With Rangers at least another season away from entering the SPFL Premiership the question has to be asked. Is Scottish football better off without Rangers in the top flight? Amidst cries of Armageddon and arguments over the status of the club and company, has Scottish football suffered from the Rangers crisis or has it been reenergised by their collapse? Gary Smith has a closer look.
No Rangers Return? Can the SPFL Premiership succeed without Rangers?
By Gary Smith
Many pundits and journalists have had their say on Scottish football claiming it`s a one horse race.
Add former Newcastle and England hero Alan Shearer to the growing band of fans wanting to see the return of Rangers to the top flight.
In a recent interview with “The Daily Record”, The Match of the Day pundit admitted that his head was turned a couple of times by Martin O Neill whilst at Celtic. He remained true however, to his beloved Toon.
Shearer admitted that he missed the rivalry that the Old Firm derby brought to football and was desperate to see it return. He also claimed that the absence of Rangers is destroying the Scottish game.
Does that mean Rangers failure to win the playoff final against Motherwell will see the game suffer in Scotland? Or is there an alternative viewpoint that suggests the game has prospered without the handcuffs of the Old Firm?
Since Rangers catastrophic demise when they were liquidated back in February 2012, in the process reforming in division three, there were headlines of “Armageddon”. We were being told that there would be catastrophe in the stands and chaos on the streets. Scaremongering at its best but the Premiership clubs have shown this not to be the case, for which they should be duly applauded.
Celtic may have retained their status as Premier League Champions four years running; however, with the absence of Rangers it gave Motherwell, and recently Aberdeen the chance to push “The Hoops” as far as they could, while the competition for domestic trophies has been as exciting as a Sergio Aguero last minute goal to win the title down south.
Shearer`s claims that it would be better for everyone if the “light blues” were back in the top flight may prompt cries of derision from teams like St Mirren, Hearts Inverness and Aberdeen among others who have all won cups and plaudits since the Govan sides demotion to the bottom tier.
We have also had more Scottish teams playing European qualifiers as well. St Johnstone were a whisker away from the group stages of the Europa League in 2013 having defeated Rosenborg before falling (ED: mightily unluckily) to Belarusian side FC Minsk on penalties.
Motherwell tried and failed a couple of times to reach both the Champions League and Europa League when they finished runners up to Celtic in 2012 and 2013 but a packed out Fir Park pays testament to the benefits of these qualifiers being spread around the clubs.
Meanwhile title chasing Aberdeen came through an incredible three qualifying rounds in the Europa League before being beaten by Spanish La Liga side Real Sociedad.
Attendances have never been in the tens of thousands beforehand therefore there was never going to be a surge with the exclusion of Rangers.
— ScottishFootballTips (@FitbaTips) April 18, 2015
Compare the attendance figures before and after the “light blues” demotion and it doesn’t quite spell out disaster for Scottish Football.
The average attendance figures throughout the top flight in Rangers final season was roughly 13,500. Add that with the three seasons which followed and we have lost fewer than five thousand as average attendance figures have kept at a healthy 8-9,000 on match days.
This season especially has undoubtedly been the most exciting in years. A title race which went the distance…well almost, a race for Europe between four clubs and a relegation battle which came to a head on the penultimate game.
Celtic and Dundee United hosted their own mini world series as they squared up to each other an incredible eight times. Four times in a fortnight, which saw goals, bookings and quite a few players receiving early baths as tempers flared. Derek Mcinnes’ Aberdeen side also improved and pushed Ronny Deila`s Celtic all the way to the split, before losing out on a possible title party.
While Celtic secured the Scottish League Cup against a resilient Dundee United it was unpredictability which struck the Scottish Cup Final as Inverness and Falkirk beat Hibs and Celtic respectively.
Scottish football may not have the glitz and glamour of the English top flight, but then again we aren’t being handed mega millions by Sky for TV coverage.
TV Broadcasters Sky, BT Sport and BBC Alba pay a combined fee of £15 Million for the rights to screen 86 matches throughout the season. Compared to Sky`s recent deal it is a mere drop in the ocean. The rights to show the Barclays Premier League has cost Sky an eye watering £5.14 Billion, a deal which runs until 2019.
Nobody says Scottish football is pretty (ED: Actually I do but I am biased) and we may not have the Eden Hazard or Wayne Rooney’s of the world but we are definitely being short changed. With the money that they are handing over it surely wouldn`t harm Sky if they were to re-negotiate the deal and throw a few extra quid our way.
So would our top flight get weaker if Rangers aren`t promoted? I believe not, we have had three years without the light blues and have any of the clubs mentioned went out of business?
In fact the opposite is more likely. In the absence of an Old Firm arms race we have the added bonus of clubs being run prudently. Just look at the clubs who have had the most success recently. Small, well run clubs who live within their means are out-performing supposed bigger clubs with bigger budgets and bigger claims to their ‘rightful place’.
Most people are going to miss the Old Firm Derbies, whether you’re neutral, or stay in the blue or green half of Glasgow. I believe however, that the League will get stronger in the next couple of years with the inclusion of Hearts and, of course, Rangers if they gain promotion. A top flight with Rangers in it would mean more money, more fans, more sponsorship and should, theoretically, mean a stronger division but you could argue that’s not how it went before.
What Rangers don’t need is a quick fix; another year in the second tier of Scottish football will not destroy them and it won’t destroy the league. If they want to improve, then they need to sort their problems in house as a matter of urgency. Only then can they start looking on the field and get rid of some of the deadwood that is holding them back. Kris Boyd, Kenny Miller & Ian Black to name a few.
I respect Shearer both on and off the pitch as I always have, but I think he is totally wrong on this topic. I believe our league hasn`t suffered and those successful cup teams are testament to that.
My message to Shearer would be simply, if it aint broke don`t fix it.
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