Celtic glee at Rangers' plight shows the Old Firm need each other

It was party time in the away end at Easter Road yesterday but the demise of one Glasgow giant would also spell disaster for the other

Easter Road

Rivalry can lead to eccentric behaviour. On one of the early afternoon trains from Glasgow to Edinburgh yesterday, a passenger walked up the carriage holding an opened box of ice cream with jelly cubes scattered on top. It ought to have been an unnerving sight as he offered passengers mouthfuls from a plastic fork, but most understood the gesture. As Rangers have lurched into administration, Celtic fans have explored every means to express their glee.

"Jelly and ice cream while Rangers die," has become a recurring chant. The triumphalism is to be expected and party hats were passed out on the walk towards Easter Road. The relationship between the two sets of Old Firm supporters is endlessly antagonistic and Celtic fans are unrestrained in their willingness to revel in the plight of their old foes. It is a basic reaction but Celtic's response to Rangers' problems is a complex business.

There is an element of revenge to the euphoria, since Celtic found themselves on the verge of bankruptcy in the mid-1990s. At the time, Rangers were winning nine successive league titles, equalling Celtic's record, but also at their most haughty. Sir David Murray, their owner, taunted Celtic by claiming that his club would always spend double in the transfer market.

Vanity was second nature to Murray, and his financial management of the club during the last decade contributed directly to the current woes, along with the use of Employee Benefit Trusts, which Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs has begun to clamp down on. Rangers may yet face a significant tax bill, once the legal arguments have been resolved, and this potential liability, in conjunction with the club's debts, deterred buyers.

Such a volatile mix allowed Craig Whyte, a man with a vague business background, to take over last May, and he exploited Rangers' situation. The club has not paid PAYE tax since last May, generating a £9m bill that led to the administrators being appointed last week.

This financial mess is in stark contrast to the prudence at Celtic Park. Peter Lawwell, the chief executive, has occasionally been chided by Celtic fans for not spending more freely, but their rivals' problems are a justification. No accusations of frugality are heard now.

Both Lawwell and Neil Lennon, the manager, have spoken about Celtic's financial strength, stressing that they can thrive without Rangers. Two men so steeped in the club's background might have found the opportunity to highlight the Ibrox side's difficulties too tempting. There was more than a hint of disingenuousness, though.

The two clubs owe their very size and rich history to the Old Firm rivalry. The teams fed off it, financially, emotionally and competitively. If Rangers were to go out of business, Celtic would inevitably have to downsize. No other club could challenge them in the Scottish Premier League, so there would be no competitive tension. Crowds would fall, budgets would decrease and something unique would be lost.

Events at Easter Road yesterday were an illustration. Celtic swept aside a Hibernian team who were no match for them in a contemptuous 5-0 win. There was no drama, because each goal arrived so simply, and when the fourth was scored in the 51st minute, Hibs supporters began to stream out. The away fans spent the whole match taunting Rangers, which in itself was a reflection of why the rivalry is vital. Who else would they rail against?

Celtic and Rangers do not play each other every week but they are always competing against each other. It is this eternal contest that drives the two clubs on, even if it also generates a dark intolerance. Rangers fans filled Ibrox to capacity on Saturday and were initially rousing in their support.

The occasion was to be a show of devotion to their team, to the purpose of reviving the club, but there were also sectarian songs. Defiance ended up being futile, as they lost 1-0 to Kilmarnock and only further intensified the despair around the club.

The religious nature of the Old Firm rivalry is a cause of distress. Rangers fans had abandoned the old anti-Catholic sentiments, so their return was only damaging to the cause. Celtic supporters are also capable of causing offence and many of their chants at Easter Road referred to Rangers fans as "Huns", a term that is derogatory and designed to be particularly insulting, although not sectarian. The issues are knotty when two sets of fans are so implacably opposed to each other.

They are united only in the disdain they provoke in other clubs. The rest of Scottish football tends to resent the Old Firm, since the two Glasgow teams monopolise attention. Hibs fans displayed a banner that read: "One Down, One To Go."

Yet the game in Scotland relies on the presence of Rangers and Celtic for its broadcast, commercial and sponsorship income, while the vast away supports provide crucial ticket revenue.

The Old Firm dominate, which others begrudge. Some SPL chairmen privately complain that they would expect to be treated more severely by HMRC had they not been paying PAYE for nine months in the same way as Rangers.

The Ibrox club's predicament is alarming for their own fans but it also reveals contradictions in the relationship with Celtic and the rest of Scottish football.

Suggested Topics
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect