Shortsighted Celtic fans gloat as Rangers stand on the brink

by Willie Gannon

On St. Valentine’s Day, Glasgow Rangers FC entered administration with the once great club owing somewhere in the region of £75 million to £100 million. This weekend their Old Firm rivals, Celtic, were given their first real chance to revel in the demise of their greatest enemy. Sad to say, they did not disappoint.

Rangers capped off the worst week in the clubs 140 year history by losing 1-0 at home to Kilmarnock. The ignominy of such a desperate defeat really put the icing on the cake of what has been a trialling week to put it mildly.

As the Gers week was coming to an end, Celtic and their fans travelled to Edinburgh to take on, another of Scotland’s great clubs, Hibernian, full in the knowledge that three points would all but guarantee another SPL title now that Rangers have been docked 10 points for entering administration.

The Bhoys hammered Pat Fenlon’s relegation threatened side 5-0 to move Celtic 17 points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

Celtic’s fans, perhaps, given their history together, understandably, took great glee in expressing some schadenfreude at Rangers expense.

Banners were hung from all corners of Easter Road celebrating the demise of Rangers title hunt this year and perhaps their demise altogether.

One banner, stretching across over 50 seats read “We’re having a party as R*NG£RS die,” while others were simply emblazoned with “HMRC” across Irish tricolours and as sponsors of fake Celtic jerseys that surfed the jubilant crowd.

Why Celtic fans would use an asterix instead of the ‘a’ in Rangers is beyond me, perhaps they could not bring themselves to write their rivals name. However, given that the rivalry between the two teams is so entrenched in sectarian hatred towards each other it is somewhat ironic to see “Her Royal Majesty’s Revenue and Customs” written across Irish flags given the history shared by the clubs.

To say that there is hatred between the supporters of Celtic and Rangers would be something of an understatement in every meaning of the word. They don’t hate each other, they despise each other. While they are a great many rivalries in the world of sport it is hard to imagine so entrenched in venomous bile towards the other.

Since their formations, Rangers and Celtic, in 1872 and 1887 respectively, have battled for the hearts and minds of supporters both near and far from Glasgow.  Rightly or wrongly both clubs have become symbols to their respective following. Rangers, the Gers, have come to represent the Protestant community while Celtic has come to represent the Roman-Catholic community.

Ironically, neither side is especially associated with Scotland as far as flags and banners are concerned as Celtic’s fans have taken to waving Irish flags of green, white and orange, a symbol of republicanism and the IRA during “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland while Rangers fans have taken to waving the Union Jack flag, which is also a symbol of Unionists and the diametric opposites of “republicans” in Northern Ireland.

There are, of course, historic reasons for the split between the two sets of fans and clubs.

Northern Irish Protestants of today are direct descendants of Scots who settled in Northern Ireland in the early 1600′s when King James VI organized the “Plantation of Ulster” whereby his Scottish supporters were rewarded with land in the province which had been taken from taken from Hugh O’Neill and Hugh O’Donnell. This action, in turn, led to the “Flight of the Earls” and another seminal moment in Irish history.

With, the previously uncontrolled land of Ulster now firmly in the hands of English and Scottish immigrants they set about creating farms and villages and trying to convert Gaelic speaking Catholics to Protestantism.

However, the gulf in language, as neither group spoke the others tongue, resulted in this conversion being an unmitigated disaster.

From there, it comes as no surprise to find that war broke out quite frequently during the mid 1600′s with both sides committing atrocities upon the other.

By 1653, following a rebellion known as “The War of the Three Kingdoms” there were no catholic land owners left in an Ulster where 80 percent of the population was indigenous Catholics.

In the late 1600′s Scotland suffered a famine whereby thousands of people then fled to Ulster. This mass migration lasted for over 25 years and by 1720 the catholic population of Ulster was now in the minority.

Relations between the two groups improved somewhat over the next 140 years with people now openly calling themselves Irish-Scots or vice versa and in general Ulster was quite prosperous when compared with the rest of Ireland.

All that was to change with the Irish Famine between 1845 and 1849.

