Sunday, 25 March 2012
A message for those with O.F.D.S.
No club outside of the Old Firm has won the league since Aberdeen’s triumph in 1985, so it is little wonder that the battle for the Scottish Championship has been compared to two bald men fighting over a comb. But with Rangers likely to be forced to downscale their financial operations, the ‘race’ for the title in the next few years is probably going to look more like one bald man forever finding the same comb in the pocket of an increasingly threadbare suit. If you thought Scottish football was boring before, it might be about to get a whole lot worse.
As a neutral football fan, I’m delighted whenever one of the so-called provincial teams can triumph over the two-headed dog of the Old Firm, but even the use that kind of phrase has, for some folk, become rather contentious. I’ve been ticked off a couple of times recently by Celtic supporters when I have used the term the ‘Old Firm’ to describe the Celtic-Rangers duopoly. This Old Firm Denial Syndrome (O.F.D.S.) is quite a new phenomenon, albeit one that is obviously an aspect of the perennial one-upmanship that goes on between these two clubs. I suspect that some Celtic supporters enjoy nursing a grievance almost as much as they enjoy winning trophies, so when you conflate Celtic and Rangers by, for example, using the phrase ‘The Ugly Sisters’ in the context of any discussion on sectarianism, you are likely to cause something that they would attempt to pass off as 'offence'. Some of these supporters believe that should Rangers go under, Celtic will survive and indeed thrive in their own right. ‘There is no such thing as the Old Firm’ they say. ‘Don’t lump us in with that lot’.
Thank goodness, Peter Lawell, their chief executive, has put an end to this nonsense. His recent comments about the voting issues in Scottish football make it clear that he recognises, and is comfortable with, the symbiotic relationship between Scottish football’s big two.
Lawell is seeking to preserve the ridiculous 11-1 voting structure that was foolishly agreed by the member clubs in the Scottish Premier League. The gerrymandered voting structure means that to pass a qualified resolution among the SPL members, the Old Firm have to be split. You’d think a simple 7–5 or an 8-4 majority would be enough to carry the vote; but no, not even a 10-2 majority is good enough. Could there be any clearer illustration that Celtic and Rangers work towards a common interest and that that interest is not, as they claim, the good of Scottish football? They have hitched up their skirts and fluttered their eyelashes at the English Premier League (or the mythical North Atlantic League) too many times for anyone to believe that nonsense. The Old Firm’s ‘common interest’ is in exerting and extending their dominance of Scottish football.
"The Icelandic and Welsh leagues are competitive, but it is the presence of the Old Firm which makes Scottish football different" says Lawell. He is upset because “not being invited to the recent meetings of the other 10 clubs is disappointing and disrespectful, given what Celtic and Rangers bring to the game”.
It is clear that the other clubs in the SPL are attempting to take advantage of the financial strife at Rangers to try and bring about some kind of change. Most clubs are run on the basis of self-interest, so I’m not naïve enough to imagine that all of their intentions are strictly honourable. I do, however, wish them luck, because they have an important principle on their side. How could anyone reasonably object to a 10-2 majority carrying a vote among any organisation with twelve members?
Peter Lawell is absolutely correct to point out that the Old Firm are the key players in Scottish football, but his statement merely serves to remind us of the brutal reality. For their own good, those fans with O.F.D.S. need to be told: The Old Firm are, indeed, two cheeks on the same arse.