Why Scottish football needs Celtic to stay

With Rangers back in the top flight, will Celtic finally be toppled from their perch?
Image credit: Stanmar

Here's one for the pub-quizzers amongst you: amongst the main football leagues in Europe, which country has the highest attendance rates? England, the home of football? Or perhaps Spain, where you're hard-pressed to find a taxi driver who doesn't have something to say about his local equipo? Neither, in fact. According to research by Sporting Intelligence, it is the Scots who are the most dedicated fans in Europe, with 3% of the population regularly turning up to cheer on their side.

I must say, I initially found this somewhat surprising. You have to go back to 1985 for the last time a team other than Rangers or Celtic won the Premiership, and in recent years the league has been dogged by financial problems of such profundity that six clubs were forced into administration in the early 2000s.

Indeed, many thought that Rangers' liquidation and subsequent booting off into the deep abyss of the Third Division would serve as the proverbial nail in the Scottish football coffin. However, attendances remained stable despite the loss of the Old Firm giant, a situation that comedian Kevin Bridges described as “a two horse race that has lost a horse”. And, a nifty rebranding of the competition in 2013 and subsequent TV deals with BT Sport, Sky Sports and Chinese network PPTV seems to have brought about a certain measure of stability. 

Strong and stable, but unfortunately the political metaphor extends to dull and dependable as well. For with their Glaswegian counterparts having to make their slow progression up the rankings à la Maria Sharapova, Celtic have breezed to four consecutive league titles without really breaking a sweat. Last year, a whopping 40 points separated the Hoops from Aberdeen in second place in an unbeaten season that had some sectors in green and white clamouring for a place in the English football pyramid.

However attractive this prospect may seem for all fed up with fighting for second place year in year out, the consequences could be fatal for a division that relies so much on the international pedigree of the Glaswegian outfit to help bring up the rest of the division.

Currently boasting French winger Moussa Dembele, Ivorian centre-back Kolo Toure and until recently Kenyan defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama — who now plies his trade at high-flying Tottenham — Celtic have succeeded in attracting players of international quality north of the border. And, with Rangers now firmly established back in the top flight, it seems that manager Pedro Caixinha is now in a position to challenge Brendon Rodgers in the transfer department. In a move that can only bode well for next season, Caixinha recently secured the signing of veteran defender Bruno Alves, an integral part of the Portuguese team that bored their way to victory in Euro 2016. 

In another bit of smart business, the Ibrox outfit have just secured the services of Mexican international Carlos Pena after a couple of productive seasons on loan for León. Looking inside as well as out, Caixinha can be pleased with his negotiating team for pinching Aberdeen captain Ryan Jack, joining the mass exodus leaving Pittodrie following last week's agonising Scottish Cup Final defeat to Celtic. 

Of course, there is the risk that Scottish football becomes too far centered on one city, on one fixture. But, if other teams can hold on to their best players, then the influx of international talent may well have a positive multiplier effect and serve to raise the quality on show throughout the division. If not, at least the race has regained its second horse.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories

In this section

Across the site

Best of the Rest