Following the heated Scottish Cup 5th round replay between Celtic and Rangers, there have been calls to play the fixture behind closed doors and even to ban it all together.
The game was covered in controversy surrounding both sets of players and management staff, in which Rangers ended the game with eight men left on the park. At the end, there was a heated arguement between Ally McCoist, Rangers’ Assistant Manger and Celtic Manager, Neil Lennon. It is understood McCoist was angry with Lennon’s’ criticism of El-Hadji Diouf during the game, which led to both sets of management staff being restrained by police.
Just days before, the chairman of the Scottish Police Federation had called for the banning of the fixture, claiming violence and crime rises in the aftermath of games. After this recent game, who can disagree? However, old firm matches have always been like this and will always be the same. Two teams with great history’s competing with passion and a willingness to win.
Strathclyde Police, who supervise these games, claim alcohol and aggression on the pitch is what sparks the violence off the field, which is clear for all to see. However, the SPL is looked at as a joke in other countries and although this game was a bad advert for Scottish Football, old firm games drag in huge audiences. Banning these games would show a lack of ambition and stop a fixture which is covered in history.
Also, Sky Sports show all the old firm matches, therefore cancelling the games, would damage the finances of the clubs who rely on payments from Sky TV. When Celtic and Rangers play, there is this unique atmosphere which no other game can match, so we should be proud of it and not stop it.
Furthermore, this is not the only match ever to cause controversy and violence amongst supporters. Last year, in a Cup match between West Ham United and Millwall, a pitch invasion broke out leading to many arrests and serious injuries. I never seen this sort of violence in the old firm game. Some perspective is needed I think. So, as for banning or playing Celtic and Rangers game behind closed doors? It’s a non-starter, for me.
As the late Jock Stein once said: ‘Football is nothing without fans.’