Armageddon? What Armageddon?

Now that we are at the end of the league season, and with respect to the job still to be done at Tannadice and McDiarmid Park, it seems like a good time for a post holocaust report.

Average Weekly Attendances SPL 2011-2014

Fig 1 Average Weekly Attendances SPL 2011-2014

Peppered around this page are three charts and a table* showing the attendance figures for the SPL in the last three seasons. A school kid could tell you that there is a positive trend in those charts and figures, but the people who run our national sport will look you straight in the eye and tell you “that can’t be right – Armageddon is coming!”

It is one of the most ridiculous and mendacious situations I have ever come across. The people who run our national game, aided and abetted by those in the MSM (sans the eye contact though) are actually trying to persuade us of how awful our game is and how unsustainable it will be in the absence of one, just one, club.

Think about that. The SFA and the SPFL trying to talk us out of supporting the game unless we all recognise the unique importance of one, just one, club. That is what has happened, no matter how they try to spin it. And despite evidence to the contrary contained in these figures, not one of them has admitted to an error, never mind the downright lies that they told to support the position they held, the one where anyone speaking of sporting integrity was mocked and ridiculed.


Whilst growing up as football supporter in the 60s, one of things I was constantly bombarded with via the medium of the tabloid newspapers was that football clubs should be grateful for the publicity afforded them via their back pages. These were probably reasonable claims, especially in the light of the relative lack of access to players and officials conceded to the hacks in those days, and the pre-eminent cultural position in which they helped to place football. Alongside that, the broadcast media, particularly Archie Macpherson’s Sportscene and Arthur Montford’s Scotsport could be relied on to talk the game up. Of course, there was something in it for the papers – sales. The more column inches devoted to the national sport, the further northward their sales, and consequently advertising revenues travelled.

ex Celtic & Rangers

Fig 2 Avg. Attendances excl Celtic & Rangers

The situation was further cemented by the fact that the press in that ante-interweb era held a monopoly over the exchange and dissemination of information. That symbiotic, win-win relationship between football and the press was as much a part of football reality as the Hampden Roar. It also endured for decades. The press would talk up the game to such an extent that folk often remarked that they hadn’t realised how much they had enjoyed a particular match until they had read Malky Munro or Hughie Taylor’s report the next day. Archie Macpherson is on record as having said the same thing about legendary commentator David Francey, “It was a much better game to listen to than to see!”

Today that symbiosis is broken. The press themselves, in print and in front of microphones consistently belittle the product, talk of crises and Armageddon, of our own version of the Eisenhower domino effect of clubs going to the wall one after another.

Aided and abetted by the two chief bureaucrats in charge of Scottish football, Stuart Regan and Neil Doncaster, who have consistently helped to hammer home the message that Scottish football is not good enough, and cannot sustain itself financially without Rangers, a club that could not itself sustain itself financially to the extent that it is being liquidated.

At a time when Scottish football was clearly in crisis, and badly in need of sponsorship which could mitigate the effects of that crisis, the press and the authorities sought to strengthen their own negotiating hand by making negative claims about the state of the game which never came to pass, and for which they have never apologised. The actual situation, which would not have been hard to predict had anyone actually bothered to analyse the business of Scottish football, is summarised quite easily by saying this;

  1. Since Rangers’ liquidation and subsequent absence from the top league, the average home attendance of the other clubs has INCREASED overall (See Fig 2).
  2. In this season, the other clubs have added 50,000 fans to home attendances compared to 2011-12 (the last year Rangers were in competition).
  3. In that time the league has been won (twice) by Celtic, and the other honours have been claimed by St, Mirren, Aberdeen, Celtic and (either) Dundee United or St Johnstone.
  4. In that time, both Dunfermline Athletic and Hearts (who both had historical financial problems) entered – and exited – administration after fan-led buyouts.
  5. Dundee United have cleared off their bank debt.
  6. Kilmarnock have restructured their bank debt, freeing the club from a precarious long-term situation.
  7. League reconstruction has allowed some money to trickle down to the second tier clubs in an attempt to mitigate the immediate effects of relegation and to reward ambitious clubs.


