10 March 2011

Scotland's Old Firm get yet more taxpayer subsidy

Glasgow's two principle football teams - Celtic and Rangers - have been known as the 'old firm' since 1911. And with good reason.

In the 100 years since they jointly adopted the nomenclature they have won the Scottish League 87 times between them and dominated Scottish football and a significant part of its society. They are the most successful twins in world football - at least on their domestic stage.

And they have done this prinicipally by appealing to base instinct, prejudice and the lowest common morality.

Every old firm clash (and I use the word advisedly) results in huge increases in violence off the park. Strathclyde police have produced figures that show that violent crime nearly triples after old firm games and domestic violence more than doubles. Some estimates put the cost of the old firm games and their aftermath in terms of policing and health at £40 million per annum.

Now most cities have keenly competitive derby matches and fans that over indulge as a result. But what singles out Glasgow - and has hardly been mentioned in the handwringing over last week's game is sectarianism.

Both Celtic and Rangers have deliberately used the clash between celtic Irish and Ulster Scots culture as recruiting sergeants for their teams. They have done next to nothing over the last 100 years to weed out sectarianism, have tacitly supported violence between their supporters and allowed their stadia to be used as fundraisers and recruiting grounds for northern Irish terrorism.

And they have done it because it gives them competitive advantage. Not only do they come from Scotland's largest conurbation, they are able to extend their influence to other parts of Scotland - where the religious divide matters - and to the Northern Irish crucible of sectarianism. Thousands of fans in hundreds of buses leave otherwise normal Scottish and Irish towns and cities on matchdays filled with fans of this gruesome twosome. It means they can rely on a fan base of at least five times the size the other city clubs and ten times or more of the smaller towns.

The fact that Aberdeen, Dundee, Dundee Utd, Hearts, Hibs, Kilmarnock and Motherwell have managed to win the Scottish league on at least one occasion in the last 100 years are achievements of a hurculean nature.

And the final insult to the decent football fans north of the border comes with yesterday's announcement by the Scottish government of a further half million quid for an anti racism/sectarianism campaign. This is nothing but a subsidy to the two leeches of Scottish football - who clearly have the resources to run this sort of campaign if they chose to (and throw out the sectarians from their stadia)

But I suspect it will backfire - if the reactions from the fans of my club - Hibs - are anything to go by.

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