No quick return to Free Broomloan for Celtic Support, Stewart Robertson confirms

It appears theRangers seem keen to take as insular view as possible when it comes to the opportunities to sell Scottish football to a worldwide audience. Hot on the heels of voting for essentially playing behind closed doors (with just 500 fans allowed) and of course the ongoing dispute with League sponsors cinch, their Managing Director Stewart Robertson has been speaking to the Athletic Football Podcast about the return of 7000 away fans to Ibrox on Derby Day – and it appears nothing will change.

As you know, theRangers single-handedly diluted the one major sellable television asset Scottish football had when they slashed away allocation for the Glasgow Derby from 7000 to 800 as a result of their fans pressure after having enough of the Celtic celebrations in the Free Broomloan. Was that really to sell a few more season tickets or was it to play to the gallery and deflect from on field ineptitude and off field amateur hour governance or was it simply a case of fear, coming as it did when Celtic were regularly ‘over-celebrating’ in their own back yard?

We’ll all have our thoughts on that. But what it did do was remove the to and fro public tribalism on show at Ibrox on Glasgow Derby Day and as Celtic followed suit, as they simply had to, the sellable asset, namely the supporter created atmosphere was watered down entirely.

Now Robertson as reported is continuing to take a short-sighted view on the issue and missing the point entirely:

“It’s about 800 fans from either side now to go, I don’t think there will be in a few weeks’ time – the way Covid was at the time, we had a red zone and there was no away fans in.

“The challenge with actually changing that at the moment is both teams will have sold season tickets in those areas. How do you change that back? Those supporters have renewal rights.

“You have a challenge there in changing that. It’s not something I see changing in the short term, I certainly don’t see it changing in the short term.”

The vast majority don’t (want it to change, ie fans of theRangers).They’re comfortable with it. I don’t know about the other side of the city, but from our supporters’ perspective, they’re quite comfortable with it. So, the vast majority – I’d be lying if I said everybody.”

Make no mistake the Glasgow Derby is the one international attraction Scottish football has in its armoury, it is up there with the best or worst depending on your viewpoint that world football has to offer. Yet the one thing that attracts that television audience in comparison to some other derby encounters around the planet, is that despite the football on show in the main being utterly dreadful as a standalone product, the atmosphere alone in this one sells advertising by the bucket load of cash.

People tune in to the Glasgow Derby for the noise, the colour, the songs, the passion and they tune in hoping that transcends onto the park that the players lose their cool too and go hammer and tongs. In the world of more and more sanitised football this fixture remains a stand out must see encounter for those who love their football with blood and snotters as the main attraction and many, many neutral observers miss that from the game.

As such when theRangers decided to slash the away allocation by 90% so too did they dilute the marketable asset of the fixture and you don’t need me to explain how little sense that makes when you are looking to sell a product. Then again financial common sense and theRangers are uneasy bedfellows are they not?

Robertson’s point on season tickets being sold will never change unless the issue is addressed. It may not be possible immediately, however supporters don’t renew every season, there are natural drop offs, be that for financial reasons, family and work commitments and many reasons besides.

Within a couple of years there would be a natural drop off that could allow away fans to return and a gradual increase year on year would soon see us back to a position where this could be done and with it a product to sell that a worldwide audience loves to tune in to.

It need not impact on theRangers financially, as Celtic do, they could sell season tickets for the Broomloan stand without theRangers games included, or they could sell the tickets by a public sale each week, if the demand is there the fans will take up those tickets, as they did at Celtic.

Keep going as we are and Scottish football’s most sellable fixture is diminished in value with every fixture lost, and becomes harder to recover.

There is a far bigger picture here and to address it will involve theRangers looking outward rather than inward, yet as we’ve seen with the winter shutdown and with their stance on the Cinch sponsorship stand-off, looking beyond the length of their nose is quite the problem.

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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