Looking at the table of attendances above, it is pretty clear that immediately upon Rangers exit, the overall figures took a dip. However there was little difference the in the figures if you leave Rangers out of the equation (Fig 3) – despite Celtic’s attendance taking a hit that year (down by around 5,000 per home match).

Taking Celtic out of the calculations, it is clear that there is a 6,000 uplift in this average (Fig 2).

It is still undeniable that less people overall are watching football (Fig 1), but the trend is upward if one leaves the Ibrox club out of the picture.

Furthermore, this statistic exposes the double edged sword that is retention of home gates. The fact that gates are not shared is predicated upon the notion that the bigger clubs do not depend on the smaller clubs for income. And since the smaller clubs are no longer recipients of big club largesse, their fortunes are not affected, at least not as much as was suggested by the Regans, Doncasters and Traynors of this parish. The “Trickle-Down” theory of Reganomics said otherwise – but clearly and demonstrably it was wrong.

The abandonment of gate sharing has made Scottish football less interdependent than it once was, but the irony is that it works both ways. There is hardly a club in the country that depends on Rangers for their own existence, and here is the news; small clubs are no longer financially dependent on the former Old Firm.

Excluding Celtic

Fig 3 Excluding Celtic

The fact, that is F-A-C-T, is that Scottish Football attendances in the top division are on the increase. The absence of Rangers has made no appreciably negative difference to any other club, far less caused a catastrophe of biblical proportions.

Even if the fools who were the harbingers of our doom were simply guilty of making an honest mistake, it is clear that they are uncontaminated with the slightest notion of how the game in this country operates. The Old Firm may be dead, but the OF prism is still being peered through by Stuart Regan, Neil Doncaster and the vast majority of print journalists. The latter who failed to honour that age-old football/press symbiosis because they believed, erroneously that David Murray’s dinner table was the hand that has fed them for over a century.

The irony is that as job opportunities diminish in the print sector, so too will the fine dining and patronage. I think they call that evolution.


Two years ago, in the wake of the fans’ season ticket revolt which saw the new Rangers forced to apply for membership of the league and begin at the bottom, those same MSM hacks taunted fans about putting their money where their mouths were. The fans responded splendidly as our statistics demonstrate, but typically there has been no recognition of this either at Hampden or in the media.

And the message from those fans is this: Scottish football is not dying. Not any more. At least not as surely as it was when David Murray started to choke the life out of it in the late 80s. The supporters are returning in numbers to see a competition untainted by the outrageous liberty-taking and rule-breaking of the last couple of decades, and all but one club has emerged from the mire of the Moonbeam Millennium looking forward to a new era.

If authorities allow the new era to thrive by restoring sporting integrity to the agenda, then the numbers, like the opportunities available to more and more clubs, will grow. The question is … will they?

Admittedly, these figures, like any set of statistics, can be cherry-picked to suit almost any argument that you care to construct. The fact remains though, that whilst it would be fanciful and ridiculously over-optimistic to claim that they bear witness to a burgeoning industry, it is utterly dishonest to conclude that they represent financial Armageddon. Armageddon? Aye right!

* Source ESPN          

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About Big Pink

Big Pink is John Cole; a former schoolteacher based in the West of Scotland, He is also a print and broadcast journalist who is engaged in the running of SFM . Former gigs include Newstalk 106, the Celtic View, and Channel67. A Celtic fan, he is also the voice of our podcast initiative.

2,810 thoughts on “Armageddon? What Armageddon?

  1. GoosyGoosy says:
    June 15, 2014 at 10:58 pm
    48 0 Rate This
    Why are the Bears so disunited that they can`t bring themselves to dump this phony club playing at Ibrox?
    They are being milked ruthlessly with no end in sight
    Why wont they start another club with no baggage ?
    One that would have fullhearted support of the rest of Scottish Football?
    It beggars belief
    Why are the SFA so united that that they can`t bring themselves to dump this phony club playing at Ibrox?
    Why are they so corrupt with no end in sight
    Why did they not start another club with no baggage , without a conditional licence ?
    One that would have fullhearted support of the rest of Scottish Football?
    Sad to say but it does not beggar belief.

