Sectarianism In Glasgow Essay Contest

Fans kept apart at a match between the clubs

Other namesGlasgow derby
LocaleGlasgow, Scotland
First meeting28 May 1888
Celtic 5–2 Rangers
Latest meeting30 December 2017
Celtic 0–0 Rangers[1]
Scottish Premiership
Next meeting11 March 2018
Rangers v. Celtic
Scottish Premiership
Meetings total410
Most winsRangers (159)
Largest victoryCeltic 7–1 Rangers
(19 October 1957)[2]

The Old Firm is the collective name for the Scottish football clubs Celtic and Rangers, who are both based in Glasgow.

The rivalry between the two clubs has become deeply embedded in Scottish culture and has contributed to the political, social and religious division and sectarianism in Scotland and also beyond, especially in neighbouring Northern Ireland. As a result, the fixture was recognised as having enduring appeal.[3]

The two clubs are the most successful in Scotland, between them having won 102 Scottish League championships (Rangers with 54 and Celtic with 48),[4] 70 Scottish Cups[5] and 44 Scottish League Cups.[6] Interruptions to their ascendancy have occurred infrequently, most recently with the challenge of the New Firm of Aberdeen and Dundee United in the first half of the 1980s. Since the 1985–86 season one half of the Old Firm has won the Scottish League consistently and from the 2006–07 season to the 2011–12 season, both clubs finished in the top two places.

Rangers and Celtic have played each other 410 times in major competitions: Rangers have won 159 matches, Celtic 152 matches and 99 ended in a draw.[7]

The clubs have large fan bases around Glasgow but also supporters clubs in most towns throughout Scotland and Northern Ireland and in many cities around the world. The presence of Rangers and Celtic had been estimated to be worth £120 million to the Scottish economy.[8]

Origin of 'Old Firm'[edit]

The origin of the term is unclear but may derive from the two clubs' initial match in which the commentators referred to the teams as "like two old, firm friends",[9] or alternatively may stem from a satirical cartoon published in a magazine prior to the 1904 Scottish Cup Final between the sides, depicting an elderly man with a sandwich board reading "Patronise The Old Firm: Rangers, Celtic Ltd", highlighting the mutual commercial benefits of their meetings.[10][11] The name may also be a reference to these two teams being among the original 11 members of the Scottish Football League formed in 1890.[12]

Rivalry and sectarianism[edit]

Main article: Sectarianism in Glasgow

The competition between the two clubs had roots in more than just a simple sporting rivalry.[3] It has as much to do with Northern Ireland as Scotland and this can be seen in the flags, cultural symbols and emblems of both clubs.[13] It was infused with a series of complex disputes, sometimes centred on religion (Catholic and Protestant), Northern Ireland-related politics (Loyalist and Republican), national identity (British or Irish Scots), and social ideology (Conservatism and Socialism).[14]

Another primary contributor to the intensity of the rivalry in the west of Scotland was that Rangers supporters are historically native Scots and Ulster Scots,[15] and Celtic supporters are historically Irish-Scots. While the confrontation between the two sets of supporters was often labelled as 'Sectarianism', 'Native-Immigrant tension' was an equally accurate catalyst for hostility between the two teams' supports in Scotland. Rangers' traditional support was largely from the Protestant community, and for decades the club had an unwritten rule whereby they would not knowingly sign a player of the Catholic faith.[16] The policy was decried by Graeme Souness when he became manager, and he brought ex-Celtic forward Mo Johnston to the club in a very public move away from the practice, which no longer continues.[17][18][19] Celtic's support was largely from those of Irish Roman Catholic backgrounds and while the club practiced no exclusion of Protestants and signed many of them to play for the team, there was a pro-Catholic mindset among some of the employees.[20] One effect is that Scottish flags are rarer than might be expected amongst both sets of supporters; Celtic fans are more likely to wave the Irish tricolour while Rangers fans tend to wave the Union Flag.

"When I was growing up, I went to a Catholic school, and there wasn’t one Rangers fan in the entire school," said Neil McGarvey, 43, who is involved in the operation of Kerrydale Street, a popular Celtic fan Web site. "It’s much more mixed now — my boy goes to a Catholic school, and there are maybe 5 percent Rangers fans now."

