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A Look At What’s Missing This Year – The Old Firm Derby

Celtic fans taunt their rivals after it was confirmed that Rangers were relegated to the 4th tier of Scottish football

In many respects, the rivalry between Glasgow Rangers and Celtic is one of the most intense in the world. There is a lot more than just football that separates the fans of the two clubs. Divisions over like religion, origin, political and social beliefs have been the root causes of many wars in history and they all play an active role in the Old Firm football rivalry.

It all began in May 1888, when Rangers accepted Celtic’s invitation to be their opponents in their first ever game. This was a friendly game, and the two clubs have not played many of those over the years.

The origins of the rivalry lie in Celtic’s very creation. The club was formed Catholic monk from Ireland to bring pride and honor to the large Irish immigrant community in Glasgow. And so it did, in stark contrast to Rangers, whose fans were native Scot Protestants. Divisions went further than religion and ethnicity – Celtic fans were working-class, socialist and believed in Irish (and later Northern Irish) independence. Rangers fans were conservative and loyalist. The two teams drew huge crowds, and these crowds differed on the most basic beliefs. Hatred and animosity were inevitable consequences.

There are fewer purer derbies in football. The two clubs have enjoyed total domination of Scottish football over the years, winning a total of 97 league titles, including all since 1986. Year after year, the games between them have been virtual title deciders because the clubs very rarely drop points against the rest of the field. They have played a total of 399 games, with Rangers winning 159, Celtic taking 144 and the remaining 96 finishing tied.

The two clubs have naturally produced many memorable games between them. It is interesting to note that the record derby wins in the Scottish Premier League for both teams happened in the same season. On 27 August 2000, Celtic beat Rangers 6-2 early in the campaign, while 3 months later Rangers won 5-1. This is a testament to how competitive and unpredictable the games generally are.

In terms of fan trouble, the biggest accidents occurred after the 1980 Scottish Cup Final, when fans invaded the pitch after Celtic’s 1-0 win and the two crowds had mass fights. Since then alcohol is banned on stadiums in Scotland. The derby has gone milder in modern times; probably as today the clear historical divisions are more blurred as fan bases have become more diverse and tolerant.

The Death Toll on the day was counted as 66

The biggest dent in the derby’s glorious history will come from Rangers’ financial troubles that forced the club into administration in the summer and subsequently it was relegated to the fourth tier of the Scottish league system. Thus, it is guaranteed that an Old Firm derby can only occur in the next 3 years of Celtic and Rangers are drawn together in the Scottish cup.

This of course takes away mainly from the glamour of Scottish football. The very name “Old Firm” derives from an old newspaper article that emphasized the economic importance of the two teams for Scottish football.

Although many Celtic fans rejoice, without Rangers, there is simply nothing to look forward to for most fans, no intrigue in the league. During Rangers’ climb through the lower tiers, Celtic will likely enjoy (at least) three years of calm and uneventful domination in the Scottish Premier League. The team has to look outside Scotland for meaningful competition, and so far has done very well in the UEFA Champions League, earning a famous victory over Barcelona and progressing to the elimination phases. Some Celtic fans might say they don’t even miss Rangers. But Scottish football is just not the same with only one half of the Old Firm.