  2. Tartanwulver says:
    June 16, 2014 at 12:11 pm
    Fifa investigates England 2018 World Cup bid over £35,000 payment
    True corruption knows no shame.

    If Garcia is going to investigate corruption at the “posh dinner” level, he’ll be busy ’til hell freezes over. So he won’t have to worry about confronting the glaring big issues like playing a World Cup in an environment of 50C heat, at a differnet time of year tendered for, with no women, no gays, no alcohol, precious few human rights and positive danger to those of us of a fair skinned disposition

    Well done Mr Garcia, justice avoided, mission accomplished.

  3. mcfc says:

    June 16, 2014 at 9:39 am

    So Mr Green is back. Could the latest episode of this bad acid trip for the bears be more prosaic ?
    At first I read that as “prozac”

    Memo: must see optician. 😯

  4. EU, Make Yourself Useful !

    Isn’t it time for the EU Trade Commission to step into the FIFA mess. They have proved resolute and diligent against the likes of Microsoft, Google and mobile phone companies in the name of protecting the interests of EU citizens – so now it’s time for the big one: FIFA.

    Here we have an organization of global importance being run like some Chinatown crap game for the benefit of a gallery of shady chancers. It’s time to turn over the table and start again. First target must be the mockery of democracy, when one country, one vote has transmuted into one country, many bungs for the lucky few “administrators” who’ve caught the gravy train.

    It’s time for the EU to insist on good governance of FIFA in order to operate in the EU – from which FIFA draws much of its revenue. They should also be pressuring UEFA to man up and reform their support of a corrupt regime. UEFA could fatally wound FIFA at a stroke by leaving and going its own way and boycotting any World Cup hosted in a country that does not have basic human rights – currently all future planned World Cups.

    Maybe, our own fine government could take a break from bullying the disabled and disadvantaged to pick an adversary that requires courage and conviction to achieve a noble goal.

  5. ianagain says:
    June 15, 2014 at 1:51 am
    There needs to be (approx) 30,000 paying customers inside Ibrox to make it a viable proposition on match days.
    I suspect the same is true of Celtic Park.

  6. PhilMacGiollaBhain says:
    June 16, 2014 at 1:12 pm
    There needs to be (approx) 30,000 paying customers inside Ibrox to make it a viable proposition on match days.
    Now so many have taken the momentous psychological step of not renewing their ST, the quality of football and on-going governance will be judged every two weeks.. These are uncharted waters for those who expect unquestioning loyalty and sustained gullibility. Suddenly fans are customers, who have preferences, opinions and options that must be taken into consideration. For example, if the UoB could persuade most of the non-renewers to stay away for just one match, they would immediately gain the undivided attention of the board. Interesting times indeed.

  7. Apologies if a bit late and already known, but just came across this from The Guardian last year.

    BT Sport wins £900m Champions League TV rights from Sky and ITV

    • Exclusive three-year contract will run from 2015
    • Sky feels BT paid ‘far in excess’ of its own valuation

    This explains Sky’s offer of new sports channel 5 and free BB for 2 years

  8. mcfc says:
    June 16, 2014 at 1:45 pm
    I think that would have been more of an issue if this had happened last season when TRFC were still up against part-time opponents.
    If the club has a new manager, new style etc then I suspect that the pay at the gate crowds could still be produce healthy crowd numbers.
    Obviously the cash flow issues of low ST sales remains and issue.
    It remains to be seen if the old deferential ways kick in once the season starts.
    There is no doubt that a substantial amount of Ibrox fans are now alienated.

