“I’m all out of love, what am I without you?” – Air Supply
Hong Kong can’t live without Air Supply. Aging Aussie soft rock crooners Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock retain astonishing popularity in the city. Their most famous dirge frequently pollutes the public airwaves, and decades after their 1980’s heyday they regularly sell out gigs in the nearby entertainment paradise of Macau.
The dismal chorus of their most famous song encapsulates the post-administration plight of Rangers fans worldwide: Bluenoses don’t know what they are without Rangers. But can Scottish football live without Rangers? And would it want to?
On the plus side for Rangers fans, with no games in Govan, Celtic would suffer. They’d lose their only two guaranteed sell-out crowds every season (check the records: if Rangers don’t come to town, Parkhead doesn’t sell out) and they’d quickly get bored of winning the league by dozens of points every season. Well, maybe after ten-in-a-row they would.
TV income would drop off, hurting all teams in Scotland. The current broadcast deal is predicated on four Old Firm games a season and would be revised or renegotiated substantially down, as Rangers v Celtic is the only real attraction for fans outside of Scotland. Even the most ardent Tim would hesitate to cough up big money to Sky to watch weekly walkovers when there’s nothing to play for.
Looking past the finances, Scottish football would lose its moral high ground. Without Rangers, who would the other 41 clubs look down upon? Although absent the Ibrox club, bigotry in Scotland would, of course, cease to exist.
On the flip side, the fifty thousand regulars at Ibrox might decide to save themselves some petrol and support their local team. Partick Thistle would get a boost, as might the Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, and Fife teams. And of course you’d get thousands of bereft Bears turning up to support whoever’s playing Celtic each week.
Over time (years, decades, maybe generations) the supporters formerly known as huns would dissipate across Scotland’s clubs, closing the support gap on Celtic somewhat. But not enough to stop the Parkhead side dominating Scottish football. Not enough to make Hearts or Motherwell or Kilmarnock competitive in Europe. Not enough to stop Celtic qualifying for the Champions League every year, giving them access to that prized trough of Euros to cement their status in Scotland.
So if you’re not a Celtic fan, the outlook for Scottish football is bleak.
Should Rangers come to an agreement with their creditors, or morph into some new form of corporation while retaining Ibrox and the bulk of their playing staff, it would be more of the same: Scottish football would continue to suffer under the yoke of Old Firm dominance.
But if Rangers disappear, instead of the Old Firm duopoly you’ll have a Celtic monopoly.
As a Rangers fan I prefer the first option, but there is a silver lining to my cloudy second scenario: with only one Glasgow team to report on, the Sun and the Daily Record will have to fire half their hacks. Life might be worth living after all.