For decades Scottish football has been overlooked by broadcasters and outsiders alike who have brushed Scottish football off as low in quality and ‘tin pot’. The only main two teams in Scotland that receive broadcasting attention are the Old Firm.
When speaking to football fans out with Scotland they’ll most likely ask if you’re a Rangers or a Celtic supporter as those are the most well-known teams, even though there are 42 teams involved in the professional leagues going from the Premiership all the way down to League 2 alone.
The success of the Old Firm while playing in the Europa League and Champions League has done wonders for promoting Scottish football, but it leaves supporters of teams lower down in Scotland wondering when their team will obtain even a slither of the same success and play anywhere near their level of skill.
It’s no secret that both Rangers and Celtic have the largest supporters base and are the richest clubs in Scotland. Clubs all over Scotland benefit from playing the Old Firm financially. Their fans sell out away stands repeatedly while home stands have empty seats…
The way for non-Old Firm teams to flourish in Scotland is to pull in the locals that live in close proximity to them. For Premiership teams it is easier to do so as fans will want to see the best of the best in their area and if your local is fighting for top six positions and the last remaining European qualifying positions it brings in a crowd and generates a buzz. For teams further down the leagues it’s harder to do. Their main focus every season is promotion to the league above them. This will create a buzz locally for them but for teams in League 1 and 2 they’re often overlooked due to what level they play at and supporters will drift to the Old Firm or other teams in higher leagues. As more potential supporters flock to the Old Firm in favour of their ability and success, it delivers hard financial blows to smaller teams.
There are two conflicting beliefs in Scotland about choosing your team. You either support the same team as your father who supported the same team as his old man and so forth or you follow the closest in proximity to you.
If teams such as Partick Thistle in League 1 loose active supporters due to their recent relegations, it means there’s less money coming into the club through pay at the gate ticket sales, pay per view passes for online streams, season tickets, club merchandise and so forth. This decline then impacts the club’s profits which then impacts how much money that is left over for things such as stand maintenance and transfer budgets. The quickest way for clubs to make money is to sell off players but these players need replaced which costs money and the quality of player you receive reflects the amount spent on them.
Teams like Greenock Morton, Alloa Athletic and St Johnstone won’t be able to sign players for £3million and upwards from abroad like the Old Firm and instead have a tight budget and pool of players they can sign. This is one of the most common criticisms of Scottish football. ‘The quality isn’t there’. How do you improve a team’s ability? Sign experienced players and provide quality coaches and training tactics for those already there. How do you afford this? Get bums in seats and replica kits sold. This is a simplified answer but as a premise it isn’t that difficult to get behind.
Non-Old Firm teams such as Motherwell always see massive turn outs when playing in cup games and finals showing that supporters are there for the club, but teams need these supporters in the stands every week, not just when the team are doing well.
It’s hard to attract ‘couch supporters’ to matches, especially if the team isn’t doing great or during the winter, but these are the games ‘active’ supporters find enjoyable. Sitting with about four layers on, a hot Bovril in your hand jumping up and down every time there is a goal or a questionable decision from the referee then celebrating and singing with strangers once your team get their first win after three defeats is what makes games good. You don’t get that experience from watching other teams play against the Old Firm on Sky Sports.
As sports journalist and comedian Tam Cowan once said:” Take out a map and a pen and follow the line from your house to the nearest stadium. That should be your club.”