  9. I see that @apocryphal5 is commenting on the dubious Charles Green story we’ve been wondering about the actual source of:

    Questions being asked at BBC about yesterday’s Green returning to Ibrox story. Bosses want to know who sanctioned this claptrap.
    1:57pm – 16 Jun 14

    Here’s a pointer for Beeb chiefs – ask Chris McLaughlin about his dodgy Rangers info and why he gets others to write it up.
    2:05pm – 16 Jun 14

    Flight being called so just one other thing for the moment – new man is closing in on Ibrox but it isn’t Charlie.
    2:30pm – 16 Jun 14

  10. Driving home yesterday I heard a couple of presenters on Radio 2 discussing the re-release of the late Rick Mayall’s World Cup song, this led to mention that the FA had dumped their official World Cup song because of Garry Barlow’s ‘personal tax arrangements’. Perhaps a relatively easy situation for the FA to show their contempt for tax evaders, but at least they have acted in what most tax payers would consider the appropriate manner. I wonder how, in the admittedly unlikely event that something similar might occur with Scotland, the SFA would act. Kind of difficult to dump an individual for tax evasion, when they’ve been so facilitating towards RFC(now IL).

    PS. Not sure if this has been discussed here before, but it was news to me 🙄

  11. PhilMacGiollaBhain says:
    June 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm
    I think that would have been more of an issue if this had happened last season when TRFC were still up against part-time opponents.
    Agree – but better late than never – there is still some dire football still to be had – especially with Ally in charge. Firing him would be a another big step away from the oldco – and far from cheap.

  12. PhilMacGiollaBhain says:
    June 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Clearly TRFC will likely have a fair degree of difficulty in finding homes for the 10 or so players they are looking to off-load, but if successful, the standard of play will go well below what is acceptable for a world record holding club like TRFC, and, one might expect, the life supporting walk-up sales would diminish. This is, of course, assuming any players sold are of a reasonable quality as they tend to be the ones other clubs want. So there must be a difficult balancing job between offloading saleable/decent free transfer players while not reducing the attractiveness of the squad to disillusioned bears. From the information you have to hand, how vital is it for their survival that they manage to offload all/most of those players, and is there a need to lose them all, or is there a minimum they can get away with?

  13. Allyjambo says:
    June 16, 2014 at 3:16 pm
    If RIFC/TRFC divest themselves of the millstone of Murray Park AND can fund the severance package for Super Ally and his backroom team then most of the austerity will have been achieved.
    However the England based Agent was hired to a serious job for them.
    It IS important that these players go out the door-but as you say it will be difficult.
    So far there has been no VISIBLE austerity for the Ibrox customer base to react to.

  14. mcfc says:
    June 16, 2014 at 11:46 am
    Was gonna mention Fargo last night after the mention of Game of Thrones ❗ You couldn’t make this up.
    Need to get busy on the cast list now!!

  15. Allyjambo says:
    June 16, 2014 at 3:16 pm
    The agent has three lists.
    Five players to be sold for a reasonable fee.
    Five players to be offloaded at any price including zero.
    Then there is a list with kids on it and they want them out the door too.

  16. Cheers Phil. Seems to be an awful lot of balancing acts to be completed at Ibrox, where correcting one issue might well lead to another. The one bit of sense that the Green/McCoist mad spending spree seemed to make was that it brought the bears into their camp. Now the reverse is necessary to contribute, at least, to the club’s survival, but will it lead to further disillusion amongst the, now, not so faithful? I wonder, too, if the offloading of players is a prerequisite of Deloittes signing off on the going concern issue, along with many other factors, I’m sure.

  17. The Panto continues. The Charles Green story looks like it was sanctioned by the board as McMurdo junior is backing it up and given his access and track record it most likely came from the Blue Room. Phil has three lists of players to be either let go or sold to cut costs. We may soon see BOGOF deals as the agent is going to have his/her work cut out shifting some of the deadwood from the Ibrox squad. ( buy one get one free). As phil points out sacking the manager will cost £1 million+ unless as a real Rangers man he falls on his sword. If Ally were to walk it would preserve his staus as a club legned like Walter before him and would help the club he claims to care for so much. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the sevco up pops Charles. 😆

  18. what’s the chances of this leading anywhere

    Jun 16, 2014 16:49
    By Gary Ralston

    MARK DINGWALL, a former chairman of the Rangers Supporters Trust, claims Easdale is a shadow director of the club’s parent company and has reported him to the Stock Exchange.


    SNS Group
    Rangers shareholder Sandy Easdale

    A LEADING Rangers fan has reported Ibrox investor Sandy Easdale to the financial authorities over alleged insider dealing.

