2007 - 2021

The Duopoly Myth

scotlandbadgeLast week Gerry Hassan tweeted a poll asking: “Who has been the most disastrously-run organisation in recent years in Scotland?”   The options were the Labour Party, RBS, Rangers FC or the BBC. At time of writing the results were Rangers 44%, Labour 39%, RBS 11% and the BBC on a generous 6%.

The latest crisis of the botched sacking of Mark Warburton and his team may be just the most recent twist in the ongoing Rangers saga, and whether you believe either story A) Rangers never did anything wrong, it’s a giant conspiracy against them and they are the same entity they always were, or B) they are solely responsible for their own crisis and cheated their way to success for years, matters very little at all. The crisis of Rangers is a crisis for Scottish football, not because we need Rangers, but because it completely skews how we look at the game. Here Adrian Durham claims Warburon transformed the Scottish game. He didn’t, at all, even a wee bit. He did moderately well with limited resources but his efforts couldn’t match the gigantic delusions of continuity of either his fan-base or his board both still pumped with a sense of entitlement and a bizarre idea about their own place in the world.

The problem is that these fantasies are perpetuated by football scribes across the land. The problem is that the duopoly myth that Scottish football is based on is broken and no-one wants to admit it. The problem is not Rangers, it’s the rest of us.

The good news is that it’s not all bleak across Scottish football. Despite the failure of the (once promising) Strachan era in the national game, there are some positive signs out there. Hearts have gone from being the worst run club in the UK to one of the best, with a young and innovative manager in Ian Cathro and a thriving fan base, alongside stadium development plans that will make them the third biggest stadium in the capital. Aberdeen are sustaining a challenge as the second force in Scottish football and retaining their best players where in the past they’ve been forced to sell. Both Hearts and Hibs are benefiting from having women CEOs in Anne Budge and Leann Dempster. Tommy Wright’s St Johnstone are a remarkable success story, which continues as a well-run club massively over-delivering over for many years. The highland clubs are a success story and bring a new dimension to the Premier League. Many other clubs have cut their cloth and adjusted to survive the new economic realities. That they’ve survived at all is a measure of success, now we need to help them thrive. Celtic are playing phenomenal football and accelerating away out of sight of the rest of the league. They have commercial success and (relative) European success too.

But the central myth of Scotland, that ‘everything will be alright when Rangers return’, is clearly nonsense. Rangers aren’t returning, the Old Firm is dead.

So we need a new model instead. We need this not just for the whole league, Celtic need it too. No doubt there well be the groundhog of stories about Celtic going to a European league or somehow being parachuted into the  English league but everyone knows these are just fantasies. What we need to do is create the best conditions for a thriving competitive league. For that we need fresh thinking, investment, a genuine role for fans to play a role in decision-making, new institutions that are fit for purpose and a broadcasting deal that is worth something both commercially and in terms of the story it tells about our game.

At present we have little or none of the above.

Hassan’s poll may have been harsh, but the idea that we have a dysfunctional set of unaccountable institutions at the heart of Scottish society is very real.

The reality is that Rangers wouldn’t have lost their manager in the chaotic manner they did if they had £1m to spend. That level of mismanagement belies ongoing financial crisis. The reality is that we have a football media that failed to challenge the cain that David King has spent £18m on Rangers. That’s extraordinary and can’t be doing any favours to Rangers supporters. Finally, the reality is that it’s not in Celtic’s interest to be in a league they can win by thirty points. If Celtic win the treble it will be great achievement for them as a club, but it will also be the mark of a failed footballing culture.

It’s time for some peace and reconciliation based on the acceptance that the game is broken and needs a re-boot.

Suggestions for revitalising Scottish football in a post-Old Firm world please …


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Comments (25)

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  1. David Barrie Grieve says:

    Soccer is a sub-quality entertainment with remnants of gladiatorial arena overtones of the now defunct Roman Empire. It’s a divide & conquer the plebs for the sake of the elite ploy.

    We’ve surely managed to collectively evolve enough, to put more of our attention into making our lives at least a wee bit better than fitbaw!

