Scottish Football IS The Old Firm


If one thing is certain for Scottish football season 2012/2013, it is that there will be no Old Firm league encounter. If Rangers participate in the League and Scottish Cups, then there is an outside chance Celtic could be drawn with the Ibrox side, be it in a 5th Round, Quarter, Semi…but there will be no league encounters between the two.
Just what are the implications for the three components involved here; Rangers, Celtic and Scottish football.
Starting with our ‘good friends Celtic’, as manager Ally McCoist so appositely put it recently, how does the loss of Rangers in the SPL affect them? Of all Premier League outfits, they are the ones who can cope best in the short term without Rangers. Their turnover is profitable, marginally, with recent figures published in February suggesting a net profit of sub-£200,000, which in itself was a massive fall from previous figures of over £7,000,000. With previous turnover reaching £30M, Celtic will be able to tolerate the loss of revenue caused by Rangers’ absence the best in the short-term, but exactly what are they looking at losing, financially? Given net profit fell by around £7,000,000, and their profit is currently poor and well under a million, taking into account the figures currently released by most SPL clubs where the loss of Rangers’ supporter gate receipts will cost around £400,000 for the season, plus the potential loss of TV money – each club, Motherwell and Kilmarnock included, who voted ‘no’ to Rangers’ re-entry to the SPL, will lose around £1,000,000 per season. This will force a number of clubs into administration, and in the short-term Celtic can survive, but given their profit margins have gone down vastly, and they will be losing well over £400,000 a year through Rangers’ fan gate receipts (Parkhead fits many more Rangers fans than Fir Park does), then clearly Celtic will be operating at a loss of at least £800,000. It will be undeniably more, and while it will not kill the Parkhead club in the interim, the longer Rangers are not in the SPL, the more harm it will do to Celtic.
The longer Rangers are outside the SPL, the less time this crest has.
Celtic’s odds for winning the league are almost an embarrassment. Some bookmakers are offering 1/33. To say the league became a ridiculous one-horse race would be something of an understatement, and it is hard to believe that beyond Christmas, even Celtic fans would be packing out Parkhead to watch their side, already with an unassailable lead, entertain Ross County. They will equally be uncertain of European qualification, with CL entry being at the third qualifying round. Lose this (not impossible) and they will find themselves in the fourth qualifying round of the Europa League. Lose that and they lose even more money. Previously this money could be partially compensated by Sky’s TV cash and Old Firm gate receipts. With those now gone long-term Celtic will not be able to sustain themselves. Short-term they will be fine, but long-term?
What about the whole of Scottish football? Does it face oblivion? Well the facts speak for themselves, and the numbers do not lie. With Celtic just about able to keep the ship steady in the short-term, due to their financial affluence as it currently stands, the picture is less rosy for the smaller clubs like the aforementioned Motherwell and Kilmarnock. These clubs will lose money which, to them, is basically lifeblood. £1,000,000 a year has been confirmed by a number of these smaller sides, from the loss of TV cash, gate receipts and other kinds of income. This is why the impeccably honourable and consistent Stewart Regan is so desperate to push through Rangers’ entry to the First Division. It will reportedly save the Sky deal which means it will save clubs from administration. Lest we forget, it is not just the loss of Sky money and Rangers’ supporters gates that the powers-that-be are worried about. Will Celtic fans still show up on a rainy afternoon in Aberdeen in January when the league is already decided? It is not just Rangers supporters who will no longer be visiting small clubs in the SPL, it is Celtic fans too. Certainly in massively reduced numbers. They will have no Old Firm to look forward to, and without Rangers the SPL is infinitely less credible, so smaller clubs are going to lose a great deal more cash that way. If Rangers fans do get their way and the club lands in Division 3, it is an almost certainty that Scottish football will die. Unfortunately, Rangers will almost certainly be part of that death, given my previous research into the likelihood of the club’s survival in Division 3.
Which takes us nicely onto Rangers, the most important part of this blog. How are Rangers going to cope without the Old Firm? Without Celtic? Obviously there will be no Old Firm league matches to look forward to, with the £800,000+ gate receipts visiting Celtic fans provide now gone. There is a chance, as mentioned, of a cup game or two, but it is no guarantee. Without Sky’s money Rangers, in Division 3, will have absolutely no TV income. It has been suggested a club-run TV channel, online or on TV. Problem is where is the cash to run this? To start up such an endeavour capital must be invested first. Subscription money comes once the service exists. 
The future of this service is very much unknown.
There is little point re-treading previous blogs which have illustrated the impact of dropping divisions, but one thing Rangers supporters must realise, whether we like it or not, and ditto supporters of the East End’s finest – Rangers and Celtic need each other, and so does Scottish football and football in general. Fans of both sides may be acting defiantly, suggesting they do not need ‘the other lot’ – even Peter Lawwell claims Celtic can sustain themselves without Rangers. This feels like arrogant bravado – at no point has any Rangers’ club official ever suggested anything remotely similar.
Scottish football, Rangers and Celtic – the Old Firm is inherent to this and is woven into the very fabric of Scottish society, never mind global interest. With it being gone for at least a year and potentially even longer, the implications for Scottish football are dire.
Scottish football is The Old Firm.