The main crop in Ireland at the time, potato, failed and as blight, bad weather, impossible living conditions, landowners shipping good food out of the country and a Whig government that seemed indifferent to the suffering the population of the country was faced with two choices; stay and take your chances with dying or leave and take your chances with living.

People left the country in droves and settled right across the world. 500,000 travelled to Britain with huge communities sprouting up almost overnight in cities like Liverpool, Manchester, London, Birmingham and Glasgow. Over one million people fled to America alone with one in seven dying on the “coffin ships” on the voyage over. In the end, the famine accounted for an estimated 800,000 lives with another 1.5 million people emigrating alone. Thus, in the space of just four years, Ireland’s population dropped from an estimated eight million to 6.5 million and has been dropping ever since.

The problem with Britain, when the emigrants arrived was that it was just entering a period of recession and all of a sudden there was a mass of people who were literally willing to work for food alone never mind reduced wages.

As many Irish people took jobs all over the country, but especially in Glasgow where a distrust of the Irish populace existed from recent history in Ireland and in Scotland with the Reformation, there was an obvious division between the indigenous and the immigrants or the Protestants and the Catholics if you like.

40 years later and with the divide in Glasgow between the two groups visible Rangers and Celtic were born.

Celtic, created as a charitable organisation by Brother Waifrid to improve morale amongst Catholics, immediately became a way for Irish-Scot’s to express their Rashness whereas Rangers, under the stewardship of John Ure Primrose, in the early 1900′s, immediately became the voice for overt anti-Catholic institutions.

In short, the two clubs became important symbols to two very different sections of society that had been in one kind of conflict or another with each other for over 300 years.

Derek Johnstone, ex-Rangers player and Rangers commentator was slightly less subtle when describing the difference between the supporters.”It’s all about bigotry,” he said. “If you are a Roman Catholic then the only team to follow is Celtic and, of course, if you are a Protestant it is Rangers…”

To further emphasize this point, ex-Celtic player Peter Grant basically mirrored Johnstone’s controversial views when he said “there’s definitely Celtic areas and there’s Rangers areas. There’s pubs you’d go into and pubs you wouldn’t go into and that’s both as supporters and players. There’s definitely that divide and there’s an acceptance there.”

Most sports clubs are lucky if they have a rivalry that goes back 20, 50 or even 100 years but Celtic’s and Rangers differences go back almost 400.

Since the two clubs were formed in the last decade of the 1800′s they have played each other an amazing 397 times. They have become a cornerstone in the tourism industry, never mind the sporting world, where they have helped contribute almost £1 billion to the Scottish economy in the last 20 years alone.

The relationship shared by the two clubs is almost unique in world sport as not only are they are heavily reliant on each other but the entire Scottish footballing family is also supported by the big two.

Take the SPL for example, at present Rangers owe around £75 million to £100 million depending upon which report you read and Dunfermline AFC some £80,000.

£80,000 is not a small amount of money but when a club issues a statement saying they are worried they will not receive the said sum you have to stand up and take account of what an impact Rangers going out of business would have on the league as a whole.

This immediately makes you understand that the wider impact of Rangers ceasing to exist will have severe ramification for all in Scotland’s football family.

The SPL is, at the moment, a 12 team league with each team playing each other a possible four times. I say a possible four times because the SPL employs a strange fixture system whereby each team plays each other three times, resulting in 33 matches. The league is then split in two, a top six and bottom six, and the teams in each side play five games, one against each other, to bring the game total to 38.

The main reasoning, as far as I can see it, is so that each team from the remaining ten gets to play Rangers and Celtic at least six times a season and thus guarantee a sell out crowd each time.

Ground wise, the capacity of teams in the SPL ranges from 7,500 with Inverness to 22,000 at Aberdeen. Celtic guarantee 60,000 each week at Celtic Park with Rangers pulling in 50,000 at Ibrox. The two Glasgow teams are easily the giants of the domestic game with all other teams sharing a symbiotic relationship with them.

Their closest relationship, however, is with each other.