    It’s a braw game tae kick around a baw when ye’re a bairn. – ye ken.. fresh air… excercise…. infantile aggression…….

    1. douglas clark says:

      I am a semi-evolved fan of the game. Have you even ever played the game? It is an exciting contest, even at the incredibly poor level that I played at. Watching people that are a tad better is a delight.

      In all my time watching football, I have never, ever seen Myrmillo, Retiaratus, Secutos or Segistarious used in a game. So just stop comparing any competitive sport to the Roman Arena. It is a ridiculously weak argument. There is no comparison, or at least none worthy of the name.

      1. Jeff says:

        Footbore is a load of old wank.

    2. Jim says:

      Good to see Bella putting the largest fan base in Scottish football off independence. Divid and conquer, eh? Clever…

      1. Is your suggestion that we should never question anything about the Old Firm? Are there other areas of public life that are off-limits? Do let us know.

  2. john young says:

    The decent Rangers fans need to take the bull by the horns and get rid of the Neanderthal side of their support allbeit this comprises of circa 50%,they might suffer a bit more but in the end good supporters would return,just as important Scottish football needs to rid itself of it,s clique of freemasons,they are a scourge on the landscape of not only football but all of Scots society,where else would proven cheats”Dougie Dougie” and a proven pedlar of religious bigotry Dallas to name but 2 be welcomed back into the fold,it has to change.

    1. Thanks John – would love to see that happen. Seems unlikely though?

  3. c rober says:

    The game of the masses – the week worth of shipyard discussions based on 180 minutes of play a week – distraction pure and simple. Keep the masses docile on their heroin of choice , god forbid they end up politicized.

    These though are supposedly the reason why FIFA and UEFA ban the likes of poppies – citing no politics in football , and of course why a certain contingent of paradise keep pushing the limits on acceptable signage.

    However there has to be discussion of certain politics in football , the state of a nation has a direct impact on it – more so in the exit of the EU via brexit , and if brexit means brexit , then it also means Britain means Britain.

    Therfore that means a national league , for Scotlands big two to be minnows in it – instead of being repeatedly denied access to it. Its something that many Rangers fans should be asking , if the union is so precious , so fair , then why is both the old team and new team denied access to the winnings , ie the wealthy of the English premiership being that of well over 10x the game in Scotland.

    They should drop that chinese made union standard and ask then why its a rule for Scotland and a rule for England – its only repeating the politics outside it , enforcing it.

  4. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Hey guys, you are all missing the point. With the country in the dire straits that this Tory Govt. has got us into and frankly what happens to a football club is the least of worries. There are far more important matters like Scotland’s place in Europe; what is to happen to our EU residents; when will the wishes of the Scottish people be listened too, etc, etc.

    My vote would be a tie between EBC Scotland and Scottish Labour for they are two sides of the same Yoonish coin.

    1. c rober says:

      Ive done the maths – for Scotland to remain in Europe it means England losing , NI winning , Wales losing , and Spain lying down against either France or Germany in round II.

      See what I did there?

  5. Brian MacLeod says:

    Football clubs should be just that. Owned by their supporters and playing local talent instead of foreign millionaires.

    1. c rober says:

      Seem to remember a few years back , some talk about fielding enough players at kick off in the majority that “qualified for the national squad” – not that it would make much difference anyway with so many Scottish Grannies.

      But still how will the English game fare sans EU , with visas , immigration restrictions – but still just like the scots game its not under discussion in the media back pages – even though politics should in theory be defining it.

      Just how may footy fans would have been anti brexit if it means no foreign investment or talent in the English game?

      How would history have been for Old Co Rangers without a German keeper , Dutch and German front line of the 90s ?

      Regardless of where in Glasgow your team is located , i doubt both of their camps would like to see a Scottish game without EU , or indeed any immigrant players , at all.

    2. Crubag says:

      It’s an ideal and rather idealistic – we could say the same for other forms of entertainment – music, food, or television. But given the choice, people seem to like watching the pinnacle of sports(either in person or broadcast), rather than the grassroots.

