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The Old Firm is a common collective name for the association football clubs Celtic and Rangers, both based in Glasgowmarker, Scotlandmarker.

The origin of the term is unclear. One theory has it that the expression derives from Celtic's first game in 1888, which was played against Rangers. A newspaper report stated that both sets of players "got on so well that you would believe that they were old firm friends." However, William J. Murray states that the term derives from the commercial benefits of the two clubs' rivalry, which were viewed with distaste in some quarters in the early days of the game.

The two clubs are the most successful in Scotland, having won between them 66 Scottish Cups and 94 Scottish League championships (as of May 2009). 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 and other times happening in the 1890s and 1950s. Starting with the 1995–96 season, the Old Firm clubs finished in the top two places in every season until 2005–06, when Heart of Midlothian finished second ahead of Rangers. As of 4 October 2009, Rangers and Celtic had played each other 385 times, with Rangers winning 154 matches, Celtic 139 matches and 92 draws. The two clubs normally compete four times a year in the SPL and are regularly drawn against each other in the two Scottish cup competitions.

The clubs have large support bases around Glasgow, but also have supporters clubs in most towns throughout Scotland and in many cities around the world. The presence of Rangers and Celtic has been estimated to be worth £120 million to the Scottish economy.

Rivalry and sectarianism

The competition between the two clubs has roots in more than just a simple sporting rivalry. It is infused with a series of complex disputes, sometimes centred on religion (Catholic and Protestant) and Northern Irelandmarker-related politics (Loyalist and Republican). The result has been an enduring enmity between fans that has been manifested in a history laden with sectarian violence.

Rangers' traditional support was largely, but by no means exclusively, from the Protestant community, while Celtic's was mostly, but by no means exclusively, from those of Irish extraction. Celtic have had a historic association with the Catholic peoples of Irelandmarker, and some Celtic fans sing Irish Republican songs. Rangers fans are traditionally loyalists, with terraces chants that reflect that point of view. One effect is that Scottish flag are relatively rare among supporters; Celtic fans are more likely to wave the Irish tricolour while Rangers fans tend to wave the Union Flag.

The ferocity of the rivalry has made it rare for a player to represent both teams during his career. Players who have played for both sides of the Old Firm include Alex Bennett, Scott Duncan, Robert Gordon Campbell, George Livingstone - these players played before the intensity of the rivalry had started/before 1912 - Alfie Conn, Maurice Johnston, Kenny Miller, Steven Pressley, Mark Brown and Barry Robson. Rangers' signing of Johnston caused particular controversy because, although he was not the first Catholic to play for Rangers, he was by far the highest-profile openly Catholic player to do so since World War I. In addition to this, it was announced weeks prior that Johnston would re-sign for Celtic and at the same time Johnston was paraded in a Celtic jersey. The reasons for the breakdown in Johnston's transfer to Celtic are pure speculation. Until Graeme Souness signed former Celtic player Mo Johnston, in 1989, Rangers were said by him to have had an "unwritten policy" of not signing any player who was Catholic.

Both Rangers and Celtic now accept that they have a problem with sectarianism, and both admit that a proportion of their supporters have been, and continue to be, guilty of perpetuating partisan, sectarian and cultural intolerance. Working alongside the Scottish Parliamentmarker, church groups and community organisations such as Nil by Mouth, the Old Firm clubs have clamped down on sectarian songs, inflammatory flag-waving, and troublesome supporters; using increased levels of policing and surveillance. However, disagreements about what constitutes sectarian behaviour have undermined progress in these matters, and consensus over what types of songs and flags are acceptable remains difficult to achieve. In 1996, Celtic launched their Bhoys Against Bigotry campaign, later followed by Youth Against Bigotry which, according to then chief executive Ian McLeod was meant to "educate the young on having ... respect for all aspects of the community - all races, all colours, all creeds." Rangers launched their anti-sectarian campaign Pride Over Prejudice in 2003, which has since been renamed Follow With Pride.

In 2006, Rangers were ordered by UEFA to make a public announcement at all of their home games prohibiting the chanting of the song "Billy Boys". Celtic club chairman Brian Quinn dismissed calls to institute a list of what songs are unacceptable at Celtic Park, and chief executive Peter Lawwell defended the singing of Irish ballads at matches.

On 12 April 2006, following an investigation into the conduct of Rangers supporters at both legs of their UEFA Champions League tie against Villarreal C.F., the Control and Disciplinary Body of UEFA imposed a fine of £8,800 on Rangers following the improper conduct of some of their supporters, notably the smashing of a window of the Villarreal C.F. team bus at the second-leg match in Spain on 7 March. However, UEFA declared the Rangers fans not guilty of alleged discriminatory chants. UEFA challenged the ruling, and their Appeals Body partially upheld it, fining the Ibrox club £13,500 and warning them as to their responsibility for any future misconduct.

On 9 June 2006, Rangers, in conjunction with representatives from several supporters clubs, announced that they would comply with three UEFA directives. The club was "ordered to announce measurable targets in order to reduce sectarian behaviour amongst its supporters". The club was "to control their anti-sectarian activities by producing comprehensive statistics that are communicated to the public". The club was "to make a public address announcement at every official fixture, be it international or domestic, stating that any sectarian chanting and any form of the song 'Billy Boys' is strictly prohibited".

Despite these measures, UEFA indicated that they would launch another investigation after Rangers fans clashed with riot police and were filmed making sectarian chants during the defeat by Osasuna in their UEFA Cup match in 2007. The Rangers Supporters Association secretary indicated his belief that a small minority of fans are to blame, suggesting "it doesn't matter how often they are told [to stop sectarian chanting], some people will just not listen." In September 2007, UEFA praised Rangers for the measures the club has taken against sectarianism.

Head to head record

An Old Firm clash in 2008
Competition Played Rangers Draw Celtic
Scottish League 293 115 82 96
Scottish Cup 46 16 8 22
League Cup 46 23 2 21
Totals 385 154 92 139
Note: League championship statistics include play-off match for the 1904–05 title which Celtic won 2–1.

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

See also



Footnotes

Further reading



External links






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