Celtic’s managers responded immediately by doing exactly the same as their counterparts – and matches between the city’s historic rivals at home have lacked the atmosphere and intensity of their previous encounters ever since.
What was the effect of having no away fans at all in the last two Premier League games between the Glasgow giants? The possibility can’t afford to think about it. It’s a very disappointing development.
The Old Firm game, or the Glasgow derby if you prefer, certainly has its fair share of unwanted baggage. The confessional songs that are steadily laced throughout the 90 minutes don’t show Scottish football, or Scotland for that matter, in a particularly good light.
Troubles, too, frequently flare up in the stands and streets. Indeed, both Celtic and Rangers chose not to accept any summaries of their remaining league matches due to “safety and security” concerns. There were casualties as a result of rocket fire in the last two campaigns.
However, it remains a popular fixture all over the world. It generates interest in our game and shows that we are not the backwaters of the sport that many critical commentators believe we are.
Yes, the display’s rendering quality often leaves something to be desired. He is often high on commitment and low on the silky football. However, it is vastly superior to many nice grunting trees played south and further afield during a single season.
But the Old Firm match, or Glasgow derby, has been greatly diminished by a small pocket of visiting fans. When the visitors score a goal now, it is greeted with an eerie silence, not a cacophony of noise. It’s strange. What a completely impartial spectator does is anyone’s guess.
The Premier League match at Parkhead on Saturday 8 April will not be the first between Celtic and Rangers to go ahead with only home fans.
Former Rangers owner Sir David Murray banned Celtic fans from Ibrox for a league match in 1994 due to his dissatisfaction with the damage to the stadium on their previous visit. Fortunately, the exercise has not been repeated in the 29 years since. So far that is.
Hopefully, the current custodians of the first and second teams in the First Division can talk about any concerns they may have in the coming weeks and come up with some kind of acceptable solution that gets their meetings back to some sort of normalcy.
Celtic are certainly keen to reopen negotiations over a larger allocation of their fans in the future.
Rangers made the decision to cut the number of memos Celtic received five years ago due to the huge demand for season tickets. There is no hope of reversing that now. It’s worth millions of pounds in revenue for them every year and these are tough times economically.
But could compromise be the answer?
Supporters of Ajax, Liverpool and PSV were handed around 2,700 tickets for their Champions League match against Govan earlier this season and have certainly made their presence felt after they stepped through the gates.
Will Rangers be able to accommodate this many Celtic fans twice a season? It appears to be an eminently achievable compromise that will not significantly reduce their income. If they wanted to relax in their current situation, this gesture would surely be answered across the River Clyde.
UEFA regulations state that the visiting team is entitled to at least five percent of the approved capacity. The SPFL rulebook simply states that a “reasonable number” should be allowed. Changing the guidelines can help enforce the problem.
When it emerged yesterday that Rangers would not be taking any tickets for their next away game against Celtic – and vice versa – there were few who welcomed the news.
But many people, realizing their matches are not what they were in years past and longing to go back to the way things were before, have been sorely disappointed. Going back to something like the old situation, then, wouldn’t meet a huge amount of resistance.
The date for the latest Old Firm / Glasgow derby has yet to be decided. It will only be agreed upon after the Big Six split next month. Theoretically, though, Celtic, who are currently nine points at the top of the table, could win the Scottish title on the ground of their biggest rivals.
If there weren’t fans there to celebrate it, it would be a mockery of the Premier League.
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