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Old Firm

Old Firm derby
Fans kept apart at a match between the clubs
Locale Glasgow, Scotland
Teams Celtic
First contested Celtic 5–2 Rangers
(28 May 1888)
Most recent meeting Celtic 2–0 Rangers
(1 February 2015)
Number of meetings 400
Most wins Rangers (159)
Most player appearances Scotland Glasgow
Largest victory Celtic 7–1 Rangers
(19 October 1957)[1]
Location of the two teams' stadia in Glasgow

The Old Firm was the collective name for the Glasgow association football clubs Celtic and Rangers before the latter team ceased to exist, following liquidation in 2012. 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", and represents the commercial benefits of the two clubs' rivalry.[2] The rivalry between the two clubs deeply embeds Scottish culture and has contributed to the political, social and religious division in Scotland. As a result, the fixture is widely considered one of the biggest derbies in world football.

The two clubs are the most successful in Scotland, between them having won 100 Scottish League championships (Rangers with 54 and Celtic with 46), 69 Scottish Cups and 42 Scottish League Cups. 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 2005–06 season to the 2011–12 season both clubs finished in the top two places.

Rangers and Celtic have played each other 400 times: Rangers won 159 matches, Celtic 145 matches and 96 were draws.[3]

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.[4]

Rivalry and sectarianism

The competition between the two clubs had roots in more than just a simple sporting rivalry.[5] It has more to do with Northern Ireland (Ulster) than Scotland and this can be seen in the flags, cultural symbols and emblems of both clubs. 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 Scots Irish), and social ideology (Conservatism and Socialism).[6] 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, 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, while Celtic's was largely from those of Irish Roman Catholic backgrounds. 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 tended to wave the Union Flag or the Ulster banner.

Traditionally, Rangers, founded in 1872, attracted the Protestant, Scottish establishment: Celtic, founded later in 1887, represented the Catholic Irish people in Scotland. Nevertheless, this dividing line seems to be blurred today: Glasgow is increasingly homogeneous, "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.[7][8]

The ferocity of the rivalry made it rare for a player to represent both teams during his career. Players who played for both sides of the Old Firm included Alex Bennett, 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, Maurice Johnston, Kenny Miller, Steven Pressley and Mark Brown.

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.[9]

There was serious fan disorder during an Old Firm match played in May 1999 at Celtic Park, as 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.[10] At least four Celtic fans invaded the field of play to confront Dallas during the game,[10] and more missiles were thrown at players on the pitch after the game.[10] 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.[11][12]

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.[citation needed] An activist group that monitors sectarian activity in Glasgow has reported that on Old Firm weekends, violent attacks increase ninefold over normal levels.[13] An increase in domestic abuse can also be attributed to Old Firm fixtures.[14] 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.[15] Other high profile games involving Rangers and Celtic incurred much lower costs.[15] 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.[15]

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.[16]

Anti-Sectarianism Legislation

In 2005 both Rangers and Celtic joined a project to tackle bigotry and sectarianism in sport,[16] but there was little change in the behaviour and subsequent prosecution of the fans.

On the first of 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.[17]

March 2013 protest

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 protestors, 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.[18]

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.[19]

Head-to-head record

An Old Firm clash in 2008
Competition Played Rangers Celtic Draw
Scottish League 304 119 100 85
Scottish Cup 48 16 23 9
League Cup 48 24 22 2
Totals 400 159 145 96

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

Biggest wins

* Four or more goals difference, OR the winning team scored five or above



Players who played for both teams


  • Tom Dunbar (Celtic 1888–1891, Rangers 1891–1892, Celtic 1892–1898)[20]
  • Allan Martin (Rangers 1891–1892, Celtic 1895–1896)
  • George Livingstone (Celtic 1901–1902, Rangers 1906–1909)
  • Alex Bennett (Celtic 1903–1908, Rangers 1908–1918)
  • Tom Sinclair (Rangers 1904–1906, Celtic 1906–1907)
  • Robert Campbell (Celtic 1905–1906, Rangers 1906–1914)
  • Hugh Shaw (Rangers 1905–1906, Celtic 1906–1907)
  • Willie Kivlichan (Rangers 1905–1907, Celtic 1907–1911)
  • David Taylor (Rangers 1906–1911, Celtic 1918–1919 wartime guest)
  • Davie McLean (Celtic 1907–1909, Rangers 1918–1919)
  • Scott Duncan (Rangers 1913–1918, Celtic 1918–1919 wartime guest)
  • James Young (Celtic 1917–1918, Rangers 1917–1918)
  • Tully Craig (Celtic 1919–1922, Rangers 1923–1935)


  • Alfie Conn (Rangers 1968–1974, Celtic 1977–1979)
  • Mo Johnston (Celtic 1984–1987, Rangers 1989–1991)
  • Kenny Miller (Rangers 2000–2001, Celtic 2006–2007, Rangers 2008–2011, Rangers 2014–2015)
  • Steven Pressley (Rangers 1990–1994, Celtic 2006–2008)
  • Mark Brown (Rangers 1999–2001, Celtic 2007–2010)

See also


  1. "Scottish League Cup final: Celtic 7 Rangers 1, Saturday, October 19, 1957". Daily Record (Trinity Mirror). 11 February 2009. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  2. Murray, William J. (1984) The Old Firm: sectarianism, sport, and society in Scotland; Edinburgh: J. Donald Publishers; Atlantic Highlands, N.J. ISBN 0-85976-121-5
  3. "History: Old Firm". Rangers FC. Retrieved 11 February 2015. 
  4. "Old Firm on the ball for economy". BBC News (BBC). 29 June 2005. Retrieved 29 June 2005. 
  5. "Rivalries: Celtic vs Rangers. Old Firm's enduring appeal". FIFA. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  6. Richard Wilson, "Inside the Divide" (Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2012), p. 87: "What is being asserted is two identities: Rangers and Celtic. There are other boundaries: Protestant and Catholic / Unionist and Republican / Conservative and Socialist...."
  7. McKenna, Kevin (8 January 2012). "Inside the Divide: One City, Two Teams… The Old Firm by Richard Wilson – review". The Observer (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 17 November 2012. 
  8. "Rangers and Celtic: Disunited they stand". The Independent. 9 March 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2012. 
  9. McCarra, Kevin (18 May 2009). "Firm enemies – Rangers and Celtic, 1909–2009". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "Rangers make history out of chaos". BBC News. 3 May 1999. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  11. MacKay, Ronnie (10 April 2010). "Old Firm date is set to avoid title trouble". The Scottish Sun. Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  12. Drysdale, Neil (14 April 2010). "Old Firm derby reduced to a mere sideshow? Only in Scotland". STV Sport. Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  13. France, Stephanie (9 March 2001). "CAMPAIGNS: Public Awareness - Nil by Mouth fights bigots in Scotland". PR Week. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  14. "Drop in domestic abuse incidents on Old Firm match days". BBC News. 9 March 2010. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Cook, James (22 July 2011). "Cost of policing Old Firm fixtures was almost £2.4m". BBC News. Retrieved 23 July 2011. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 "A rivalry tied up in religion". BBC News (BBC). 26 August 2006. 
  17. "New sectarian law hailed a success by Lord Advocate". BBC News (BBC). 5 November 2012. 
  18. "Arrests made as Green Brigade protest is broken up". BBC News (BBC). 16 March 2013. 
  19. "Old Firm fans in danger of 'losing trust in police', say MSPs". BBC News (BBC). 19 March 2013. 
  20. "Players who played for both Celtic and Rangers in their career". Retrieved 7 September 2011. 

Further reading


External links