Scottish Premier League Committing Suicide by Exiling Rangers
I don’t pretend to know or understand the behind-the-scenes details surrounding the Scottish Premier League. But I do know one thing: the best course of action for a struggling professional sports league is not eliminating your only viable commodity. And that is exactly what the SPL has done by eliminating the Old Firm, Celtic v. Rangers, from their football calendar.
What the Old Firm means to Scotland financially is undeniable. One only needs to read quotes from Fox Soccer, the American TV network which acquired SPL rights in March, to understand the implications:
”Options are available to us and at present we’re weighing them,” network spokesman Lou D’Ermilio said.
Options? This is a nice way of saying, “We’re looking to get out of spending millions to air Dundee v. Hearts twice a season.”
But there is a symbolic toll to be paid as well. The Old Firm gives the SPL credibility on the world stage. It draws eyes. Creates discussion and controversy. Captains of international sides (Samaras, Bocanegra…etc.) sign with Celtic and Rangers to play in those two games a year.
When I grew up in Kearny, New Jersey (Soccertown USA, folks) we looked forward to spending two hours at the Scots American club twice a year. The blue shirts on one side of the hall. Green and white on the other. The winning supporters controlled the juke box til nightfall. (And often we’d be forced to listen to Blue Moon on loop for what seemed hours.) Outside of El Clasico, I can’t name another match on the calendar I’d rather watch.
But now Rangers will be forced into the third division. They’ll lose almost all of their talent. They’ll flounder for several years and Scottish football will finally arrive where its been headed for years: irrelevancy.