THE glee many Celtic fans will be feeling at Rangers’ sorry demise is expected and entirely justifiable.
After all, seeing your fiercest enemy in the grubber is one of the joys of following a football team, and the gratification is arguably all the more intense when it comes to the tribal environment the Old Firm inhabit.
Despite arguments to the contrary, Celtic insist they don’t need Rangers to prosper, and I’m sure they’ll have very good economic reasons for saying so.
But on the other hand I don’t think the absence of meaningful competition between the two clubs is healthy – it’s certainly not good news for the pub trade.
Last week I spoke to the operators of several football-led pubs, including those with a definite Celtic leaning, and the consensus was that a weak Rangers would be a hammer blow to business.
Those pubs look forward to packed houses and soaring takings when the Glasgow rivals go head to head in matches screened live on Sky, and even bars that are nominally associated with one team get a turn when Celtic and Rangers are in action against other clubs.
If they’re not cheering on their own team they’re hoping one of the other SPL sides defeats their ancient rivals. It’s what sport and competition is about – and that’s why it’s good for business.
“Everybody looks forward to Old Firm games,” said Stephen McBride of the Dolphin bar in Partick, Glasgow, whose clientele sit largely on the green side of the fence.
“It’s what publicans make their money from.
“Forget about the divide – it would be very difficult without it from the publican’s point of view.”
Remove one half of the Old Firm from the Scottish football equation, however, and you’ve got a recipe not just for a less exciting league but fewer reasons for people to go to the pub.
In saying that, I’m not looking to diminish the less than savoury aspects of the Rangers-Celtic rivalry.
It’s a fixture that to this day brings ancient enmities to the surface and frequently leads to disorder and violence – you only need to look at the fallout from one of last season’s bitterly contested games, which saw the two managers ‘square up’ on the touchline, to see that. Indeed, such sorry episodes are precisely why the Scottish Government has seen fit to introduce a new package of anti-bigotry laws in the shape of the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act.
Given that backdrop, it was no surprise when Gerry McGarrigle, owner of The Woodpecker in Lanark, told SLTN he can’t wait till the final whistle is blown in Old Firm games when they come around – despite the fact they’re also one of his busiest times.
But even though it has a very ugly side I would argue that matches between evenly matched Old Firm clubs are still fixtures pubs wouldn’t and couldn’t do without.
That’s why, for varying reasons, I would argue that many in Scotland will be hoping the administrators can plot a way for Rangers out of this financial quagmire – and the sooner the better.