No, Celtic do not need Rangers to succeed as their Chief Executive recently said, but they do need their rivals, to survive, to push them to greater glories because without Rangers in the league there is simply no other team to compete with.

No one else can match Celtic in terms of wages, structure or support, only Rangers.

Without them the league is in dire straits. Celtic, who only recorded a profit of £180,000 last year, in a league with Rangers, has already gone on record to say they are financially sound but if their profits are so low one shudders at the rest of the SPL.

In a 2009/10 report by Price Waterhouse Cooper, only two teams in the SPL were operating on a positive financial footing, Falkirk and Hamilton.

This speaks volumes about the levels of debt in the SPL and how losing Rangers could be catastrophic. To further exemplify this recent revelations that the SPL TV may become null and void if Rangers are relegated have really thrown the cat amongst the pigeons.

This would have a double whammy effect on every team in the SPL, Celtic included, regardless of their statements that the club is on a financial sound footing. If Rangers are relegated, as some now expect, and are found guilty of “financial doping” then every team in the SPL will lose out on playing the giants three times a season and with it at least three full houses.

Then on top of that each club will lose out of television revenue which will also cause them to curtail further spending in a league that is already struggling to escape debt despite being one of the most watched in Europe.

Celtic’s fans may not like to hear this but they are joined at the hip with Rangers, and they both share an umbilical with the rest of the league.

Each clubs immediate survival is not in question but should Rangers cease to exist or cease to offer competition then every clubs footballing future comes under scrutiny, Celtic’s included.

Without their rival, Celtic will never compete at the highest level in Europe again and they will drift further off the pace as far as European competition is concerned. Without Rangers, Celtic will canter to almost every SPL title without fail and they won’t even need to sign top class players to do so. Without Rangers, Celtic will have no derbies and Glasgow will have no football tourism worth speaking about.

They will be able to achieve this by marginally spending more than their chief rivals who could turn out to be Hearts or the last team to win a Scottish League title, other than Rangers or Celtic, Aberdeen. The Dons were the last club to challenge the elite in Scotland when they won the title in 1985. Since then every title has gone to Glasgow without a challenge such is the gulf in finances between them and the rest.

The time has come for Celtic and Rangers rivalry to begin anew. One based of football rather than sectarianism.

As Rangers future hangs in the balance, each set of fans and members of each club must ask themselves; would we have achieved as much without our rivals?

Would Celtic have won the European Cup in 1967 without Rangers pushing them all the way to the league title?

Would Rangers celebrate the “nine in a row” without Celtic?

Would either team be able to enjoy the pleasures one can only understand after a derby win over your greatest rival without them?

It is here and now that fans have to recognise that what happened in the past is gone. Time has moved on. Life, through a strange particular quirk of faith, has given them the opportunity to support a team with a back history that would make for epic reading never mind viewing.

To put it simply, Celtic need Rangers as much as Rangers need Celtic.

But when all that is said and done the fans of each support eleven men who chase a bag of air around a field.

Life is too short to take sport too seriously. It can be a valuable symbol. It can inspire whole nations, but it is not worth fighting over.

55 Responses

  1. Prairie Bhoy says:

    I’m just not buying the argument that we have seen in the last week from many pundits that Celtic and Rangers need each other.

    Sure playing each other adds spice to the league year and the implications that it carries.

    However if the league became stronger collectively, the issue of a strong Rangers team gets dissapated to most but the Rangers fans and shadow Rangers fans in Media and government. Even Strachan says “have to have Rangers”. Then lets have Rangers but lets make sure they take the same punishment that any other failing entity gets in the UK.

    You could just say that they are poor business men and leave it at that but these guys are tax cheats and should be made to pay the price that all white collar crooks pay.

    It isn’t being short sighted, life will go on if Rangers fall out and reconstitute in the lowest division. Maybe the unthinkable happens… Aberdeen, Dundee Utd, Hibs et al recognize the possibilities, get some new investment and become…….gasp!! competative. The league improves, and interest is revived.