— The New York Times, 2012[21]

Traditionally, Rangers, founded in 1872, attracted the Protestant, Scottish establishment: Celtic, founded later in 1887, represented the Catholic Irish people in Scotland, as Celtic were founded on the promise that the club would deliver much-needed money and resources to a poverty-stricken Catholic population in East Glasgow.[15] Nevertheless, this dividing line seems to be blurred today in Glasgow: "mixed marriages" between Protestants and Catholics have never been higher and the old certainties – the Rangers supporter voting Conservative and the Celtic supporter voting Labour – are lost.[23]

In 2005 both Celtic and Rangers joined a project to tackle bigotry and sectarianism in sport,[24] but there was little change in the behaviour and subsequent prosecution of the fans.

The majority of Rangers and Celtic supporters do not get involved in sectarianism, but serious incidents do occur with a tendency for the actions of a minority to dominate the headlines.[24][13] The Old Firm rivalry fuelled many assaults on Derby days, and some deaths in the past have been directly related to the aftermath of Old Firm matches.[25] An activist group that monitors sectarian activity in Glasgow has reported that on Old Firm weekends, violent attacks increase ninefold over normal levels.[26] An increase in domestic abuse can also be attributed to Old Firm fixtures.[27] A freedom of information request found that Strathclyde Police incurred costs of £2.4 million for the seven derbies played during the 2010–11 season, with the clubs only contributing £0.3 million towards that.[28] Other high-profile games involving Rangers and Celtic incurred much lower costs.[28] The reason for the disparity in costs and the contribution made is that Strathclyde Police had to increase its activity elsewhere in Glasgow and beyond, while the clubs were only responsible for costs incurred in the vicinity of their stadium.[28]

In 2015, former Rangers player Brian Laudrup said that the Old Firm topped all of the rivalries he had played in,[29] which included the Milan derby and the Fiorentina – Juventus meetings[30] in Italy. Jim Bett, who had already played in Iceland prior to joining Rangers in the 1980s and thereafter moved to Belgium, stated that he declined an opportunity to return to the Ibrox club due to the sectarianism associated with life as a footballer in the west of Scotland, in contrast to his positive experiences living abroad.[31]

Disorder within stadia[edit]

Opposing fans fought an on-pitch battle in the aftermath of Celtic's 1–0 victory in the 1980 Scottish Cup Final at Hampden. This remains one of the worst invasions onto a football pitch ever reported, and was instrumental in alcohol being banned from football grounds in Scotland.[32][33][34]

There was 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 clinch the league title with victory (and it became clear that they would do so from the early stages of the match). Several objects were thrown by Celtic fans, one of which struck referee Hugh Dallas forcing the game to be stopped while he received medical treatment.[35] With many of those in attendance having spent a full weekend drinking alcohol prior to the event, at least four Celtic fans invaded the field of play to confront Dallas during the game,[35] and more missiles were thrown at players on the pitch after the game.[35] Since the events of that day, Old Firm league matches have normally been played in the early afternoon and the possibility of an Old Firm title decider has been deliberately avoided.[36][37]


From 1 March 2012, the police were given more powers to act against Sectarian acts at football matches through the new Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act. The law was designed specifically to target the Old Firm rivalry by reducing the religious hatred between the two opposing sides. The Act created two new offences, one covering behaviour in and around football matches and the other related to posts sent by either electronic or postal methods. People convicted under the act could face up to five years imprisonment. This is a much higher sentence than was previously in place. It will now make it much easier to prosecute this misbehaviour, which has proved difficult in the past.[38]

In March 2013 a protest by a number of Celtic fans took place to protest against the new laws and the subsequent match bans that a number of fans had received for breaking the Act. The protesters, known as the "Green Brigade," had marched without police authority and the event was therefore cracked down on by local authorities resulting in thirteen arrests. The protestors claim that the police instigated the trouble that occurred at this march.[39] Following the march, media coverage reported that the fans were growing further apart from the police than ever before. They claimed that the trust the fans hold with the police to work in cooperation with them is falling dramatically. The march that took place resulted in a number of complaints from both the Celtic and the Rangers fans that they were harassed by the police. Investigations are still underway to discover the legitimacy of these claims.[40]


Glasgow-based brewers Tennent's were the primary commercial sponsor of both teams for several years;[41][42] any local business that only sponsored one would likely lose half its customers.[21] Previously, glazing company CR Smith (who later had a deal with Celtic alone),[43][44] communications firm NTL[45] and English brewers Carling[46] had also sponsored both clubs.

