“Let it never be forgotten that the Rangers supporters stoned women and children engaged in a work of charity…”
Over the past few months, the general public have been increasingly bombarded with the view that “Scottish Football needs Rangers to survive” from both the mainstream media and Rangers supporters. In fact, during an interview with the Herald on Sunday only last weekend, prospective chairman of a newco controlled by Charles Green, Malcolm Murray, likened the other clubs voting a newco out of the Scottish Premier League to a “suicide pact”. This was not a grotesque comparison constructed by the newspaper, but a direct quote from the man himself, with a clear message written into it.
Essentially, what Mr Murray means is “vote out our newco and we’ll all hope the game goes down the toilet”. Perhaps if the rest of Scottish Football had been inundated with apologies and signs of remorse from everyone involved in the old Rangers, then we would all be a little bit more sympathetic. Only then could we believe that they are really concerned about the potential future of Scottish Football when they discuss their potential demise.
However, without these apologies, and without even the slightest acknowledgement of any wrongdoing, forgive me if I read quotes like that from Mr Murray and read them as veiled threats. The “we are the people” mentality lends itself very easily to “If we’re going down, we’re going to try to take you all with us”, and this is exactly what many people are trying to do. If your average Rangers supporter truly cared for the state of Scottish Football then they would be apologetic and remorseful for ruining the game in this country for over a decade through tax evasion and financial doping, and yet the majority are simply not.
The people calling for a newco to be allowed straight back into the Scottish Premier League are only looking out for their own interests, and of the interests of the new club they support. Any claims that they have “the best interests of Scottish Football” at heart are simply false, and should be looked upon as such. In my mind, they should count themselves lucky if their new club find themselves in division three next season. After all, many of the non-league teams, such as Spartans and Edinburgh City (amongst many others), could very well put forward both valid and well reasoned arguments to suggest they are far more worthy of any open space in the professional leagues than a newco Rangers are. For one thing, they have not been proven to have had a long history of intentional cheating as the former Ibrox club have.
Figures released with regards to the 2011-2012 season show that Celtic were, by average attendances at least, the thirteenth best supported club in Europe, with an average of 50,904 supporters attending home league matches. The old Rangers, were by this same standard, the nineteenth most supported team, with an average of 46,324 supporters attending league ties at Ibrox.
The main argument calling for a newco to remain in the Scottish Premier League surrounds the potential loss of revenue for other clubs through the income they would have received from travelling Rangers supporters.
Now, undoubtedly, the demotion of a newco would mean the loss of this revenue from away supporters. Most clubs will face Celtic and Rangers at home four times a season, with two visits from each side, almost or completely selling out their away sections on these occasions. This is seems like a valid argument, as no newco in the Scottish Premier League would mean the loss of this income.
However, what the same people who predict doom for Scottish Football without a newco will not tell you is that this lost income would easily be found somewhere else in S.F.A.R (Scottish Football after Rangers). At present, an average of over forty six thousand fans have been attending Ibrox stadium every fortnight or so. Now, whether a newco are in the third division, or lost from the leagues altogether, attendances would be no where near that figure in the medium to longer term.
While undoubtedly some of the “die-hard” Rangers fans would continue to follow a newco home and away, attendances would plummet, along with the standard of football and results on display in the lower leagues. The old Rangers support have a reputation for only turning up when things are going well, as attendances before the “glory days” under Sir David Murray show. I say “glory days” because even the earliest of these years may one day be proven to have involved some form of cheating, and this is now an issue which I feel needs to be seriously addressed.
Anyway, whilst some supporters may largely desert a newco and football for five or ten years while the new club gets off of it’s knees, I believe thousands upon thousands of old Rangers supporters would, in time, find themselves going to watch other Scottish clubs play their football. This may start when they decide to go and watch, for example, Kilmarnock take on Celtic at Rugby Park one week, but in time I don’t think people with a genuine love of football could stay away. In fact, the hatred of Celtic that some ex-Rangers supporters would possess may actually help to make other teams more competitive.
Consider a team like Kilmarnock, for argument’s sake, who last season had an average home attendance of 5,537. The highest attended match they had was the visit of Celtic on the day they won the Scottish Premier League title, with 15,926 almost filling Rugby Park to the brim. However, that was a special day and not your average travelling support.
If we look at the 1-0 victory for Kilmarnock over Rangers in November, 2011, we can see the attendance was 9,506. This means that there were probably soemwhere around 4,000 away supporters inside the ground. Presuming tickets cost an average of £25 each when taking into account reduced prices for certain individuals that leaves you Kilmarnock with, at an estimate of approximately £100,000 taken in from Rangers supporters. This doubled, for the expected two visits a season, would leave the Ayrshire club with £200,000. If we even include a theoretical tonne of programme and food sales, we could estimate a figure of £250,000 being lost if a newco were not in the Scottish Premier League.
Now, Kilmarnock play at home, in the league, nineteen times a season. I have been fairly liberal in my prices above in order to prove a point to you all. To recoup a potential loss of £250,000 a season, Kilmarnock would have to make an extra £13,157 per match over the course of their nineteen home league games. This means that, approximately, 658 more adults, paying a rate of £20 a time, would need to go and see Kilmarnock every week. Now, that may sound like a lot, but when you consider the fact that tens of thousands of “regular” football goers across Scotland would suddenly be looking for a team to watch, that number begins to look a lot smaller. It looks even smaller yet when you consider the fact that the figure of 658 doesn’t take into account the money these individuals would spend on food, drink, or merchandise at the club. It also does not include any revenue generated from away supporters of a “twelfth team”, such as the fans of Dundee, visiting Rugby Park once a season.