    Willie says that Celtic are “joined at the hip” with Rangers (nonsense). It isn’t true but if it were, perform the surgery and separate

    The implication by many is that Rangers are too big to fail. We have seen many a business leave the scene in the last few years, ones that were also seen as too big to fail. They went out of business and after a period of time, we barely missed them

    1. “However if the league became stronger collectively, the issue of a strong Rangers team gets dissipated”

      I don’t think there’s any argument there Prarie Bhoy but the simple truth is that if there was no Rangers then the next biggest club in Scotland would be Aberdeen and they simply could not compete against Celtic.

      Personally, I think it would be best for the SPL to go to 20 teams thus spreading the wealth around but that’s an argument for another day.

      I take your point about companies going to the wind that were too big to fail after financial collapses but to my mind that only happens in large economy’s and never with cornerstone organisations. For me, the SPL is a small economy with Rangers as a key element and I just can’t see them being allowed to disappear.

      Should they receive punishment? Absolutely but I don’t think they will be let dissolve.

      Cheers for the comment.

  2. Not another one telling us what to think. says:

    Celtic fans remember 1994 and reserve the right to laugh until our stomachs ache. We can’t control what’s going on over at Ibrox so what difference does it make anyway?

    We have been told how to act for years now even though we have had 10 years of real progress at Celtic Park while to a man at Ibrox they have spewed out songs of hate.

    Like i said. We remember 1994 and a decade of mocking by the Rangers fans by how much money the club had as much as any titles they ever won. Through in the media reaction to 1994 too and the mocking of Rangers by the Celtic fans is all that stands between the Poltiticians and Media holding a candlelight vigil.

    Murray is at fault for HMRC, Whyte took years of season ticket money while the Rangers fans, unlike their Celtic counterparts stood by with the media and watched while a website and an independant irish journalist told them what the future held.

    Fingers were pointed with the anti-Celtic andti- Catholic undertones yet in the end they were all proved right.

    “The People” duped?

    The “free thinkers” out thought until it’s too late?

    I always accepted and enjoyed the Old Firm rivalry and atmoshphere. But when Neil Lennon had a package sent to him to end his life and the week later the Rangers fans to a man still spewed hatred at himi thought enough is enough. The politicians then commend the Rangers fans in the Cup Final for the atmosphere which included all the old songs.

    Now we are being told Celtic can’t be without Rangers. Maybe, but why should Scotland first minister worry sponsors of Celtic and Celtic business partners when on the day Rangers go into administration Celtic announce favourable results.

    Would he say the same about the banks if one bank fails? He could affect investment in Celtic with such claims and what does he expect Peter Lawell to say?

    So were told how to act. Told how we need Rangers. How the Old Firm game would be missed. This comes a week before they are talking in the media about moving the next Old Firm game if we are to win it at Ibrox?

    If we need the Old Firm games then give it the platform it deserves and let the fans stick it to the opposition by taking the title on their patch if that’s how it turns out. That’s what football is about. That’s what the OF is about. If the polititions and media claim to know what it’s all about then they would undertsand this.

    They would also understand it’s Rangers turn to take the medicine. Just like we did in 1994.

    I watched the Man U v Liverpool game the other week becuase of the controversy attached to the game. Football is a drama and if you don’t understand that go and watch Rugby.

    1. “Football is a drama and if you don’t understand that go and watch Rugby.”

      That’s only one of the reasons why Celtic need Rangers.

  3. Tony Quinn says:

    Not sure I have ever read an article containing so many typos and factual errors. You really are not very good at this Willie – hope it doesn’t pay the bills.

    1. Actually, the comments pay the bills.

  4. Get Real CSC says:

    I think I will trust the opinion of Peter Lawell over some two bit website ‘journalist.’ Afterall he speaks from a qualified position of 22 years working with Celtic’s financies. Nothing to see here, pass the jelly and ice cream.

    1. The day fans trust and believe in everything their chairman says is a bad day for football. Regardless of what two bit journalists say.

  5. Ray says:

    You are not correct when you say Celtic have flown the Irish Tricolour since the northern troubles began in the late sixties. Celtic first flew the green flag with a harp insignia. The Tricolour has been carried by supporters for the past sixty years at least and thousands of them fluttered from the stands and terraces in Lisbon when Celtic became the first club in these islands to win the European Cup.

