few interesting possibilities. Would Mr Romanov become more interested again if the Champion's League was on offer? Would the Hibs business model of spend nothing, bank everything give them a boost to get ahead? Would the stay away Dons be enticed back to give them the fan base to really compete? A few other clubs might also fancy themselves well placed to cope.

    So it is intriguing. And, as I say in the post, I think now inevitable.

  4. As you say, if it's inevitable then it will be a case of muddle along.

    I would think a good 5/6 teams would be confident of mounting a challenge for the league but it's where the backing comes from in terms of money that will dictate whether they can or not.

    As for Romanov, maybe the chance of Champs League would interest him but, if you believe the stories about the amount of money he actually has, the novelty would soon wear off if they couldn't get the players in to even reach the group stages.

    That goes for all the other clubs as well.

    As much as stay away fans might come back as the chances of honours increase the real income comes from T.V money, regardless of how much the OF take each year. As I said before, the OF are the main attraction for T.V companies as well as sponsors. With the OF gone my main worry is how we will replace that income because without that, clubs will struggle.

    No doubt T.V deals would come back eventually but you have to wonder how many £Ms they would be for and how long it would actually be before TV companies became interested in our league again.