Mailboxer Caolan is here to argue that Scottish football has actually thrived in the absence of Rangers from the top flight…
Last week Rangers claimed their second piece of silverware for the season, the Petrofac Training Cup (a Scottish Johnstone’s Paint Trophy), a trophy that has eluded them since their demotion to the bottom tier of Scottish football in 2012, despite having the second largest wage bill and budget in Scottish football. This weekend they beat Celtic on penalties to reach the final of the Scottish Cup.
SHOUTsport recently sent out a tweet saying Rangers are saving Scottish football with their promotion to the top flight. Here are some facts about Scottish football since Rangers got relegated that maybe suggest that Rangers going to the bottom division actually saved Scottish football…
* Attendances – a number of Scottish clubs have seen great improvements in their home attendances since 2012. Some examples are Aberdeen, whose average attendance has risen by almost 36%. Hearts average attendance has risen over 18% and Dundee United’s has risen by over 10%. Despite Celtic having ‘no competition’, they have sold over 42,000 season books each season since 2012. Is this a trend that needs saving?
* Major honours – Aberdeen have won their first major honour in almost 20 years. St Johnstone (Scottish Cup 2014), Inverness (Scottish Cup 2015) and Ross County (League Cup this season) all won their first ever major honour in front of massive crowds.
* Europe – Celtic reached the group stages of the Champions League twice, qualifying for the last 16 once. And also qualified for the knock-out stages of the Europa League last season.
* Players have been sold for massive amounts of money. Here are some players who were playing in Scotland and were sold to EPL or European clubs since 2012: Andy Robertson, Virgil Van Djik, Fraser Forster, Victor Wanyama, Gary Hooper, Joe Ledley, Adam Matthews, Ki Sung Yueng and Ryan Gauld.
* Two weeks ago the Scottish Premiership had the highest attendance per head of the population in European football.
And most interestingly…
* Celtic have only won the title only once before the split (that happens after 33 games) in four years. They won it six times before the split in their seven previous title victories with Rangers in the top flight.
Looking at the facts and playing devil’s advocate, maybe Rangers’ relegation was what saved Scottish football, not just for the top-tier clubs but for Rangers themselves. Their own attendances are up, they visited new grounds, their support are galvanised and they are no longer crippled with debt. It also gave the other Premiership teams the bit between their teeth to try and get some silverware and it paid off.
It will be a while until Rangers are competing for league titles. Their squad isn’t anywhere near as good as Celtic’s; Aberdeen are a lot stronger, as too are Hearts. But, with their support behind them and some solid investment they can be back challenging in a few seasons.
Is Rangers coming back to the Premiership a good thing for Scottish football? Of course it is.
Will Rangers coming back to Scottish football raise a bit of media attention? Of course it will.
Am I looking forward to Celtic and Rangers renewing old rivalries next season? Of course I am.
Are Rangers coming to save Scottish football? I think the other clubs have done a good enough job of that themselves…