    1. “You are not correct when you say Celtic have flown the Irish Tricolour since the northern troubles began in the late sixties.”

      and then you say…

      “The Tricolour has been carried by supporters for the past sixty years at least and thousands of them fluttered from the stands and terraces in Lisbon.”

      When was Lisbon?

  6. raymondo says:

    Would rangers have won 9 on a row if they hadnt of cheated the taxman?

    1. Did they cheat the tax man under Souness?

  7. Henke says:

    I disagree, Although a well written article none the less. I do agree on the HMRC emblazoned Irish flags etc Very embarrassing and proves we still have a fair few dimwits in our support.

    1. Cheers Henke,

      That’s why we all love sport and football in particular, we all have different opinions and see things differently.

      The HMRC thing was a bit embarrassing too.

  8. Colin says:

    Hi Willie,
    I really enjoyed this article, and I agree wholeheartedly with you.
    There may even be losses in sponsors to all other SPL teams, (yes, Celtic included) if the sponsors saw that their name would not be seen by X amount of Rangers fans any more. Football advertising tends to be subliminal, unless it’s closely associated with one club, in that fans will remember that company sponsors football.
    I feel strongly that Rangers need to survive in the SPL. The bottom line is, the SPL cannot afford them not to.

    1. Glad to see someone agrees with me Colin!

  9. Donal says:

    Maybe Willie could let us know who was formed in 1887? so seen as you cant be bothered to research properly Willie, you can keep what are ill-informed, band wagon comments to yourself like a man and write about something you actually know about

    1. Donal says:

      i will go on a bit as ive left what is a rather sharpe reply to you a little too sharpe i will admit. Celtic over the years have been very prudent with the purse and as it has been frustrating it in the end has proved a correct path and as thats not really what this is about i will get to my point i think the scottish game will benifit from this as a whole and it will even the ball game out a little if Rangers were to fold what would Celtic really lose out on yes there is the sky deal ect but i honestly believe it will open more doors than it will close for Celtic and the SPL as it wont be forged on a false pretence like rangers and there sucess all was, and its at time its been so frustrating to be a celtic supporter because anyone who writes about it only writes the negitives and none of the potential positives that are there for the League i dont want to see them go to the wall rangers but im not convinced its the armageddon for the SPL or Celtic. Apologys for earlier scathing comment!

    2. Celtic Football Club was formally constituted at a meeting in St. Mary’s church hall in East Rose Street (now Forbes Street), Calton, Glasgow, by Irish Marist Brother Walfrid on 6 November 1887.

      The club played their first game in May 1888 against Rangers and is noted as the beginning of the club even though it was put together some six months earlier.

      I think we have different opinions on this one Donal, I feel Celtic need Rangers, not only for the money, but for the competition they provide.

      No hard feelings Donal, much appreciated for the apology.

  10. Kev says:

    You’re wrong Willie, from your assertion that the flag of the Republic of Ireland is a symbol of the IRA to your cack handed history lesson and your handing down of opinion as fact conclusions on the impact that rangers demise would have on Scottish football.

    What is a fact is that rangers football club is a focus for much that is petty and hateful and divisive in Scottish society and Scotland particularly and the football world generally will be much better off without them. If Scottish football has to suffer financially in the short term then that is a price worth paying, the idea that teams can’t survive without games against rangers is hysterical nonsense, if that were the case every team who were relegated from the SPL would go out of business. Scottish football will adjust and carry on and Scottish society can perhaps adopt a normal attitude to small differences in worship.

    That’s all moot speculation however, the rangers drama will play out and Celtic fans will revel in it, unless of course politicians, journalists and the games administrators conspire to change the rules to the benefit of rangers, I mean, that would entirely undermine the integrity of the game (not to mention society), wouldn’t it? Surely that would be far more damaging to the game in this country than the loss of one club? You couldn’t possibly be advocating such a position Willie, could you?