Events post-2012[edit]

Main article: Administration and liquidation of The Rangers Football Club plc

In 2012, Rangers suffered a financial collapse leading to the liquidation of the commercial entity,[47][48] however the sporting assets were acquired by a new company[49] which allowed its playing membership to continue unbroken (albeit in the lowest division of the Scottish football league system).[50] It is regarded as a continuation of the same club by the relevant authorities.[51][52][53][54] As a result this would mean that for the first time in 120 years, no fixtures would be played between Rangers and Celtic.

The status of the Old Firm was also challenged,[15] following the logic that since Rangers 'died' during the events of 2012, the rivalry also expired and any matches played since that point would be between Celtic and a 'new Rangers', albeit playing at the same stadium, in the same colours, with the same supporters and some of the same players as before.[49][55] Adherents to this point of view refer to the club disparagingly as Sevco (the original name of the post-2012 holding company),[56] and Rangers supporters as 'zombies' or 'the undead'.[57] This difference of opinion became a new factor in the rivalry.[55]

Some Celtic supporters have been particularly vociferous in their assertions, to the extent of a group paying for a full-page newspaper advertisement in January 2015 announcing that their club would soon play its first fixture against the new Rangers.[58][59][60] By that point UEFA,[52] the European Club Association[53] and the Scottish Professional Football League[51] had made clear their position that Rangers remained the same club, and FIFA[54] also made statements to this effect shortly afterwards. Conversely, in 2013 numerous complaints had been made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over official marketing communications from Rangers which stated they were "Scotland’s most successful club", with this claim being disputed as the complainants declared the club had only been in existence for one year. Having considered the evidence, the ASA did not uphold the complaints.[61]

In July 2012, a large banner was displayed at Celtic Park during a game showing 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, although Celtic escaped formal punishment over the matter.[62][63]Celtic fan groups have continued to display banners claiming Rangers are ‘dead’[64] as well as mocking other aspects of their economic problems.[65]

Celtic and their followers also became involved in other legal proceedings relating to Rangers,[66][67][68] including the outcome of the long-running EBT investigation.[69][70][71]

Results on the field[edit]

It took Rangers four years to climb through the lower divisions and re-take their place in the Scottish Premiership for the 2016–17 season; in the interim only two cup semi-finals were played between the clubs[72][73][74][75] and Celtic won all four league titles by significant margins (never less than 15 points).[76] The rivalry resumed in earnest by way of six matches during 2016–17, with Celtic eliminating Rangers from both cups at the semi-final stage on the way to lifting the trophies and emerging victorious in three of the matches in the league championship, which they also won without losing a game to secure their sixth successive title and a domestic treble.[77][78]

All-time head-to-head record[edit]

1888–1999 statistics obtained from RSSSF; Remaining stats obtained from Soccerbase

Defunct minor/wartime competitions[edit]

There are a number of matches between the two clubs that are not recognised in the official records, such as their first competitive meeting in the 1888–89 Glasgow Cup, in which Celtic defeated Rangers 6–1.[82]

Wartime competitions (all WWII)[edit]

During the Second World War, the Scottish Football League and Scottish Cup were suspended and in their place unofficial regional league competitions were set up (these were dominated by Rangers).[84] One of these games was a New Year's Day derby in 1943 which Rangers won 8–1.[85][86] In 2017, some Rangers supporters called for the wartime tournaments to be regarded as official via a petition.[87]

Biggest wins[edit]

* Four or more goals difference between the teams.


6-goal margin[edit]

5-goal margin[edit]

4-goal margin[edit]


5-goal margin[edit]

4-goal margin[edit]

Players who played for both teams[edit]

The ferocity of the rivalry has made it rare for a player to represent both teams during his career.[88] Players who played for both sides of the Old Firm included Alec Bennett,[89]Scott Duncan, Robert Campbell, and George Livingstone, who all played before the intensity of the rivalry had started prior to 1912, as well as later players: Alfie Conn,[90]Maurice Johnston,[18][19]Kenny Miller,[91][92]Steven Pressley[93] and Mark Brown (none of whom moved directly between the two clubs).


