Old Firm must play abroad or risk los­ing fans

Stil­li­tano: Over­seas sup­port is dy­ing out

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW LIND­SAY

THE or­gan­iser of the In­ter­na­tional Cham­pi­ons Cup last night claimed the Old Firm game will have to be staged over­seas in fu­ture – to pre­vent the in­ter­na­tional fan bases of Celtic and Rangers dis­ap­pear­ing.

Charlie Stil­li­tano, the co-founder and chair­man of competition pro­mot­ers Rel­e­vant Sports, re­vealed back in April that he wanted to play the Glas­gow derby match abroad for the first time as a pre-sea­son friendly.

Speak­ing on a visit to Glas­gow to pro­mote the friendly be­tween Scot­tish cham­pi­ons Celtic and their English coun­ter­parts Le­ices­ter City next month, the Amer­i­can ex­pressed the opin­ion that do­ing so would main­tain in­ter­est in for­eign coun­tries.

And he warned the fi­nan­cial reper­cus­sions for the Park­head and Ibrox clubs if they fail to pro­mote them­selves and main­tain their pro­file in the likes of Asia, Aus­tralia and the United States would be cat­a­strophic.

“One of the prob­lems you have with clubs like Celtic, who have fans all around the world, is that the sup­port is dy­ing in these places,” said Stil­li­tano. “The diehard fans are get­ting older.

“If we don’t start tak­ing Celtic-Rangers across the world, then the sup­port is only go­ing to be lo­cal for these teams. Then, even­tu­ally, it will die out across the world be­cause the kids of Celtic fans now fol­low Barcelona or Bay­ern Mu­nich in­stead.”

The big­gest clubs in Eng­land are now able to of­fer far larger salaries to play­ers than clubs in Scot­land as well as most other coun­tries on the con­ti­nent as a re­sult of the £5 bil­lion broad­cast­ing deal they struck with BT Sports and Sky last year.

Stil­li­tano, who was re­ported to be in­volved in talks about a break­away Euro­pean Su­per League com­pris­ing the big­gest clubs on the con­ti­nent last sea­son, be­lieves Celtic and Rangers must be in­creas­ingly in­no­va­tive in or­der to main­tain their stand­ing in the world game.

“I think there needs to be a re­bal­ance,” he said. “There needs to be recog­ni­tion for the great clubs like Celtic and Rangers who have this in­cred­i­ble world­wide fan base. You don’t want it to wither on the vine here.

“There’s only five mil­lion peo­ple in Scot­land. You’re not go­ing to have 50 mil­lion any time soon. There’s mil­lions of Celtic and Rangers fans across the world and there has to be some recog­ni­tion of that.

“We want to host the Old Firm game away from Scot­land, whether that is Wem­b­ley, Asia or North Amer­ica. We did United-Liver­pool in Mi­ami. Great game, no trou­ble. There was a lot of fun rib­bing and that was it. We are also do­ing the Manch­ester derby in Bei­jing. “Why not ex­port Celtic-Rangers?”

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