THE football authorities tasked with dispensing an appropriate punishment on the new Rangers are in an unenviable position.
In fact, it’s difficult to see how they can win: striking the right balance between sporting integrity and commercial logic is a tricky path to negotiate.
Likewise, it seems there’s no clear answer as to what the best outcome would be for pubs that build business around live football in Scotland. It’s a question that throws up myriad possibilities – some good, others less so.
The briefest of straw polls carried out by SLTN last week was enough to highlight the contrasting attitudes that prevail in the trade over the issue.
As we discovered when the Ibrox side’s problems came into view in February, there certainly seems to be pubs which would suffer if there was no Rangers in the SPL.
Some operators have told SLTN that Old Firm games generate their busiest days of the year, and beyond that the rivalry between the Glasgow teams ensures fans are always keen to watch both sides in action against other clubs – whether they want them to win or lose.
But there is more than one view among football-led pubs. Some see the Old Firm fixture as more hassle than it’s worth, given the polluted atmosphere it sadly generates.
One big community bar we spoke to last week welcomes fans of both clubs, but games involving Celtic and Rangers aren’t the main attraction: it’s just as likely to be busy with punters watching La Liga or the English Premier League.
On that basis, it’s fairly relaxed about the prospect of there being no Glasgow derbies to screen next season.
There is also the prospect of some pubs gaining from an SPL without a Rangers – assuming, as has been reported, that Sky remains committed to the Scottish game.
Celtic may be expected to win the league at a canter, but the battle for second place has the potential to inject some fresh competition into the league.
If that proves to be the case, it is feasible that fans of Motherwell, Dundee United and Hearts, who finished in the top half of the league last season, might be more inclined to catch some games in the pub. Whether or not that’s enough to compensate for any potential slide in the number of Gers fans visiting remains to be seen.
And should the new Rangers find themselves demoted to the First Division, as speculation suggested at the time of writing, then there’s the potential for pubs in provincial towns to benefit. One Falkirk operator told SLTN last week that he’d welcome travelling fans of the new Rangers to his pub – a sentiment which could conceivably be echoed by publicans in towns like Greenock, Livingston, Dumbarton, Cowdenbeath, Kirkcaldy and Hamilton.
Anyone who has followed the Rangers situation since the old club went into administration on February 14 will know there’s still plenty of legs in this story. Let’s just hope that whatever the outcome is it’s the best one for the trade.
A NICE footnote from the world of football to report is the impact the European Championships has had on trade. Anecdotal evidence suggests punters have been turning out in droves to watch the action in pubs. Hats off to operators who are making the most of the event.