As ESPN anchorman Ray Stubbs stood awkwardly on the Ibrox turf (get yourself a studio and a seat Ray) delving threw the wreckage created by Rangers’ and Celtic’s early European exits hoping to be enlightened by the three wise men Richard Gough, Mark Hateley and Craig Burley as to why Scottish football is so dire, I couldn’t help but feel the need to hit the panic button once again.
For the first time since European club football began in 1955 no Scottish team will be involved in European competition after September 1. Bloody hell that hurts. RIP Scottish football – too far? I don’t know. Craig Burley claimed that Scottish football was no longer in the dock, it was now ‘in the dungeons’.
Scottish football as a whole, as far as I can remember, has always been dreadful. Outside the Old Firm, the clubs have forever been mediocre at best, apart from the Aberdeen glory years when Sir Alex Ferguson worked his magic. The only difference now is that the quality of player plying their trade in the blue of Rangers or the green and white hoops of Celtic has dropped considerably. Henrik Larsson to Georgios Samaras. Brian Laudrup to Juan Ortiz. Where did it all go so horribly wrong?
The answer lies 20 years ago when Richard ‘Smashed It’ Keys and Andy Gray started presenting Sky Sports Premier League football and the English game became a money making machine. TV revenue made the English clubs goldmines and the likes of Roman Abramovich and the Glazer’s jumped on board desperate for their slice. The SPL on the other hand lacked such appeal so has died a slow death as all money and quality has been strangled out of the game. The Old Firm were able to compete at one point due to the seemingly limitless pockets of the likes of David Murray but soon that money dried up. Nowadays both clubs struggle to outbid Championship never mind EPL sides.
There is no magic formula for making the SPL attractive viewing. 10 teams? 12 teams? 18 teams? It is not going to make a difference. No one will watch it anyway. The playing field is too uneven for it to be an exciting product and a population of 5 million in the country limits the possible viewing figures. Thus the chances of Sky or any other worthwhile broadcaster stumping up big money is remote to say the least.
And without the revenue generated by TV, Scottish clubs are unable to compete with their noisy neighbours down south. Take Tottenham Hotspur and Hearts for example. Spurs have an annual turnover of £120 million. Opponents Hearts, who the English club crushed 5-0, have a turnover of £8m. Blackpool were the lowest TV earners in the EPL last season, but their payment of £39m still dwarves the £2m TV income Rangers received for winning the SPL.
As sad as it seems to say this, Scottish football will continue to be terrible for the foreseeable future. Gough and Hateley came out with the usual drivel about going back to the grass roots and giving youth a chance. All well and good although the minute one of these kids shows an ounce of potential they are shipped down south quicker than a hiccup, leaving the SPL high and dry with substandard replacements brought in.
With all that said, Celtic and Rangers remain two of the biggest draws in the UK outside of Manchester United due to their huge fan bases. The shambolic results both sides suffer when in European action do not match the fan bases, or the demands.
Celtic – the first British winners of the European Cup in 1967 – were the 12th best supported club in Europe last season with an average attendance of 48,968. Rangers – recipients of the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972 – were in 22nd position with a healthy 45,305. Both have been to the UEFA Cup final over the past eight years.
Yet both have managed to snatch defeat from the hands of victory on numerous occasions. Rangers have only won one of their last 25 games in Europe. Celtic continue to defy logic with their shocking away record of one win in 30. It’s just not good enough.
Unfortunately as long as the Old Firm are playing in the SPL sustained European success is impossible. The lack of money leaves the two Scottish giant’s with their hands tied. The only answer may well be a move to the English footballing circuit. Even starting at the bottom of the ladder before climbing to the top teir. Something has to change at some point.
The strangelhold of a lack of funds been placed on the two has finally got two tight. On Thursday 25th August the Old Firm tapped out.