I can immediately tell that this headline will get a number of backs up against the walls but there is no denying it, the state of Scottish football is pretty bad at the moment for a number of reasons, but a lot of these reasons could be addressed with some changes to league structure, however the number of times Rangers or Celtic hit the headlines for the wrong reasons is also on the increase, further bringing down the outsider’s views of the Scottish Game.
To have two clubs’ fans dislike each other is nothing new, this happens across all sports, across all countries. Many Scottish people (mostly Rangers and Celtic fans) will say this Old Firm derby is healthy and it is just “competition” or “rivalry”, but actually what it has descended into is pure hatred for religious reasons that a lot of the younger fans do not actually understand. They hate their rival team because they are told to do so by their older generations, and frankly it is needless and disgusting when it goes to the levels that it has in previous years.
Criminal damage, violence, death threats, nail bombs, bullets, and in the most tragic of cases, murder. All the sort of things you read about in the news, and which are in no way related to the football that goes on in Glasgow, but instead the bigotry between the Roman Catholic and Protestants that “support” their teams. In fact, if you type “bigotry” into Google, the results contain entries about Rangers before the Ku Klux Klan! I’m sure if you delve closer into some of these articles you will find references to Celtic as well, this is certainly not a bash at the blue half of Glasgow.
One of the casing points was during the match in Udinese, Celtic put on an excellent display against the Italian side who are currently sitting in 3rd place in Serie A, a real gutsy performance, one that shows that there is a lot higher talent level in the SPL than some people might give credit for. But yet, due to a small minority of fans letting off flares and displaying a banner stating “Fuck UEFA” after UEFA fined the club approximately £13,000 for, you guessed it, offensive chanting and songs relating to the sectarianism divide, we find ourselves talking more about this than the actual match, which is a huge shame. Applying the same fair Google test, if you type in “Udinese Celtic” into the search engine, just 1 out of the top 5 results are about the actual match, the rest refer to the banner, the flares, and the comments made by Celtic boss Neil Lennon who during an interview humorously added “My only surprise is that they got the spelling right.” when referring to the 2 part banner containing 4 letters per part, and of which, 1 part contains possibly the most used word in Scotland, and no, I do not mean UEFA!
The simple fact of the matter when it comes to Scottish football is the structure is incredibly outdated, the fans have spoken with their wallets as attendances are down yet again this year and one of the reasons cited in surveys is that the SPL is boring, with only a few teams playing each other over and over again, and when it comes to Rangers and Celtic, then playing each other in the cup finals as well. The fact that Rangers and Celtic have such a command at the top of the SPL means that after the league is split half way through, you essentially have a mini league of 4 teams who have no chance of catching up with the Glasgow clubs, and at the end of the season, the team that finishes in 6 can have less points than the team that finishes in 7th.
As far as teams joining the Scottish 3rd Division goes, this is not done with a simple promotion / relegation system, instead the Scottish FA have to vote if they think a team is worthy of joining the league properly, this is a downright insult as I am sure there are teams that play better football and have better players, but are not allowed to join the league. This surely can only have a negative impact on these clubs trying to get players to join them, and more importantly the young kids in Scotland who’s talents are being overlooked because of some archaic system.
Having just 12 teams fighting for the title, or 6 depending on the time of the season you are in means that outside interest is pretty low, and this is shown by the fact that only Russia, Canada and Australia have bought rights to show the league outside of the UK, the Eredivisie for example is shown in 7 countries outside of Holland. Interestingly the Dutch leagues are ranked as the 9th best league in Europe, with Scotland sitting in 18th place, giving them just 1 Champions League place and 3 Europa League places.
Because of the dominance of the Glasgow clubs, hot prospects for Scottish football find themselves in an awkward situation, leave the country to play elsewhere, or join Rangers or Celtic and hope they can fight their way into the reserves and then on to the first team. Both clubs have been guilty in the past of going out and buying the best young players in Scotland, only for them not to get a game because they have the money to keep them there and also to bring in foreign players in the same positions. Because of the pressure the managers are under at Celtic and at Rangers, they “have” to win, they aren’t allowed to do an Arsene Wenger and build a team of super kids. 3 points is the only way in the SPL and because of this, the youngsters are not always given the chance that sometimes they deserve.
In order to improve Scottish football, the first thing that needs to change is the perception of the game to the outsiders, and the only way this is going to happen is to sort out the issue surrounding the Rangers and Celtic fans being complete c***s towards each other over religious non-issues. Crime would drop in Glasgow as a result of this, I am positive of that fact. But how do you combat small amounts of fans who are hating each other for reasons that some of them don’t actually understand. Unfortunately if I could answer that I would be a very rich man. If the SFA could address this issue, they could then look at the outdated and frankly shit structure system that is in place for the leagues in Scotland, maybe then they will get a cash injection from broadcasters as the leagues would be more entertaining which would lead to better facilities and the chances that the young players need to make a break in their footballing career.
But then, with Rangers and Celtic playing each other 5 or more times a season, with the grounds selling out each time, are they likely to approve a situation which would benefit Scottish Football and not just their bank balances? Highly unlikely. Unfortunately the two big clubs have a certain level of greed about them, and so the other option which was branded around years ago, send them down to England, but don’t let them join the Premier League straight away, make them start from the bottom and work their way up into the Championship after about 6 seasons. Would they make it out of there into the Premier League..? well, everyone would have an opinion on that, I bet the ones saying they would win the Premier League or finish in the top 4 are all Rangers or Celtic fans though…