Old Firm must play abroad or risk losing fans
Stillitano: Overseas support is dying out
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?”