The Scottish Premier League kicks-off tomorrow with a sense of almost acceptance that Celtic is going to claim the title at the end of the season.
The demotion of Rangers to the Scottish third division really will have a major affect on the game in Scotland.
People in England have long argued that the SPL has been a two-horse race, but now that argument is null and void.
That phrase can no longer be used, as Celtic’s perennial opponents Rangers now find themselves in the depths of the Scottish football pyramid.
Celtic and Rangers have undoubtedly dominated the Scottish game for decades and are giants amongst minnows in Scotland. The other teams in Scotland haven’t been able to compete with the Old Firm because of the lack of financial resources.
Rangers’ rivals now know that the Gers used their flexible friend a few too many times in recent years. Like their SPL rivals Rangers couldn’t afford to compete with Celtic either, as their financial meltdown proved.
If most English football fans are honest with themselves the four games from Scotland they probably watch are the Old Firm derbies. These encounters are amongst the fiercer derbies in the world and such a great watch, if not for the standard of football, for the passion shown by the players in Old Firm games.
Fans of other Scottish clubs will see the absence of Rangers as a chance for their club to move up the pecking order in the Scottish game. The likes of Motherwell, Hearts and Dundee United will see this as a chance to grab extra exposure and revenue from qualifying for European competition.
The absence of Rangers does give teams extra chances of making a mark in European competition. However, the standard of some of the teams in the SPL mean that they often struggle to compete with their continental rivals.
Rangers being in the third division of Scottish football could dilute interest in the SPL. It could though help promote the Scottish third division. Rangers have signed a television deal with Sky for the broadcaster to transmit all the Gers games this season.
This will lead to teams in the third division of Scottish football receiving more revenue, which in turn will hopefully improve the standard of football in Scotland. Rangers are whale in the fish pond that is the Scottish third division, never mind a big fish in a small pond.
I fear for the SPL this season. I can’t see anybody being able realistically to challenge Celtic for the SPL title this season. Their fellow SPL rivals just haven’t got the players or financial resources to be able to compete with the Hoops.
This could lead to most of the other SPL teams competing for the European places below, as previously mentioned. Clubs will be playing for those second and third places in the SPL, not even believing that they can compete with Celtic.
Competition is always good for clubs. Celtic and Rangers enjoyed a healthy competition that made both of them strive to improve their own performances. Rangers absence from the Scottish top flight won’t do Celtic any good at all.
Their players could get complacent and it could hamper their chances of progressing in European competition.
Scottish football wasn’t exactly in great state before the financial meltdown at Rangers, but it remains to be seen what effect the clubs demotion will have in the Scottish game. Some observers believe it could have a positive effect on football in the country.
Some say it could kill the sport off completely in the country. Whatever the effect of Rangers downfall I know that this season’s SPL will be a lot less interesting to me as a football observer, without the Celtic-Rangers rivalry.
Who knows what the long-term effect will be, but I am pretty certain the effect of Rangers demotion will be Celtic running away with this seasons SPL title at a canter. If not then we are in for an extraordinary shock in the SPL this season.
Is the SPL now a one-horse race?