written by – Rangers Report
Recently Graham Ruthven asked the question that many have been asking ever since 2012, does Scottish football need Rangers in the top flight? Ruthven’s article for Vice Sports examined the impact of Rangers absence by looking at the decreasing attendance of Premiership clubs & its financial impact on top flight teams – especially Celtic. He also highlighted the anti-climatic nature on a league that basically has gone from an oligarchy to a dictatorship of the league tables. Supposedly, Rangers absence has given clubs like Aberdeen & Inverness Caley Thistle a chance to ‘compete’ for the title – if you want to call finishing 17 points & 27 points out of first place ‘competing.’
The biggest impact Ruthven detailed is the loss in television revenue. He wrote,
The Old Firm derby is the only football fixture Scotland has that transcends its own borders. The recent emergence of Aberdeen as faux title challengers has given an extra edge to their clashes against Celtic, but that fixture pales in comparison with the match that still, even after all these years, has a bearing on an entire country and its culture like no other.
The loss of this fixture was surely a factor in the collapse of a five-year £80 million TV deal that had been agreed with BSkyB and ESPN before Rangers’ own collapse. Now, the Scottish Professional Football League is contractually bound to actually pay BT Sport up to £250,000 per season in return for the live broadcast of Rangers’ lower league fixtures. Somewhat ominously, the true value of the replacement TV deal hastily agreed in light of the Ibrox club’s demise has never been disclosed; the precise damage is left to conjecture.
Television ratings drive the business of football, especially internationally. An example, is the coverage of Scottish football in the United States. In March 2012, FOX secured the rights to broadcast Scottish matches. Their first broadcast, four days after the deal, was a Rangers v Dundee United game. Obviously, the demand for Rangers was on the rise among American soccer fans given that Carlos Bocanegra, Maurice Edu, & Alejandro Bedoya were all on the team.
Since 2013, Scottish league games have been banished to FOX’s subscription based network, FOX Soccer Plus, which charges viewers $15 a month. They have only broadcast one match featuring two Scottish teams on their main soccer network since then…last season’s Old Firm game.
Does the American soccer market matter? If Scottish football got even 1% of the NBC deal to broadcast the English Premier League, it would be worth $2,500,000.
Domestically, last season’s television ratings reiterated the fact that Rangers are indeed the biggest variable in driving viewership.
First, let’s look at the top Scottish clubs & their average television ratings for the 2014-15 season. For Rangers & Celtic, I did not include the Old Firm match in order to not skew their average draws. Also, I separated Celtic’s European games & Rangers play-off games given the added attention those matches would receive. The other clubs’ numbers are for matches that did not include either Celtic or Rangers.
The first thing you may notice, besides Rangers outdrawing Celtic, is that Hibs & Hearts averaged more viewers then Celtic in domestic matches. However, the two only combined for nine matches, that didn’t include an Old Firm team, compared to Celtic’s 25 non-Old Firm & non-European matches. So, those are more isolated outliers then anything else.
When you compare the domestic matches of the Old Firm teams, on average 26% more viewers tuned into watch Rangers then Celtic.
Now, let’s examine the impact that the Glasgow rivals had on the viewership of the other top Scottish teams.
|Team||% increase v Old Firm|
|Hearts v Celtic||66%|
|Hearts v Rangers||54%|
The impact on TV viewership when Old Firm teams are involved is a prime indicator that the Premiership misses having both clubs in the top flight. Audiences for the New Firm are embarrassingly low unless they are facing Celtic.
For those of you that noticed that Celtic’s impact on Hearts viewership was greater than Rangers, it should be noted that if you subtract the final showdown between Hearts & Rangers – when the league was already won – the audience actually averaged an increase of 72%. When the matches mattered, more people watched…which could also explain why Celtic’s average ratings lagged behind Rangers. How many Premiership matches truly have an impact on Celtic’s ultimate fate in the title race?
Ultimately, more people tune into watch the average Rangers match, then they do to watch a Celtic match.
Lastly, the pinnacle of the television season for Scottish football was February’s Old Firm match. The viewership was 749,000, which was 50% higher then the second most watched match (Celtic v Maribor) & 129% more then the most watched domestic game (October’s Rangers match against Hearts). According to the Daily Record, the game was broadcast to 54 nations.
In all of the Scottish football matches last season, there was a total of 11.3 million viewers…14% of which came from one game.
So, does Scottish football need Rangers in the top flight? The data suggest that the answer is beyond obvious.
You can follow Rangers Report on Twitter @TheGersReport