    Mark Dingwall, former chairman of the Rangers Supporters Trust, claims Easdale made a paper profit from buying shares on the back of knowledge in a statement to the BBC to which he should not have been privy.

    Dingwall, moderator of the followfollow fan website, has written to the Stock Exchange, Financial Conduct Authority and Rangers NOMAD Daniel Stewart asking them to investigate.

    In his correspondence, which has been seen by Record Sport. Dingwall also claims Easdale, who has a conviction for a £1.5million VAT fraud, is effectively acting as a shadow director of Rangers International FC plc, the parent company of the football club.

    His brother James Easdale is a director of Rangers International, but Sandy is chairman only of the Rangers football board.

    Dingwall was prompted to act after Sandy described the club’s finances in a BBC interview on April 24 as “fragile” ahead of the release of the club’s eagerly-awaited 120 day business review.

    Dingwall has written: “I wish you to investigate the possibility that Mr Alexander James Easdale is acting as a shadow director of Rangers International Football Club Plc and has used knowledge derived from such a position to enrich himself via the buying of shares in the company.

    “Mr Easdale is a director of the wholly-owned subsidiary company, The Rangers Football Club Ltd, but with apparent access to RIFC Plc financial information.

    “He made a public statement on April 24 this year – prior to the 120-day business review issued the next day by RIFC – stating the financial position of the club was ‘fragile’.

    “Mr Easdale appears to have attended an RIFC Board meeting (and his brother is a member of the RIFC Plc Board) that day and certainly appears to have knowledge of the content of the commercially sensitive 120 Day Review prepared by the company.

    “On April 24 the share price was 26p. That day after he made his statement it fell to 22p.

    “Mr Easdale bought 57,043 shares at 23p on May 1. By May the 8 the price had recovered to 27p.

    “It is also noteworthy that Mr Easdale holds the voting rights to, but does not own, shares representing a further 22.10 per cent of RIFC Plc.

    “I believe that, if he does have privileged financial information, those shareholders he holds proxies for may also have access to it or otherwise benefit from that knowledge.”

    At 23p, Easdale’s share purchase cost him £13,119.89 – £1700 less than it would have on April 24. Had he chosen to sell the shares on May 1, when the price reached 27p, he would have made a profit of almost £2,300.

    Rangers and Sandy Easdale declined to comment.”

  19. Allyjambo says:
    June 16, 2014 at 3:56 pm
    There are no good options available to the people running RIFC.
    Compare and contrast to your own club.
    That is the way to get things sorted.
    However there are no ‘onerous contracts’ at Tynecastle hoovering cash out to a certain ballroom dancer in Lithuania.
    Be grateful for that….

  20. Whats the nightmare scenario?
    Lee McCulloch has an extension option at £20k/week?
    Ally can`t be fired until he retires?
    No SPL place in 2015-2016 ?
    No SPL title until 2020-2021?
    No CL run until 2025?
    The real nightmare is this
    The Spivs get 75% control and milk TRFC forever

  21. the taxman cometh says:
    June 16, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    what’s the chances of this leading anywhere

    A LEADING Rangers fan has reported Ibrox investor Sandy Easdale to the financial authorities over alleged insider dealing…
    It might lead to a drey…for another squirrel ?

    Insider dealing is a notoriously difficult and expensive charge to prove.
    In the great scheme of things, as we are dealing with a piddling little company, it’s going nowhere.

    It’s either a deliberate/agreed squirrel – or Dingwall could be taking a significant, personal risk, IMO.

    Either way, doesn’t change anything: TRFC is still gubbed for the long-term. 🙄

  22. GoosyGoosy says:
    June 16, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    The real nightmare is this
    The Spivs get 75% control and milk TRFC forever
    ‘Nightmare’ ?

    Karma ?

    Depends on who you are asking.

  23. PhilMacGiollaBhain says:
    June 16, 2014 at 3:35 pm



    Rate This

    mcfc says:
    June 16, 2014 at 2:44 pm
    It will be expensive to fire Super Ally (over £1 Million).


