The epic rivalry between the two most successful teams in Scottish football, ‘the Old Firm Derby’, is known worldwide. LV BET is dedicating a whole blog where we’ll be diving into specifics of what makes Rangers vs Celtic so special for the fans, including some iconic events that spiced up the relationship between the two clubs. Very few football matches evoke this great emotion, so let’s investigate the ingredients to this wonderful cocktail.
Make sure to visit our LV BET Sports Blog, where you can find a host of blogs on different interesting rivalries in various leagues, such as Der Klassiker, Manchester Derby, El Classico and others. We also have betting guides to help you ace your betting game. So let’s sink our teeth in the biggest game in Scottish football.
Why the Old Firm Derby is more than just a match
For starters, both Rangers and Celtic are based in Glasgow, and the two clubs are by far the most successful and popular in Scotland. So it’s only natural that some animosity starts to creep in between the two teams as one tries to assert dominance over the other. In Scotland, this great rivalry has become deeply embedded in its culture. It has contributed to political, social and religious division in the country. With all the factors coming together, the Old Firm derby has had an enduring appeal worldwide.
This rivalry is deeply embedded in more than just a simple sporting nature. Religion mainly takes centre stage in this rivalry and also politics, with a divide between Loyalists and Republicans. Another contributor to the intensity of the rivalry in the west of Scotland was that Rangers supporters are historically native Scots, whilst Celtic supporters are historically Irish Scots. This confrontation between the two sets of supporters was often labelled as ‘Sectarianism’, which was an equally real catalyst for hostility between the two clubs’ supporters.
Rangers’ traditional support was largely from the Protestant community, and for decades, the clubs had an unwritten rule whereby they would not sign a player who was of Catholic faith. This unspoken rule was phased out when Graeme Souness became manager and brought ex-Celtic forward Mo Johnston to the club – a symbol of Rangers moving away from that practice. The Glasgow Herald reported that he was Rangers’ first Roman Catholic signing, a deal that caused some fans to demand their money back for season tickets.
On the other hand, a Celtic fan typically has a pro-Catholic mindset but never goes to the extent of not signing players that have a different view on religion. Celtic fans are also Nationalists, meaning that they distance themselves from being British and see themselves as Scottish. Scottish flags are a rare sight to see during the Old Firm derby as Celtic fans are more likely to wave the Irish tricolour. In contrast, Rangers fans tend to wave the Union Jack.
Those elements make up for a monumental occasion each time these two teams meet. Sometimes, things might not be civil between fans with the intense atmosphere before and after the matches.
Celtic were founded in 1887, promising to deliver funds and resources to a poor Irish Catholic population in East Glasgow, which quickly drew large crowds to the matches. Rangers had been founded 15 years prior, in 1872 and had no particular religious leanings, and in some press releases in the early days, they were described as friends of Celtic in match reports. During this time, Rangers had won three successive championships and saw fit to expand their facilities at great expense, only for one of the new wooden stands to collapse, killing 25 and injuring hundreds of others. This major disaster forced the club to rebuild Ibrox for a second time and was forced to sell off its best players to prevent a financial collapse.
This gave Celtic a golden opportunity, which they seized, winning the next six championships between 1905 and 1910. We can see that a sporting rivalry sparked from these years, with their meetings providing considerable financial benefit, as seen in the Scottish Cup in 1904 and 1909 when they drew twice, forcing a replay to be played. Supporters from both sides decided to riot on the assumption that the results were being fixed to make more money – amid multiple injuries and considerable damage to Hampden Park, the trophy was withheld. A magazine was also being published at the time called ”The Scottish Referee,” which had satirical cartoon of the two teams in the lead-up to the game, capitalising on the high-profile meetings that attracted large crowds and fervent support.
The majority of Rangers and Celtic fans do not get involved in sectarianism. Still, serious incidents do occur, with a tendency for the actions of a minority to dominate the headlines. The Old Firm rivalry fuelled many assaults on derby days, and some deaths as well, which can be directly linked to the aftermath of Old Firm matches.
