HHHT Issue 22a - Spring 2000

Old Firm In A League Of Their Own ? Yes Please !!

 

The recent talk about the Old Firm leaving Scotland for the so called Atlantic League has had many of us in London Hibs chuckling over our pints. This has been a regular discussion point at our meetings over the years and recently the consensus seems to be developing that the Scottish League would benefit if the twin evil empires were to depart the scene. I notice that our friends at Mass Hibsteria are also coming round to the same perspective.

I should declare an interest here, - I hate the Old Firm ! This may allow you to consider there may be a touch of bias in the well reasoned article that follows!

First of all lets get rid of some of the myths. Young supporters complain about the current Old Firm domination, even the legendary Bill Nicholson recently complained to Eddie Turnbull that the problem with Scottish football is that itís now only Celtic & Rangers. The truth is unfortunately that this has nearly always been the case. In the whole of the last century there were only 15 seasons when the league was not won by either Celtic or Rangers. Hibs and Aberdeen had 4 successes each, Hearts had 2 and there were single successes for the 2 Dundee teams, Kilmarnock, Motherwell and the long departed Third Lanark. Motherwellís title victory was in fact the only season between the 2 World Wars when the league was not won by the Old Firm. There was only one brief period when Scottish football competed on a fairly even playing field and that was immediately after WW2.

The economic conditions and the ongoing celebratory mood of the country ensured huge crowds at all venues and denied the Old Firm the massive economic advantage that historically has always been in place. To put it in perspective we need only look at the astonishing crowd of 95,000 for the Hibs-Clyde cup final of 1958.

It is also not coincidence that 8 titles were won by non Old Firm teams in the period 1947 Ė65. In fact Celtic only won one league championship in this time as opposed to Hibs 3.

The above may seem like a good reason for supporting the continuation of the Old Firm in Scotland. Itís really the opposite however. Their overwhelming domination has resulted in all other clubs slowly being strangled of resources and money. In fact the loyalty shown by supporters of other clubs is quite astonishing given the overwhelming lack of championship success. How many fans do you think would be turning up at Ibrox and Parkhead if regular trophies were not forthcoming? We all know the answer to that, I can remember both these clubsí home gates dipping into 4 figures after only a few years of non success never mind 36 years in a row !!

Anyway here are a few reasons for saying goodbye to the Old Firm.: 

  • We would have a truly competitive league. At present, all other 8 teams could finish 3rd or bottom.

  • Hibs home gates would not suffer and could improve. With current capacity of 16,000 rising to 20,000 a successful team would have no problem in filling the ground. (our home gates against Falkirk and Raith in Div one last season were considerably higher than our recent average attendances against the old firm.

  • We would not have to put up with the minimum of 4 annual invasions by the great unwashed. As per the point above many Hibs fans actually avoid these games.

  • We would no longer have to listen to songs about a 300 year old battle or about a tattie famine.

  • Genuine football fans who are unable to follow their Glasgow heroes to such Atlantic ports as Piraeus may start following their local teams.

  • We would have great opportunities of qualifying for Europe albeit we would be playing qualifiers in the Faroes etc

  • We would be on television every week

 

Anyway, thatís it Ė Iím sure there are some downsides but I really canít think of them. The only caveat is that as soon as the Old Firm found themselves in a league that they were not automatically winning, their supporter base would disappear quicker than Jim Jefferies from a weightwatchers meeting. At that point Iím sure they would quickly come crawling back because I genuinely believe the Old Firm need Scotland much more than Scotland need the Old Firm !

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