  • Tom Dunbar (Celtic 1888–1891, Rangers 1891–1892, Celtic 1892–1898)[94]
  • John Cunningham (Celtic 1889–1892, Rangers ?–?)[95][96]
  • Allan Martin (Rangers 1891–1892, Celtic 1895–1896)[94]
  • George Livingstone (Celtic 1901–1902, Rangers 1906–1909)[94]
  • Alec Bennett (Celtic 1903–1908, Rangers 1908–1918)[94][89]
  • Tom Sinclair (Rangers 1904–1906, Celtic 1906–1907)[94][97]
  • Robert Campbell (Celtic 1905–1906, Rangers 1906–1914)[94]
  • Hugh Shaw (Rangers 1905–1906, Celtic 1906–1907)[94]
  • Willie Kivlichan (Rangers 1905–1907, Celtic 1907–1911)[94]
  • David Taylor (Rangers 1906–1911, Celtic 1918–1919 wartime guest)[94]
  • Davie McLean (Celtic 1907–1909, Rangers 1918–1919)[94]
  • Scott Duncan (Rangers 1913–1918, Celtic 1918–1919 wartime guest)[94]
  • James Young (Celtic 1917–1918, Rangers 1917–1918)[94]
  • Tully Craig (Celtic 1919–1922, Rangers 1923–1935)[94]


Played for opposite clubs during youth and senior careers[edit]

  • John Dowie (youth career Rangers, senior career Celtic)[101]
  • Gordon Marshall (youth career Rangers, senior career Celtic)[102]
  • Craig Beattie (youth career with both Rangers and Celtic, senior career Celtic)[103][104]
  • Sean Fitzharris (youth career with both Rangers and Celtic, senior career Celtic)[105][106]
  • Greig Spence (youth career Rangers, senior career Celtic)[107][108]
  • Joe Thomson (youth career with both Rangers and Celtic, senior career Celtic)[109][110]
  • Dylan McGeouch (youth career with both Celtic and Rangers, senior career Celtic)[111][112]
  • Gregg Wylde (youth career with both Celtic and Rangers, senior career Rangers)[113]
  • Barry Robson (youth career Rangers, senior career Celtic)[114]
  • Michael O'Halloran (youth career Celtic, senior career Rangers)[115][116]
  • Liam Burt (youth career with both Celtic and Rangers, senior career Rangers)[117][118]

Individual records[edit]

Most appearances[edit]

As of end of season 2016–17. Any current players in bold.

Highest goalscorers[edit]

As of end of season 2016–17. Any current players in bold.

Managerial statistics[edit]

As of end of season 2016–17. Minimum 10 Old Firm games as manager (Brendan Rodgers not yet eligible).

An Old Firm clash in 2008
  1. ^Records incomplete: cup was played for between 1877–1966
  1. ^Miller has 9 league goals for Rangers, 1 for Celtic
  1. ^116 includes 27 unofficial wartime games
On the day that he would die, Mark Scott's mother urged him not to wear his Celtic top in case it brought him trouble. Zipping his jacket to cover the green and white hoops, the 16-year-old schoolboy had laughed. "Don't worry, Mum," he said. "They don't do that kind of thing any more." But they did, and hours later Mark had his throat cut by a man who picked him at random from a group of Celtic supporters as they walked home from a match through a Protestant area of Glasgow. His jacket was still zipped.

In the six years since his death, sectarianism has continued to plague Scotland, claiming the lives of seven other young men, scarring and maiming countless others, and clouding the achievements of devolution.

At its most visible, the bigotry is played out on the Old Firm terraces, between Celtic's traditionally Catholic supporters and Rangers' Protestant following. But the infection has run deep across west central Scotland for generations, communities split by prejudice, boundaries marked by late-night violence and graffiti.

No one has offered a solution to this ugly, age-old conflict. But there is one voice that has not allowed Scotland to forget it exists - and now the Scottish parliament has proposed, for the first time, that sectarianism should be a criminal offence.

Cara Henderson was 15 when Mark died. They were classmates at an exclusive private school and he was her first boyfriend. Devastated by the brutality and senselessness of his death, her final school years passed in a blur of grief and incomprehension. She ended up in hospital with an auto-immune condition before moving south to study in England.

It was while she was at Oxford University, studying history, that she learned that the prominent lawyer Donald Findlay QC, who had defended Mark's killer in court, had been caught on video singing sectarian songs at a Glasgow football function. It was too much. After graduating in 1999, she put her career plans on hold and returned home to set up Nil by Mouth, Scotland's leading anti-sectarian group.