In 2011, the government intervened by passing a bill, banning pro-terrorist chants at matches and warned both Rangers and Celtic that they could lose points or be made to play games behind closed doors if they failed to tackle such behaviour. This led to Celtic and Rangers fans reacting angrily at this bill which, in their eyes, criminalised football fans. This has consequently led to more conflict between football fans and police officers.
Another action taken by the Scottish football association was to move Old Firm fixtures to early afternoon in order to keep more control over proceedings and for fans to head home in the light of day. This would set the tone for the years to come as the main kick off time has been mid-day on either Saturday or Sunday in order to fend off any advances from Rangers or Celtic fans to incite violence in the streets. Additionally, due to the huge animosity between the two, the Scottish Premiership has made it a point to never allow an Old Firm fixture to determine the championship title. This is due to the fact that, if there is a championship at stake where the derby is the decider, things tend to become very heated.
Why is it called the Old Firm Derby?
The origins of the phrase Old Firm is still unclear to this day, but assumptions can be made about what led to this eventual game being coined in this way. This might be due to the first head to head came in a friendly match, and the commentators referred to the teams as ”like two old, firm friends”. The friendly match was the first Old Firm fixture held on the 28th of May 1888, and it was won by Celtic by a scoreline of 5-2.
Another version of why this iconic match in world football is referred to as the Old Firm derby was after a satirical cartoon published in a sports newspaper called Scottish Referee, before the 1904 Scottish Cup Final, depicted an elderly man with a sandwich board reading out, ”Patronise The Old Firm: Rangers, Celtic LTD”. This cartoon highlighted the mutual commercial benefits of their meetings.
In 2005 the presence of Rangers and Celtic was estimated to be worth £120 Million to the Scottish economy each year. So each kick-off, in the Celtic vs Rangers rivalry, is earning good money to the Scottish economy on a consistent basis.
A recent financial collapse for Rangers led to the liquidation of the commercial entity. However, the sporting entity was acquired by a new company, which allowed Rangers to re-apply to join the Scottish Football League System. Since Rangers had to re-apply they had to start from the lowest division, which meant that for the first time in 120 years, no fixture would be played between Rangers and Celtic in the league. This was a huge shock for the world of Scottish football, as the status of the Old Firm derby was also challenged, following the logic that Rangers ‘died’ due to the financial collapse and the rivalry also expired.
This new era for Rangers had it’s challenges as now Celtic questioned their legitimacy as a football club and this factor was added to the never-ending list of factors in this epic Glasgow derby. In July 2012, a large banner was displayed at Celtic Park, showcasing a cartoon zombie representing Rangers rising from the grave before being shot by a sniper, drawing criticism due to the gunman resembling a paramilitary from the Northern Ireland conflict. Celtic fans portrayed that image as a display that Rangers are ‘dead’.
Rangers re-established themselves in the Scottish Premiership in the 2016-17 season, where they contended with a total of six Old Firm fixtures. Celtic eliminated Rangers from both cups at the Semi finals as they went on to lift the trophy and emerge victorious in three of the matches in the league championship, which they won without losing a game to secure their sixth successive title and a domestic treble.
So in terms of honours and trophies, throughout history, who has had the most success, Rangers or Celtic? Lets take a look at some of the Old Firm results:
Domestic titles in the Scottish Premier League Rangers have 55 titles to 52 for Celtic, with Celtic winning more Scottish Cups than Rangers – six more to be exact. In the Scottish League Cup, Rangers have the upper hand as they have won seven more than Celtic. In the domestic tally aggregate, Rangers won 116 titles to Celtic’s 112. In the European scenario, both teams have won one title Celtic won the European Cup/UEFA Champions League, and Rangers fans celebrated a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.
Let’s take a look at the Old Firm fixtures throughout time and who enjoyed the most success.
In total, in the Scottish League, the fixture Celtic vs Rangers took place 328 times, 113 of them were won by Celtic whilst on 126 occasions, Rangers fans had the bragging rights over their rivals. The Scottish Cup is where Celtic asserted its dominance as it won 25 matches out of the 53 meetings, with Rangers winning 18 of the matches.