      If you are actually playing sport, then it is very different.

      But one unintended consequence of EU exit is that UK sports associations would be free to put restrictions on overseas players in place – if they wanted to, that is.

  6. Josef O Luain says:

    A big hug for Bella!

    I wouldn’t attempt to comment on Scottish football any further than to say that all the answers are already within the game itself for anyone with sufficient interest and the critical-eye to see.

  7. Alf Baird says:

    “Who has been the most disastrously-run organisation in recent years in Scotland?”

    There is surely a massive queue here, e.g.:

    – whoever proposed and signed off hundreds of school and hospital and ferry etc PFI’s?
    – Edinburgh trams?
    – Holyrood’s £500m carbuncle?
    – CalMac – why but a 100-car ferry in Asia for £10m when you can build one in Germany for £45m, or in Port Glasgow for £50m?
    – MoD – why buy an aircraft carrier from France for £1bn when you can build one here for £3bn?
    – And, there are hundreds of Public ‘organisations’ in Scotland who between them employ 10,000+ heid bummers on salaries of over £100,000/year, just to make these and many other disastrous incompetent mistakes on our behalf.

    I’m sure others can take a close look at Holyrood’s c. £30bn spend and Wesminsters £whatever? spend on Scotland’s behalf every year.

    Thon’s a gey muckle slump uit thair.

    Fitba’s juist a haiveless divert.

  8. douglas clark says:


    The responsibility for the aircraft carrier, which, correct me if I am wrong, rests solely with our beloved Westminster Government. would still be without aircraft. Such is the joy of being tied to a load of incompetent fools.

    Agree about PFI, started by the now, somewhat anonymous Gordon Brown. Well, not anonymous enough, perhaps.

    Edinburgh Trams would have been a good idea if someone had been put in place to manage the project and not allow it to be a rip off. The guilt for that rests entirely with Edinburgh.

    I take it your point is that we could manage everything better if we were independent?

    I’d have thought that that went without saying.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Yes Douglas, “we could manage everything better if we were independent”. However, it might be prudent to consider the unionist elites who still manage to mis-manage virtually every public organisation in Scotland, including the UK ‘Home’ (i.e. Whitehall appointed) civil servants still ‘managing/controlling’ the workings of the Scottish Government and its endless quangos and agencies that administer and intercept much of Holyrood’s £30bn ‘grant’ annually. As things stand, thousands of these elite unionist centurions would still be in situ even after independence. Wha’s syde wid thay bi oan?

  9. A Dandy Highwayman says:

    I’m far too elitist, self absorbed, arrogant and developed a human being to be interested in gladiatorial sport. Rugby, however…. Wait. Wuhhhhh?!?!

    I would rather read analysis from the 1930’s that espouses cloth capped, politically illiterate working classes are the purpose and result of recreational sport. Dumb the masses down because it is clear politics is only for the literate middle classes. Actually maybe the critical thinkers should be afforded two votes. Just to make sure. This certainly saves me from thinking critically.

  10. Me Bungo Pony says:

    Fantastic, a chance to post about something other than politics (for the main part) for a change. Excellent.

    “Suggestions for revitalising Scottish football in a post-Old Firm world please …”

    (1) Cut the number of clubs in the “Premier League” (SPL) from 42 to 15 or 16. No promotion or relegation, just one Division of Scotland’s top 16 clubs playing each other for the Championship. The remaining 27/26 to form a “Senior League” or merge with the existing Highland, Eastern and Lowland leagues.

    Reason – 42 is far, far too many for a country Scotland’s size. The majority of these clubs have tiny (though no doubt committed) supports and will never trouble the higher reaches of the league. Many of them rarely/never having played league games against the top sides despite sharing a league structure for nigh on a century.

    (2) Championship to be decided by Play-Offs. The initial “Ladder” would only be to decide the clubs who qualify for the Play-Offs.