This small, and fairly rough example, shows clearly that the demise of Rangers and the demotion of a newco to the third division would really have a fairly small financial effect on other Scottish Premier League teams.
“Ah, but what about the television deals?” I hear some people ask. Well, Sky and ESPN have already confirmed that the lack of a newco will not affect their coverage of the Scottish Premier League, so this becomes a fairly fruitless argument.
The fact is that Scottish Football has been, largely, declining in quality over the course of many years. Before Sir David Murray took control of Rangers, several teams including Aberdeen, Dundee United, and Hearts, were often competing seriously for league titles and for silverware. Partially, as a result of old Rangers’ financial doping, the competitiveness of Scottish Football has plummeted, with only Celtic able to keep pace. This has not been entirely down to the actions of Rangers, but they have certainly not helped matters.
So all this begs the question, “Scottish Football with a newco looks like it will only continue on a downward spiral, so isn’t it time we all took a chance and tried to get the game moving in the right direction again?” I think this question answers itself.
I’ll begin to wind this article up with two quotes from a book entitled “Celtic’s Paranoia…all in the mind?” written by Tom Campbell. For those of you who have not read it, it is certainly worth a read, as while I may not agree with all of the author’s sentiments, it is an interesting book and it does make you think.
In one section of the book, which discusses Celtic’s relationship with the media, there are, amongst many others, three quotes that caught my eye. However, these are not quotes concerning Celtic, but old Rangers, and their supporters.
In 1924, the Glasgow Observer, a paper with well known leanings towards Celtic, described the away supporters in a Glasgow Derby match at Celtic Park as follows:
“On the terracing at the Dalmarnock End on Saturday there was congregated a gang, thousands strong, including the dregs and scourings of filthy slumdom, unwashed yahoos, jailbirds, night hawks, won’t works, “burroo” barnacles and pavement pirates, all, or nearly all, in the verminous stage of scarecrow trampdom. This ragged army of insanitary pests was lavishly provided with orange and blue remnants, and these were flaunted in challenge as the football tide flowed this way and that. Practically without cessation for ninety minutes or more, the vagabond scum kept up a strident howl of the “Boyne Water” chrous. Nothing so designedly provoking, so maliciously insulting or so bestially ignorant has ever been witnessed even in the wildest exhibitions of Glasgow Orange bigotry.” (1st November 1924)
Only years later, in 1927, the same paper published another report regarding the behaviour of Rangers supporters at Celtic Park:
“The blue bedecked crowd at the Dalmarnock end earned fame of a kind by actually pelting with stones and clinkers the collectors, ladies and young boys included, who were carrying round the sheets for the Dalbeth Convent collection. The Blue following have many misdeeds to their credit, but surely this was the dirtiest. Let it never be forgotten that the Rangers supporters stoned women and children engaged in a work of charity…when the game and the players are merely a shadowy memory, this shameful thing will be remembered.” (23rd April, 1927)
We’ve all seen the footage of Rangers supporters rampaging around Celtic Park, and destroying the toilets with a worrying degree of freedom, but here’s a clip for anyone who wants to see it again, posted after not only the final Celtic v Rangers game of the season, but the final one ever. Here is a modern display of both bigotry and violence, and you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to find more examples (see Manchester 2008 for argument’s sake).
While no set of football supporters are absolutely perfect, and I would include the Celtic support in that regard, there seems to have been a systemic acceptance and encouragement with regards to this sort of behaviour within the Rangers support for generations, and it leaves us again with the question, “Does Scottish Football really need Rangers?”
I’ll leave you with one final quote, taken from Gerry McNee, in the News of the World, 26 October, 2003:
“I sat at the back of Ibrox stadium’s main stand on Wednesday night and wondered what kind of person would want to own, be chairman, director or manager of Rangers Football Club in the 21st century…I was ashamed of my Scottish roots and being born and bred a Glasweigian…the sectarian singing intensified on a night the club introduced a supposed traditional Rangers song ‘The Blue Sea of Ibrox’…a couple of elderly fans told me it was an adaptation of an old Boys’ Brigade number…the minute the Three Stooges [three singers hired by the club to provide pre-match entertainment] began ‘Follow, Follow’, we were on a roller coaster as a frenzied crowd headed into the Billy Boys, Fenian blood, Celtic, the Pope, the IRA, Bobby Sands, Derry’s Walls, King James, the Queen and the rest of their bilious repertoire…at Ibrox stadium my stomach churned at the sight of a primeval gathering. It was pernicious, poisonous, virulent, evil…yet so many, including the media, accept it as the norm!”
Perhaps, as I have stated before, a newco would allow the sensible supporters of the old Rangers to drop the baggage of the old club, acknowledge it and apologise for their small part in it, and attempt to move on without it into the future, with a clean slate. Sadly however, I won’t hold my breath in this regard. Too often are the views of sensible Rangers supporters drowned out by the bigots, accusing them of being “Timmy in disguise”.