The Old Firm Derby: Does Scotland really need it?
Celtic and Rangers were once inseparable at the summit of Scottish football – bound together by history and passion, forming one of the world’s most brutal, intense and fiery football matches football fans have ever seen.
The Old Firm derby is played on the world stage – dragging in politics, religious bigotry and vocal support for paramilitary groups.
After financial troubles in 2012, Rangers’ fate was sealed when 25 out of the 30 SFL clubs voted in favour of placing the newco team in the bottom tier of Scottish football.
Three years later and Scottish football has clearly suffered. Attendances have dropped, Celtic have ran away with the league whilst Rangers have shown others how not to run a football club. Their fans are in revolt against their owners, organising boycotts and breaking into their famous Ibrox to stage protests.
The argument remains as to whether Scottish football needs Rangers back in the SPL. However, Celtic fans will argue that the Old Firm derby no longer exists, whilst Rangers fans think otherwise.
In an exclusive interview with a Celtic supporter, who wished to go by his online handle, MinceCFC said: “Rangers Football Club died, there can be no relevant argument against that fact. The club was liquidated – nothing survives liquidation.
“There is no “old firm,” that name has been considered as dead to the Celtic support (and club officials) for a good few years now. In fact, it would be safe to say that many Celtic fans now find the term “old firm” to be quite offensive.”
After three years, Celtic faced Rangers in the Scottish League Cup Semi-Final on 1 February 2015, one which turned out to be a heated affair.
Rangers fan, John McIntosh told RivalTalk: “I definitely feel the hatred is at one of its worst points ever. I think you saw from the League Cup game that it was a sell out and the passion shown by supporters’ shows the Old Firm rivalry will never go away, there was just a break.”
When negative stories about Rangers are published in the media under “Old Firm” headlines, the reputation of Celtic football club is unjustifiably smeared by an unwanted and unwelcome association.
Celtic fan, Henry Clarson said: “The more distance Celtic can place between itself and the notoriety which another Glasgow club routinely attracts, the better.”
The Old Firm derby is characterised by the historic catholic-protestant divide across Glasgow which has shaped the nature of this rivalry, and the behaviour that comes with it.
Celtic vs Rangers has always had trouble with sectarianism and violence. A catholic from Northern Ireland, Neil Lennon was forced to quit playing for the national team following death threats issued before a game. In 2003, Lennon was attacked by two students on a night out whilst a year later, he was victim of a road-rage incident and more recently, in 2008, the 43-year old was beaten unconscious.
In February 2015, a 10-year old boy was hit in the face by a bottle that was thrown at a minibus as he travelled to the Old Firm. BBC reported that a group of Celtic fans had surrounded the bus and hurled abuse and bottles at the occupants.
“I have more problems with violence related to the Old Firm derby which is generally after the game,” said John. “I feel that some journalists should be highlighting such violent events far more than castigating supporters for some bad singing to fit in with their agenda.”
Henry stopped going to Old Firm matches before Rangers went into liquidation: “The atmosphere was simply barbaric and I saw no point in subjection myself to such a poisonous experience.”
As to whether Scottish football needs the derby, MinceCFC added: “The SPL absolutely does not need the Celtic vs Sevco derby. What might look like an impressive atmosphere to an outsider is actually a festival of total hatred, thinly protected from an all out war by a line of policemen.
“What you don’t see in Glasgow and many other areas of Scotland are virtual war zones for the weekend of any fixture between the two clubs. How many deaths can be directly attributed to the fixture? A lot more than you realise, not to mention the many serious assaults, vandalism and general badness.”
Rangers fan, Jamie Currie said: “If the club and police ask you to stop singing certain songs inside a football ground, then you have to put the club first. However, I’m not really sure the police know which songs are sectarian and which are not.”
The Old Firm may not boast superstar names like the El Clasico and a Manchester Derby, but it offers just as much hatred and is as fiery as the North London Derby and Manchester Derby.
“Scottish football does need the Old Firm in the same way that English football needs Manchester vs Liverpool or La Liga needs Barcelona and Real Madrid,” Jamie added.
“The hatred has always been there, but in terms of the ‘new club’ debate, it does add to the hatred in some respects.”
Clear that the hatred is still there and always will be. John added: “Celtic fans will always argue that Rangers are no more, contrary to Lords of law, UEFA, FIFA, SFA, SPFL, ASA, ECA and the BBC Trust.
Henry argued that: “In order to sell itself and create interest, the SPFL needs the presence of a financially doped club running on an unsustainable budget until it destroys itself then it should shut up shop.”
They’ll always be a debate in Scottish football as to whether Rangers did die. Rangers fans will insist that they operate no different, their tradition and history are still there, and they are the same team.