    Reason – If you want clubs outside the “Old Firm” to attract fans and halt the currently inexorable decline in their support, you have to give them a reasonable chance of winning the Championship. At the moment, it is inconceivable for ANY of them to honestly aspire to that and it is unlikely they ever will. With Play-Offs, all they would have to do is show an ability to compete for a Play-Off spot with anything being possible after that. That is what will give potential fans a reason to give their team support and turn out. The “potential” for success is much more attractive than mid-table hopeless-ness or a relegation dogfight.

    (3) The League Cup to be revamped for Top-Flight only with 4 or 3 permanent groups of 4 or 5 clubs based mainly on geography. In my opinion, these would be:
    North: Aberdeen, Dundee, Dundee Utd, St Johnstone
    East: Inverness CT, Dunfermline Ath, Hearts, Hibernian
    West: Falkirk, Motherwell, Hamilton Acc, Celtic
    South: Partick Th, Rangers, St Mirren, Kilmarnock
    North: Inverness CT, Aberdeen, Dundee, Dundee Utd, St Johnstone
    East: Dunfermline Ath, Hearts, Hibernian, Falkirk, Motherwell
    West: Celtic, Partick Th, Rangers, St Mirren, Kilmarnock

    I have no preference for how clubs progress from the group stage.

    Reason – This would take the number of guaranteed League/League Cup games up to 36 which appears to be what most feel is the minimum necessary. It also maximises local derbies which should maximise average gates and minimise away fans expense. Bigger gates add to revenue, atmosphere and spectacle. The advantage of more revenue is obvious while atmosphere and spectacle make the game more attractive to both potential fans and potential advertising/broadcasting deals …. which would then lead to more revenue. A virtuous cycle if you will.

    (4) The Scottish Cup to remain as it currently is.

    Reason – No reason to change it and it gives the clubs outside the Top 15/16 the chance to compete with them much as they do now. The Scottish cup is how many of these teams have mainly encountered them before.

    (5) All league advertising, sponsorship and broadcasting revenues to be allocated to each club equally no matter where they ended up on the “Ladder”. The clubs could still keep their own advertising, sponsorship and retail monies.

    Reason – The clubs who finish further up the “Ladder” will have theoretically benefited from higher gates and clearly already have the best teams. Why compound that advantage by also giving them even more money than the teams who would compete with them?

    (6) “Away” clubs to be given a slice of the “gate money” (NOT for League Cup). Perhaps a theoretical 20%. As season tickets would skew this figure, it would have to be calculated by allocating a set sum for each “fan” who attended. For example if 10,000 attended a game, and a notional £20/fan figure was arrived at, then that game would have a “value” of £200,000 with the “away” club therefore being due a payment of £40,000.

    Reason – Redistribution of wealth. Obviously, clubs with a bigger fan-base will always have more money and therefore a greater chance of success. “Away” clubs getting a slice of gate money will help to partly redress this advantage.

    (7) Summer football.

    Reason – Watching football in the freezing cold is not attractive. I watched St Johnstone 0 v 0 Accies (as a neutral) last Winter in conditions that resembled an ice-box. I will think very hard before doing that again. Watching in the warmth (don’t laugh) is a much more attractive option. Expensive under soil heating and floodlights would also be minimally used saving money while pitches would be easier to maintain. There is also the possibility of lucrative deals as broadcasters try to fill schedules at a time of year when football fans tend to be starved of meaningful games.

    That is my “cut down” opinion on how Scottish football might be “saved”. I chose the 15/16 clubs based on their fan base, history and potential. I reckon 15 of them would be in most peoples list of the top 16 with a number of other clubs that could claim they are worthy of the 16th place (QOS, Morton, Raith Rovers, Livingstone?). It could be argued that even 1516 is too many and a Scottish league of just 12 or even 10 clubs would be more sustainable. It would certainly mean more revenue for the clubs involved. What I have proposed is in keeping with newer league structures around the world such as the USA’s MLS and Australia’s A-League. Both these leagues are vibrant and successful. It is my opinion a leaner SPL would emulate them.

