Old Back of the Net articles here

Crowd Trouble

Gaps start to appear at Celtic. Plus a selection of snippets





No one can dispute the dreadful crowd figures in the League Cup. There were ten matches on Tuesday drawing a total attendance of fewer than 19,000. The largest gate was 4,150 at Rugby Park. There was a live Champions League match featuring Man Utd on ITV the same evening.

The League Cup has a difficult enough task persuading punters to turn out as it is. To try and compete with live TV is just sheer folly.

Gates at the two Wednesday matches weren’t that much better though the Stirling v Hearts game attracted a capacity crowd to Forthbank. Sounds good until you remember that we’re talking less than 3,000. All told the twelve League Cup ties attracted under 23,000 in total - fewer than 2,000 per game.

Last year’s figures at the same stage were considered to be extremely poor but they were still better than this season’s to the tune of 250 spectators per match.


Quote of the week:
“ We don’t allow our players to dive” - Newcastle boss Bobby Robson. Alan Shearer plays for Newcastle


The Dave Clark Five, Rocky II, Edward Woodward, Stars In Their Eyes, Lucozade, overturned lorries, teenage gangs, oil refineries, Baywatch, David Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson’s “buoyant bosoms.” Just some of the name-checks from this week’s Darryl Broadfoot match reports.

Still, our favourite hack can’t be all that popular at The Herald. They’ve sent him to Fife twice inside three days with Motherwell as the opposition on both occasions.


Nice to see the great tradition of comic goalkeeping is alive and well in the Premiership. Peter Enckelman, David Seaman (again). Can’t wait for the video.


Smaller teams always dream of a cup draw against one of the Old Firm. Failing that, their next best bet is Kilmarnock. Not only are they assured of one of the biggest gates of the night, they are also more or less guaranteed a place in the next round.

Airdrie’s penalty kicks triumph at Rugby Park in the League Cup was the eighth time in the past ten seasons that the Ayrshire side has fallen to lower league opposition in this competition. Add in three similar defeats in the Scottish Cup over the same period and, much as it pains me to say it, knocking out Killie is no longer giant-killing, merely par for the course.


Dick Advocaat has augmented his Ibrox pay-off with a series of whinges in the Daily Record this week. The paper has been featuring the story heavily on the front page with a big picture of Advocaat alongside the single word ‘Dick.’

No need to read anymore. That about sums him up


You couldn’t make it up department. Scotland’s referees are now being sponsored by Specsavers!



Celtic's gates are dropping against foes like Suduva










At first glance it seems a bit silly to talk about declining gates at a club with an average home League attendance of 57,000, but the warning signs are there for Celtic. Crowds are down by an average of 1,500 on last season and that figure is likely to increase as the season wears on and we enter the winter period.

And while no one would expect a full house against minnows Suduva, the attendance for that match was the lowest for a European tie since Parkhead became an all-seater stadium. There were under 37,000 for the visit of the Lithuanians, more than 3,000 fewer than the previous low against Jeunnesse of Luxembourg.

Of course Celtic have over 50,000 season ticket holders and thousands more on the waiting list. But these fans are not buying season tickets so that they can watch Celts demolish Dundee United or hump Hibs. They’re not even buying them as a guarantee of getting tickets for semi-finals and finals - Celtic’s allocation for these ‘big’ games isn’t enough to satisfy half their support.

The main reasons for buying a season ticket are threefold. A holder is guaranteed a seat twice a season for the Rangers games. A season ticket is the passport to tickets for European ties. And, finally, it ensures the holder gets in to Parkhead for all League matches.

The first reason remains unchallenged. But the second is looking dodgy. Celtic won’t meet a ‘big name’ in the UEFA Cup until the third round at least. At the very best a run to the quarter-finals could produce opposition of a comparable attraction to that of the first phase of the Champions League.

But the last time Celtic played in the last eight of a European competition you could record the highlights on a Betamax video.

As for guaranteeing a place at every game, this was one of Fergus McCann’s strokes of genius. In over 100 years of League football prior to McCann’s arrival at Parkhead, Celtic’s highest average league attendance was 37,000.Somehow McCann managed to persuade the supporters that the only way they would be guaranteed one of the 60,000 seats at Celtic Park was to buy a season ticket.

He revolutionised the club’s income at a stroke. Previously, Celtic could fill their ground for the Old Firm games and big European ties - just like today. But for other domestic fixtures there was no great demand. Sure, if it was a title-clinching match or if a provincial side was making a rare championship challenge then more than 60,000 would roll up at Parkhead. But those fixtures were few and far between. Other than for a handful of matches, Celtic Park was usually half-full - or less.

McCann took a leaf out of Rangers’ book. Their rivals had pulled the same stroke when rebuilding Ibrox. But McCann upped the ante. He wanted his ground to be the biggest so the rebuilt Parkhead holds 10,000 more than Ibrox or Hampden - a ground McCann did his best to destroy, reasoning that Celtic could stage international matches and pocket the lion’s share of the loot in doing so.

But now the first stirrings of rebellion can be detected. Celtic supporters are happy to take out loans and fork out a small fortune in July if it gets them a guarantee that they can shell out more to see Real Madrid, Man Utd or Juventus in the Champions League. They’re not quite so happy to do the same for the privilege of watching Suduva.

And here’s the rub. When (not if) the day comes when that waiting list no longer wants to take up their season tickets, Celtic are in big trouble. Once supporters start to realise that they can get into 95% of games by paying at the gate, that’s what they’ll do.

The loss of 20,000-30,000 season ticket holders would be devastating as all the cash collected up front and gathering interest vanishes to be replaced by half as many people paying once a fortnight.

The only way out of this downward spiral is success in Europe. Which of course is what Celtic haven’t had for over two decades.

Lest anyone think this article is prejudiced against the boys in green, the same holds true for Rangers as well. The difference is that with those extra 10,000 seats, Celtic have more to lose. Nor is it restricted to Scotland. The most recent round of games in the English premiership saw six of the ten fixtures sold out. But at the four that didn’t have ‘house full’ notices there was a combined total of over 30,000 empty seats. And the Juventus v Arsenal tie in last season’s Champions League attracted a paltry 8,562!

Once fans spot the empty places around them they start to question the wisdom of their own purchase. At Celtic Park, those gaps have started to appear.



For the Scottish Cup 1873-1939 click here
For the Scottish Cup Post-1945 click here
For the League Cup from 1946 click here



Back to homepage Click here to download sample pdf files BLUE-WEB INTERNET DESIGN