An interesting statistic is that Celtic has managed to win at the Ibrox Stadium on four consecutive occasions in the 2017/18 season. Something that Rangers have never achieved in recent history. The biggest victory for Celtic came in 2017 in the Championship round when at the Ibrox Stadium, Celtic thumped Rangers 5-1, much to the disbelief of the home fans. You can watch the highlights of the game, here.
Rangers fans enjoyed a dominant display from their side as they recorded one of the biggest victories in their history over Celtic. There were no supporters in the ground due to covid 19 restrictions but surely, each Rangers fan enjoyed every minute of the game. Rangers won 4-1 on the day against the 10-men of Celtic. You can watch the highlights here.
Classic Old Firm goals
In most of the Old Firm games, a lot of firm challenges go flying in, but in this section, we are going to focus on some of the best goals scored by the Glasgow giants.
Andreas Thom (Rangers 3-3 Celtic)
Celtic forward Andreas Thom picked up the ball after a neat layoff by his teammate, setting him up for a long-range effort from way outside the box. With a thunderous strike and the Ranger’s defence always retreating, Thom took the keeper by surprise and found the net to open the scoring in the tenth minute of play. The game had a lot of goals, but this game will be remembered for the remarkable effort by Andreas Thom.
Jorg Albertz (Rangers 3-1 Celtic)
The German midfielder, who was nicknamed ‘the Hammer’, was on form for Rangers to produce an iconic goal. An early encounter in the year 1997 saw Jorg Albertz unleash his inner Roberto Carlos as he lined up one of his usual long run-ups and fired the ball in the bottom right-hand corner. It was one of his best moments of the season and a strike that will forever be remembered by Rangers supporters.
Chris Sutton (Celtic 1-0 Rangers)
Celtic came out victorious thanks to this wonderful strike by Chris Sutton. The action started from the Celtic keeper, who hoofed the ball up the field from a goal kick; Sutton nodded it over to his teammate and got it back. He takes a touch, brushes off the challenge of the Rangers defender and delicately chips the Rangers keeper to find the top right corner. When it all looked like a draw, Chris Sutton went on to score a spectacular goal to earn him his 28th goal of the season for Celtic.
Shunksuke Nakamura (Celtic 2-1 Rangers)
A goal worthy of winning any football match, Celtic RB tried to pick up the run, and he found Nakamura who made a run through the middle; the pass was slightly overhit, so the Japanese’s touch took it away from him. As he was stretching Nakamura unleashed one of the most outstanding finishes you will ever see. The ball swerves in the air as he hits it with the outside of his left boot, wrong-footing the keeper andgiving him no chance of saving it. Quite a way to score your first Old Firm goal for Celtic.
Pedro Mendes (Celtic 2-4 Rangers)
A very eventful Glasgow derby, with six goals being scored in the match. The pick of the bunch was from Rangers’ Pedro Mendes, who was at the end of a training routine. Davies signalled as if he was going to ping one into the box, but instead, he went short and found Mendes unmarked at the edge of the box, ready to unleash a belter, and so he did. It took the Celtic defence by surprise as the Portuguese perfected the technique.
You can enjoy more spectacular goals and some of the best action from Old Firm games.
When is the next Old Firm game?
The Old Firm 2023 fixtures are published, and the first Old Firm fixture will be taking place in January 2, 2023, at Ibrox Stadium, with kick-off at 12.30.
The second game will be played at Celtic Park on April 8, 2023, with the kick-off time to be published as the date edges closer.
Incidents involving players
Over the numerous matches played, players and staff alike have been involved in incidents that required medical treatment. One would normally associate bad tackles and red cards to be the order of the day during a derby match, but in Scotland, it’s a bit different. In 1987, four players were charged by the police with breach of the peace for their conduct during a match at Ibrox. Another incident involving a well-known player who played for Rangers was Paul Gascoigne – who was caught on television reacting to verbal abuse from the stands by briefly mimicking the playing of a flute, which is considered an offensive gesture by Celtic fans of an Irish Catholic background. The England international pleaded his ignorance of the situation, but he was later fined for his provocative act, and a year later, he left the club. He later stated that he received threats via telephone from people claiming to be members of the IRA over his behaviour.