    Well, got that off my chest 🙂

  11. john young says:

    C Rober I have asked the question to many of the Unionist/Orange/Rangers persuasion as to how it pans out that Sky/British Telecom can splurge out 5billion with little or nothing coming to Scotland/NI,they just pull that glaikit look,you can have no discourse with them they either blank you or start ranting and raving,my brother in discussion with his neighbour an avowed Orangeman partook in a long debate about Scotland/Independence the end result was in exasperation he said fcuk it I am a bigot end of,how can we ever move on with folks of such entrenched views.

    1. c rober says:

      I have known quite a few in my time from both sides of the indocrinated , and to offer clarity many Gers fans (well clone top buyers and tv watchers) with tats confirming their identity , that are still pro indy.

      Its something we will still have to work on post indy , in retaining that base and englarging it , more so with the hints at “troubles” in Scotland from our columnists in the MSM.

      I stick with my usual argument for that side , even with those that you speak of , in that if union was so good then why are the IRISH treated with contempt in England? Even the NI are seen as “brikhouse pikeys”. NO BLACKS , NO DOGS , NO IRISH – before the troubles at that.

      Its hard to reason with those that have a generational , irrational mindset – but far easier to work with their children instead , showing them it is neither tim or prod that is keeping them down , unemployed , in housing like ghettos adorned in three colours…. it is their Government , and one of Union.

      If they cannot see the trees for the wood , they never will even if they notice the sponsorship on the referees tops and make an appointment. The Scottish game has moved far in many ways , but slowly , far too slowly , the people of Scotland though cannot afford to move that slow – its already been 310 years and I hope that 2014 is not the half time fecking whistle.

  12. w.b.robertson says:

    john young seems to be obsessed with the idea that there is a bloc out there made up of what he terms the “Unionist/Orange/Rangers persuasion”. Suspicious people he reckons who have “entrenched views”. He also managed, in an earlier contribution, to introduce and point a finger at a “clique of Freemasons” up to no good. Could it be that Mr Young also lays himself open to bigotry???

  13. Lochside says:

    ‘Most disasterously run organisations in Scotland’?……how about the ‘Scottish’ ‘Branch’ Unionist parties; the ‘Scottish’ Churches; ‘Scottish’ Legal System; ‘Scottish’ Art and Culture organisations; ‘Scottish’ Enterprise; ‘Scottish’ Universities; ‘Scottish’ National Trust’Scottish’ newspapers and television companies?……most of them are not run by indigenous Scots or those that are, are run with the indigenous population’s needs being secondary to the Unionist agenda which runs throughout the political culture of our country.

    As for ‘Fitba’…note not ‘footie’….the Scottish game has been deliberately bled dry by lack of investment by the tv companies in order to promote our biggest neighbour’s inflated and overblown premier league. Scottish fans have contributed…as usual… a greater ratio of income to this largesse via Sky packages etc. Our media has colluded with the dimunition and exclusion of coverage of the Scottish game with the obvious exception of the ‘Old Firm’. This has resulted in the stultifying and narrowing of focus in our game.

    Unlike some ignorant fitba’ haters on here, most fans historically in the ‘bunnet’ days were politically sussed trade unionists who recognised what capitalism and its horrors were.Hence the 1945 General Election vote to oust Churchill and the Tories. The tens of thousands who support the other 40 clubs in Scotland love their teams, no matter how small and unsuccessful, and are not inhaling any opiates of the masses or anyone else at the games I go to. A recent poll shows that non Old Firm supporters are majority ‘YES. So fitba fans areny ‘a bad.

    1. barakabe says:

      Indeed 52% of ‘non-old-firm’ fans in Scotland would vote yes- is that because they are uneducated, as the Unionist elites would have us believe? Celtic fans must be morons then: 71% of Celtic fans would vote YES! Hemingway, Kerouac, Mailer, Camus, Zizek, Burgess, Arthur Conen Doyle, J.B Priestly, Sartre…in film we have ken Loach, Jafar panahi, Lisandro Alonso, Sorrentino, Wim Wenders, Herzog, Janusz Zaorksi…all morons of course!

  14. John T says:

    Good article, however since then Cathro has toiled at Hearts, Aberdeen are losing their best players and Rangers are still surviving on loans. Starting to think you might be a jinx !

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