    What Celtic fans want more than anything else is what we’ve always wanted, for the rules to be applied to rangers just as they would be to any other club, it’s an outrage that this is something we have to argue for and that our press and politicians are arguing against.

    1. Nobody is arguing against Rangers being fined, deducted points or having future transfers suspended. If they cheated the system they deserve it.

      What I did say and what I did offer was that the Old Firm rivalry goes back almost 400 years and that

      the competition between the two clubs offers around £100m per year to Glasgow in football tourism.
      It offers competition to Celtic.
      It offers revenue to every SPL team.
      It offers a TV and Revenue.

      And without Rangers, all of this could disappear.

  11. peejaybhoy says:

    Willie, you’ve swallowed the line that’s being peddled by the mainstream media over here, and of course their motivations a 100% self serving. Your analysis is somewhat superficial; a birds eye view – from afar. It shows a lack of real understanding e.g. you mention the lack of gate money to the spl clubs; but imagine the boon to clubs in the third, then second then first divisions if newco can work their way through the leagues. What a redistribution of wealth! And of course the last time rangers were weak (immediately before the financial doping) they were sitting around fifth in the league while aberdeen, dundee united and hearts prospered.

    By the way, the reason for the split is to conform with uefa guidelines about the maximum number of games a league should have. 44 is well above recommendations. With a 12 team league the split facilitates a 38 game season.

    Most fans (as per a recent poll) want a bigger (16 or 18) team league to stop the repetition of playing each other 4 times (at least) each season. It would also facilitate the introduction of younger players who could be introduced in less crucial games. Just now, with two relegation places from 12, (effectively from 10) means 20% of clubs are relegated. This engenders fear and a reliance on mature, trusted professionals. Take away the fear and youth development has the chance to flourish.

    My final point is that with all the bile and hatred, why would this “natural end” not just be allowed to take its course; why fight to save something that causes so much division? Let it go. Let’s focus our minds on how we make things better without destroying the integrity of our game. without that what do we have? Not a sport; merely a showcase. No thanks!

  12. mick says:

    Willy, again don’t give up your day job.
    It is amazing how many people are trying to rewrite history. When Celtic were on the verge of going out of business, all the coverage was of R.I.P. Celtic and hearses outside our club door.
    The average Celtic fan will be quite happy should Rangers survive, however we fully expect the full force of the SFA and SPL to rain down on them. Give the remaining teams in the SPL the justice they deserve and Rangers can resume their place among us.
    Willy, you write of the monies owed to othewr clubs by this outfit, yet no mention that these debts could have and should have been paid. It was their owners choice NOT to pay and utilize administration to AVOID paying their dues.
    Contrast this to Fergus McCann who had the same opportunity to avoid our debts, but instead chose to pay up as in his words the money was owed to hard working people and he insisted that we “Celtic” do the right thing.
    I believe this demonstrates the difference in the two clubs philosophy. This action by Fergus meant it took several years before Celtic could stabilize and re-invest in the team. Tough, but in line with our ethos.
    So Rangers, pay your debt to our teams, our tax authorities, and everyone else, then we will consider permitting you to break even more of the rules you have so blatently ignored since your inception, and get back in to the set up you (and Celtic) have tried so hard to leave, without the feigned concern for Scotish football.
    Justice expected and demanded.

  13. Jim says:

    NOT GUILTY…. still the most decorated club in the world .

    Don”t forget it was big bad RANGERS that offered assistance to Celtic in their time of pearl, unlike celtic who spewed nothing but vile hatred through bigoted bloggers and the celtic minded media and i will i never visit Glitterdome again.

    Rangers are Guilty for allowing a crook (white) to take rangers to its knees. he never had any intention of playing bills and yet he still walks free.

    Div 3 acceptable punishment
    Banned from europe acceptable punishment
    Transfer embargo shocking
    Stripping Titles shocking ( Liewell, Thomsump and Putrid”s personal agenda)

    We don’t want fast tracked out off the SFL we will take our punishment and we will be back in the SPL bigger and stronger.
    While the rest get weaker and weaker.
    The only club that benefits with no Rangers is Celtic
    Sporting integrity don”t make me laugh.

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