The news that Celtic, Rangers, Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers will face off in the ‘Sydney Super Cup’ next November has come as an old shock to anyone who follows football, whether in Scotland or in Australia.
While a return of Ange Postecoglou was warmly welcomed in Sydney, the idea of Scotland’s biggest rivalry being played for laughs on the other side of the world fell like a cup of cold in Glasgow.
This morning, with Celtic welcoming St Mirren home and Rangers traveling to St Johnstone, banners were held up by fans protesting their club’s involvement, creating a unique situation in which the hardcore elements of both supports really line up.
Although the outrage was shared, each fan group’s angle is actually quite different.
If you’re a Celtic fan – for full disclosure, I am – this is a real kick in the teeth. It proves that the club’s executives are as happy as ever to capitalize on our passion for profit, using the fans to sell a device that almost every fan hates.
And make no mistake: everyone knows Celtic’s main draw against Rangers isn’t the football, it’s the fans.
The ad reflected that. Notably, Optus Sport tweeted about it with a photo of Scott Brown and Andy Halliday battling each other in a game from several years ago.
Not Kyogo Furuhashi, our star striker, or even Tom Rogic, our Socceroos midfielder, but an old photo of a stoush between two players who no longer play for either team.
Celtic themselves pushed the homecoming aspect of the Angel. Their tournament press release didn’t just mention that Rangers would be part of it, although it did name Scott McDonald, who hasn’t been at the club since 2010, and Jackson Irvine, who played a grand total of 45. minutes in hoops almost a decade ago.
Even the story of Ange’s return doesn’t really work. If that was the case, it didn’t matter who was playing Celtic, and if we’re being honest, the game would probably have to take place in Melbourne, where Ange is from.
If it were Celtic against Melbourne Victory at the MCG next November, that narrative might make a little more sense and, in fact, probably wouldn’t cause as much consternation among Celtic support.
Banners for the North Curve, Celtic’s standing section, insisted on the issue of association with Rangers, reading: ‘We’re not half of anything unless there’s money to win – shove your ‘Old Firm’ friendly up your ass”.
To decode Scottish fitba dialect for a second, this is a tweet posted by Celtic’s official account in March 2021, in which they sought to distance themselves from the traditional ‘Old Firm’ dynamic by tweeting ‘We don’t we’re not half of everything” and “One Club since 1888”, a reference to the liquidation of Rangers in 2012.
The ‘Old Firm’ quotation marks are also telling: the term itself does not exist at Celtic Park, with fans essentially removing the derby in 2012 when original club Rangers disappeared. Official Celtic media use ‘Glasgow derby’ to refer to games with Rangers, although I have long preferred ‘El Glasigo’.
Rangers fan banners took a slightly different approach. ‘Money on morals, no Derby friendlies’ read their offer, which also spoke of their reluctance to be associated with Celtic, but also the nakedness of grabbing the money.
For the supporters of Gers, the problem is just as much that they have been relegated to the side-show of Ange, the Generals led to play the Globetrotters.
Rumor has it in Scotland that Celtic will get $11m for the game and Rangers less than half, implying that Rangers’ place in the world is now a marketing vehicle for the manager of their most hated rival. , the generals brought to play. the Globetrotters.
That said, it has been remarked that the $5 million Rangers will get is still more than their entire TV deal to play in Scotland for one season.
It’s true: the SPFL TV deal is awful and values the competition much the same as Romania’s top flight, despite Scotland being ranked 9th by UEFA.and best league in Europe and Romania on 25and better.
Unfortunately, in Scottish football’s two-horse race, getting an extra $5m doesn’t help much if the other horse gets $11m, and Rangers couldn’t play a glamorous friendly game anywhere in the world. the world against someone else and get closer to what they will get for playing Celtic in Australia.
It also speaks to the very different financial trajectories of the two clubs.
Celtic have a player-swap business model which has seen them turn a profit in most years and record a lower loss during Covid than almost any other major football club. They get players cheap and sell them to Premier League clubs.
Rangers have never made a profit since reforming in 2012 and have indeed lost tens of millions, with repeated share issues needed to fund the club. Rangers have had one major sale since 2012, and that was last January.
If you were looking for a reason why they’re willing to travel halfway around the world to take second billing from their hated rivals, this is it. The Rangers need the money.
Beyond the internal dynamics of both clubs, there is a unity among the fans that this is a terrible idea.
It’s a loser for everyone: Both teams’ fanbases are used as marketing for a game they don’t like and won’t attend; teams have to travel the world for a meaningless game and Australian fans paying their hard earned dues to get in will see a plastic version of a rivalry because the real reasoning behind the rivalry fans won’t be there .
It will be thousands of onlookers waiting for a kickoff that will not come.