The link at the bottom of this piece points to an excellent blog by James Forrest on the ‘decline’ of the Old Firm, and particularly the viewing figures for the recent matches between Celtic and TRFC.
Whilst James, as you would expect is focusing on the consequences of the OF tag for Celtic, it is worthwhile considering that the decline in viewers is an excellent litmus test of the provenance of TRFC with regard to RFC.
Is it because the ‘you’re not Rangers anymore!’ faction is winning the argument?
Or might it be that viewers, voting with their feet, are simply indicating what many of us have said all along – that a brand name does not amount to serious competition.
There has been a presumption – particularly held in the MSM- that Scottish football badly needed a Rangers to provide a challenge to Celtic dominance. Our counter to that is that TRFC, representing the ‘Rangers’ constituency, are in no position to provide any such challenge.
Common sense dictated this.
Not that common sense came into it for our newsroom chums. At the beginning of last season, a whole troupe of hacks ventured their prediction that TRFC would win at least one trophy in that campaign. Again this season, despite the huge gulf in performance levels between TRFC and the top two, even more hacks are queuing up to offer their optimism on the Ibrox club’s chances of success and glory.
I am bound to say that those same hacks will be quick to point out Gordon Strachan’s shortcomings as Scotland manager whilst ironically demonstrating, through their predictive deficit, that their football judgement has little if any bearing on L’actualité.
I am however disposed to charity. Perhaps what they meant was that TRFC, given its massive fan base, has the most potential (in time) to challenge Celtic. Then, absurdly, the same MSM choke the life out of that potential by assisting charlatan after charlatan on their way through the self-enriching revolving door at Ibrox.
The TRFC potential, if it exists in the foreseeable future, requires the Ibrox club to be rid of those who still, after decades of disgrace and disaster, sell the same false promises dressed up as moonbeams to the masses.
In actual fact, and as it stands right now, Aberdeen, Hibs and Hearts have a significantly greater potential to challenge for honours; they are well run clubs who balance the books. Crucially, they have no debt, no directors whose presence on their boards effectively cuts off access to investment – and they put the emphasis on building Teams (capital T) and not collections of individuals with an exotic distant-past, questionable influence, and huge draw on salary resources .
Even more crucially, they have realistic expectations of where they want to be in the short to medium term.
TV audiences, relying on neutral fans hungry for a spectacle will not be – in fact are not – conned by this OF sophistry. Without doubt in my view, Scottish football is a far more interesting and compelling place now than it was five years ago. The brand has grown in the absence of the Old Firm, and with the right nurture, can grow even stronger.
TRFC can be part of it all, but the expectations have to be commensurate with their circumstances. All the OF has to offer is a 350 year old conflict that few of us understand – or care to understand. The MSM championing of that embarrassment is a major reason why Scottish football cares less about quality and diversity than it should.
The audiences however, will not be fooled.
Celtic, Rangers, the SFA and everybody else in our game need to jettison the OF brand. It is no longer – if it ever was- relevant. Paying customers in the 21st century deserve better than a geek show.
Pic from the Film Noire classic, Nightmare Alley