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8 Mar 2011

Ban the Old Firm? Not likely.

The Strathclyde Police have called for the Old Firm derby between Glasgow teams Rangers and Celtic to be played behind closed doors or not played at all. Is this something we can expect to see?

In short, no.

Playing these games behind closed doors would actually do more harm than good. If the stadium is closed to fans, where do the police expect the 70,000-plus fans go instead of the stadium? That is 70,000-plus trying to get into already-full pubs and bars or simply wandering the streets instead. Violence will rise and the whole point of playing behind closed doors would be lost. It would take just one game played like this to prove the uselessness of this idea.

But what about banning the game completely? Even more unlikely. The Celtic - Rangers game is Sky's most-watched game of the season. Even more people watched the Old Firm game than watched Manchester United Liverpool or Barcelona - Real Madrid. Banning this game would take away our only internationally-watched game. The Old Firm draws attention from across Europe and the globe, it is the advert for Scottish football. The game last week was not the best advert, but the games over the course of this season have been some of the best of the past decade. The 2-2 draw at Ibrox not only contained the usual controversy that is part and parcel of the fixture, but it had two of the year's best goals from Jamie Ness and Scott Brown.

Kill the derby match and - no disrespect to the other teams - Scottish football dies with it. It is our only nationally-televised game (besides the Cup matches) and features our two greatest teams facing off. Would Sky boast the same viewing figures if it had to screen the Edinburgh derby instead? No taking away from that match which is important to those involved, but any Scottish football fan knows that the Old Firm games are what we all look for when the fixture list is announced, and they are the games that we all mark out in our calenders as not to miss them.
Let's be honest, neither team showed
any sort of professionalism.

In the end, this game was bad-tempered, the players were downright pathetic in their behavior and both Neil Lennon and Ally McCoist need to take a look at their actions at the final whistle. What's more important is that both teams look at the example set by their players on the pitch and learn from this. 


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