    Think of it as an investment. Offset it against additional cup revenue that could result from having someone with a scooby , and it doesn’t look too bad. And thats before you factor in the transfer fees that could result from having some player development instead of the reverse. He’s going to have to be paid this money anyway if they stay a going concern. So why let him mess things up any longer than you have to if solvency is going to be maintained?
    Ally getting the boot therefore would have to be seen as a massive positive for the Ibrox club going forward w.r.t. keeping the show on the road.

    Also, many bears want to watch football, not ‘hoof it up the park’, so better product -even done more cheaply – on the park may mean bums on seats.
    Turn the clock back 18months and £10million to be shot of McCoist would look like money well spent.

    Now if it was me, I’d offer him shares in his beloved club 🙂 in lieu of cash… and keep it all sweet 😉 I mean, the man never even read his employment contract apparently 🙄 , so I doubt very much he’d worry too much about any disapplication of pre-emption rights that followed 😈

    (There is an expression we scientists use when disposing of small amounts of moderately noxious substances which springs to mind here: ‘Dilute copiously to waste!’)

    The DoF roll is basically being created to wrest McCoist’s sticky paws from the footballing helm in any case, so if he stays on it will only be as a figurehead / lightning rod for the dissatisfaction of the fans, or elsde because there is still a real risk of insolvency in which case he could be binned cheaply leaving more dosh for the spivs to extract.

  24. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spiv

    I used to devour John Le Carre’s novels – eagerly awaiting the next in the Smiley series. The only thing you could trust was that you could trust no-one and no information because the more you thought you could trust them the more you were probably being manipulated. So the only approach was to assume one person and maybe a few facts were broadly believable and then build a scenario around that – then compare It to all the other possible scenarios and try to divine some approximation to the probably truth – without ever fixing anything as entirely reliable. Brilliant mental exercise, but no preparation for this particular circus. After two year’s exhaustive training we could probably all get jobs as intelligence analysts.

  25. On Easedale:

    “At 23p, Easdale’s share purchase cost him £13,119.89 – £1,700 less than it would have on April 24. Had he chosen to sell the shares on May 1, when the price reached 27p, he would have made a profit of almost £2,300.”

    Well I suppose the big money cant tempt anyone.

  26. PhilMacGiollaBhain says: June 16, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Compare and contrast to your own club.
    That is the way to get things sorted.
    However there are no ‘onerous contracts’ at Tynecastle hoovering cash out to a certain ballroom dancer in Lithuania.
    Be grateful for that….
    I’m extremely grateful that all the new stakeholders in the Hearts are “weel kent fowk”, at least in Scottish business terms.

    However, I’m not quite ready to give Ann Budge 100% unquestioning support just yet, although I am probably in a very small minority in taking up that position. While the “fan ownership” concept still looks like it should be delivered in 5 years time, there are a few aspects to the deal with FoH which at least invite some questions.

    Ann Budge has given herself not just belt and braces protection for her investment, but seems to have added a 5-point harness, lifebelt, a GPS tracking beacon, a self righting lifeboat and a permanent rope attachment to FoH. I guess that there is no reason why Ann shouldn’t look after her own interests, but some of the conditions attached to the deal have created governance issues for FoH which have yet to be answered.

    I may be completely off beam with my concerns (and I hope that is the case), but I do have some niggles about the deal that Ann has set up with FoH. It’s not that I see any significant risk to the deal with FoH falling through, it just the means of getting there does place onerous conditions on FoH.

  27. Maybe missed this but as we have been told that circa 17000 season tickets ,of various denominations ,have been sold ,why did someone not ask how much that the 17000 has brought in cash wise,anyway I’m digressing ,has anyone asked the King how many have pledged to his consortium ,going to be a right stooshie with the seating if someone is sitting in daddy bears seat and he wants it back.

  28. mcfc says:
    June 16, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spiv
    I used to devour John Le Carre’s novels…
    I think Le Carre is one of the greats, ‘The Spy Who Came In From the Cold’ is a favourite. Pared-down writing that nails the pettiness, pomposity, nastiness and downright seediness of people trusted to exercise power and show a bit of dignity. Shame he didn’t work in the Scottish football press really.

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