In no time, the quiet, studious girl from the leafy west end of Glasgow found herself in Barlinnie prison, talking bigotry with Scotland's hard men, and out on the grim estates of the city's east end, talking knife wounds with children who defined themselves by hate. She won endorsement from officials at Celtic and Rangers, and launched a devastating poster campaign with pictures of a bloodied victim in a hospital casualty unit, under the headline: "Sectarian humour can have you in stitches."

Henderson has been vilified by some fans for her intervention. At her first and last Old Firm game last year, she shouldered the vicious slurs of those who chant cheap hatred from the terraces. "Cara Henderson takes it up the arse," they sang, as she sat, alone, in the stand.

"When Mark was killed, I didn't understand it," she says. "I was left with just anger and bitterness. Doing Nil by Mouth has been about taking back some of the belief that things can be better."

She has always been brutally honest about her own level of prejudice. She is Protestant. Mark was Catholic. When he first asked her out, she rang a friend to ask if she should date him. "I must have had a low-grade prejudice," she says. "It is very subtle, but it must have been an issue for me. It is an issue for too many people."

She asked permission of Mark's parents before she launched Nil by Mouth and she has been careful not to exploit him or their relationship. She laid him to rest a long time ago.

Her hardest job, she says, is trying to convince people that sectarianism is not confined to football; that the bigotry of those who wound or kill is bolstered by the "polite sectarianism" that infects much of west central Scotland. "One of the problems is that debate on this has been limited to Old Firm rivalry, so people view the violence and abuse as football hooliganism and they can say, we're not football hooligans. But this is not just about football fans. The bigotry is alive and well in the middle classes."

She believes that there have been some changes - "I think it is becoming unfashionable to admit your prejudice" - but it has been a hard slog. "We are up against the wall with this, but we have been chipping away at it. You do get little chinks of light, especially with young kids."

Tony Stapleton is the only publicly-funded anti-sectarian worker in Scotland, based in Easterhouse in Glasgow. The post will last only a year. He says Henderson has done an invaluable service with her work, but has not received enough support. "Scotland reminds me of an alcoholic refusing to admit its problem," he says. "The country doesn't want to face up to it. But you just have to look at the statistics - eight murders in five years. It needs to be tackled head-on."

Henderson has been frustrated that the fledgling Scottish parliament has failed to get to grips with the issue. Two weeks ago, however, a Liberal Democrat backbench MSP proposed a draft bill to make sectarianism a criminal offence, punishable by up to seven years' imprisonment

Donald Gorrie's initiative, which has rocked Holyrood, was prompted by a deeply embarrassing incident in January when the Irish Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, was advised not to travel to Scotland to visit a Catholic shrine on the weekend of a Rangers-Celtic match in case his presence heightened sectarian tensions. The scandal, like Mark Scott's death, prompted a fresh burst of soul-searching and hand-wringing about the bigotry, but nothing changed.

Henderson believes the move is highly significant and will keep the issue on the political agenda. "It is very important as a symbolic gesture. It says that we need to acknowledge this, this should have no place in Scotland. I used to think it was a conspiracy to keep it quiet, but I think there is a genuine fear of it in some quarters. And there are too many people who are comfortable with it, who use it to define themselves and others. They may not even be aware that they are doing it."

Still only 21, Henderson has not wearied of the fight but feels it is time to step back, for her own sake and the sake of Nil by Mouth. Next year she will go to Australia for a working holiday; she then hopes to carve out a career in print journalism. She will still work for the group, but as a backer rather than a figurehead.

"In many ways I didn't know what I was getting myself into," she says. "Since Mark's death, sectarianism has had a huge bearing on my life. I see it in two stages: before and after. I know I'm still young but when he died I felt that was the end of something. My childhood, perhaps. I don't know what kind of person I would have been if it hadn't happened."

She feels for all the victims of religious bigotry, among them 16-year-old Thomas McFadden who was stabbed to death after a Rangers-Celtic match in 1999, and father-of-six James Hardie, who died last year, and it hurts that their fate and faces are forever linked with such a destructive, divisive force. It hurts most about Mark. "The saddest thing is that his name has become synonymous with all this," Henderson says. "He had no part in it. It was not his life."

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