Bridging the gap – How will the SPL cope without Rangers?
Posted on August 4, 2012 by Andrew Younger
Scotland’s top flight will enter uncharted territory in 2012/13 as they prepare for life without Rangers. Scotland’s most successful club find themselves languishing in the Third Division, leaving 11 teams to try and bridge the gap between them and Celtic.
Integral to any major sporting league is competition. The SPL will retain a certain level of that but in the near future Neil Lennon’s Celtic team will face very little challenge for the league title. Without the major competition for the league crown and the major pull of the Old Firm derby, will Celtic manage to push themselves to strive for better?
The Hoops may still be able to offer a guaranteed passage to Champions League football but with little competitive edge on the domestic front, they won’t be able to lure the big names to Glasgow like they have in previous years and could be in danger of stagnating without the immediate threat of losing their league title.
Some of Celtic’s big names such as Gary Hooper, Beram Kayal and Victor Wanyama have been linked with moves to the English Premier league, and this move will look all the more attractive to Celtic’s players who will want to thrive in the big games.
This may leave the door ajar in a few years time for the likes of Hearts and Dundee United who should be energised by the opportunity to finish at least second, with enhanced European opportunities. Away from the Old Firm, the SPL also welcomes back the Dundee derby, with two Highland teams in Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County facing each other for the first time in the SPL, so the scope for intrigue still remains high.
Perhaps the main impact that Rangers absence will have on the SPL is club attendances, and the financial effect this could have on the other teams. The lack of ticket sales to Rangers fans will damage the other clubs in the SPL, who can lose up to a six figure sum for every game that Rangers are not in attendance. This immediately makes bridging the gap between the other clubs and Celtic an enormous task with the Hoops still expected to maintain their average attendance of 50,000.
With other top flight clubs tightening their belts to deal with the absence of the revenue that Rangers bring, squads have been slashed and ticket prices will be on the decline as well. Granted, this may bring more fans to games but this will not account for the amount of Rangers fans who took to the terraces during away games.
There is some good news on the financial front though, because Sky Sports have confirmed they will continue their coverage of Scottish football for another five years. However, this again will not be the same without Rangers with reports suggesting the deal is worth 10% less than the last one.
In relation to the rest of Europe, Scottish football’s stock is far from high, and it shows no sign of flourishing in the near future. St Johnstone have been eliminated from European competition, Motherwell will almost certainly drop out of the Champions League qualifying phase next week and Dundee United face an uphill task to make it beyond one tie after a 2-2 home draw with Dynamo Moscow.
It seems then that Scottish football is still very overly reliant on the Old Firm with Celtic harbouring the responsibility of halting the worrying reduction of Scotland’s European co-efficient. Therefore it seems those who remain in the SPL simply have the job to minimalise rather than bridge the gap that has been left by Rangers.
Hope that for the first time in 27 years that Scotland’s top league could be won by a club outside the Old Firm has quickly disappeared as the race for 2nd place becomes the SPL’s major battle.