In 2011, a man attempted to attack Celtic manager Neil Lennon after he clambered from the Hearts section of the main stand onto the pitch at Tynecastle stadium in Edinburgh and charged towards the Celtic boss, who was on the touchline. The manager, who at the time had round-the-clock security after receiving death threats, was said to be ‘shaken’ after the incident. During the same time period, two men were held by police in connection with an investigation into parcel bombs sent to Lennon and two high-profile supporters of the club. Scotland’s then-First Minister Alex Salmond condemned these actions and labelled them ”utterly unacceptable”.
Disorder in stadiums
Most of the violent conduct during and after Old Firm games happened during the 1960-1980s era as gangs from either camp of supporters would gather and go around Scotland to look for trouble; some people enjoyed it and admitted to being addicted to the adrenaline this activity gave them. Most of the guilty parties were drunken men looking to let off some steam at the end of the week.
A term which is used to commonly describe the behaviour of a good portion of supporters of the Old Firm is ’90 minute bigot’. Meaning that for those 90 minutes, one becomes a totally different person, chanting abuse and taunting the opposition. The main topic of the chanting is religion, politics and degrading each other’s national identity.
There was a serious fan disorder during an Old Firm match played on a Sunday evening in May 1999 at Celtic Park, with the usual tensions heightened by the fact that Rangers could win the title with a victory in the derby. Several objects were hurled at the pitch by Celtic fans, one of which struck referee Hugh Dallas forcing the game to be stopped while he received medical treatment. With most of the attendees have spent a full weekend at the pub, at least four Celtic fans invaded the field to confront Dallas during the game. Since that day, Old Firm league matches have normally been played in early afternoon, and the possibility of an Old Firm derby title decider has been deliberately avoided for the greater good.
Political and religious overtones of the Old Firm Derby matches
Celtic vs Rangers is a topic that strikes the interest of many people around the world as it’s not only a tale of sporting diversity but it involves other factors as well. We should never generalise and state that all people who support one club conform to one stereotype, but in Scotland, this main rivalry stems from that extreme stereotype that each team has towards the other.
There are two main areas where history tells us that Celtic fans are nationalist, so they have a political stance that wants away from the British and sees themselves as either Scottish or Northern Irish. Whilst Rangers fans are keen on waving the Union Jack.
Religion is another strong divide between Rangers FC and Glasgow Celtic. Although this has cooled off in recent years, the situation was dire as people were shouting abuse towards the Pope and inciting hatred within the community. With such a hotbed of underlying issues and resentment, a significant development occurred in 1912 when Belfast shipbuilder Harland and Wolff, which had anti-Catholic hiring practices in place, set up a new yard in Glasgow due to instability in Ireland. Many Protestant workers made the move, most of the Scottish descent, and they became Rangers fans.
Between the Celtic fan and the Rangers fan it seems like the issue of religion has cooled off as religious adherence, in general, is failing, marriages between Protestants and Catholics have never been higher and old certainties – the Rangers supporters voting Conservative and Celtic supporters voting labour – are no longer in evidence.
As we move further away from the extremes that we were used to in the mid-80s and 90s, you still find minorities that dominate the headlines with their actions. An activist group that monitors sectarian activity in Glasgow has reported that on Old Firm weekends, violent attacks increase ninefold over the normal level. In the world of football, a handful of football matches evoke such emotion that compares to the Old Firm fixture.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading about the Old Firm derby and the different factors contributing to a rivalry known by the world. We have covered Religion, Politics, National identity, and so much more. Glasgow is the home of some of the best football supporters in the world, and if you have the chance to visit Celtic Park or Ibrox Stadium, don’t miss the chance to enjoy the Old Firm derby first-hand.
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