If Scottish football did not have enough problems off the field as it is, the next fiasco to emanate from our game is the decision to host the Ramsdens Cup at Easter Road.
Rangers are seemingly angered at the decision to award the Ramsdens Cup Final to Easter Road, the home of Hibernian Football Club, rather than Ibrox stadium or even Celtic Park.
Rangers manager Ally McCoist is seemingly perplexed at the thought of Scotland’s lower league cup final not being played at one of the ‘big’ stadiums in Scotland.
McCoist said: “I would have played it at Celtic Park because I want as many people in the stadium as possible. We have 36,000 season tickets and I would imagine we could get rid of a vast, vast number of tickets in that region if not more. To maximise it in terms of the PR of the cup as well why not take it to the biggest stadium? If it’s good enough for a Scottish Cup then I would have thought it was good enough for a Ramsdens Cup Final. Also if they take the game to Edinburgh why not give it to the club who is needing money? Hearts are in administration, why not help them? I don’t get it.”
He does have a point in terms of giving the final to Hearts as they need the money, BUT in terms of playing the game at Celtic Park because they have 36,000 season ticket holders is simply ludicrous with all respect.
First of all handing the cup final to Celtic Park would have given Rangers an unfair advantage – not on the field of play but by giving them access to significantly more tickets for a match that would be more like a home match for the Ibrox side – therefore impacting on Raith Rovers even before a ball was kicked.
So I do not blame Raith Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton for favouring playing the final at Easter Road. While Rangers will still be given a higher percentage of the ticket allocation, it won’t be as one-sided as it would have been at Celtic Park or any other big stadium in the country.
McCoist added: “I would have maximised the situation and taken it to the biggest stadium. If I am managing director of Ramsdens my input would have been ‘take it to a 60,000 stadium. I want the Ramsdens name all over the place’. So it’s a strange decision. But we are where we are and we’ve not had an input into it. I’m delighted we are in the Final but disappointed all the Rangers fans who want to go will not get the chance.”
Even if the game was hosted at the national stadium, Hampden Park, if it was available – Rangers would not have been given 36,000 tickets for the match. So season ticket holders would have missed out on the game – so McCoist’s point about fans missing out is just another excuse to back playing the final at a big stadium.
The Ramsdens Cup aka the League Challenge Cup has been held at ‘wee’ grounds ever since its inception, because it is a lower league competition not Scotland’s premier cup competitions like the Scottish Cup or the Scottish League Cup.
The final is always played at a neutral venue, one that is geographically close or of equal distance to where the clubs contesting the match are based.
So Celtic Park does not fit the criteria of stadia for the final – as it would only suit Rangers both in terms of distance as well as number of fans in attendance.
When the competition started in season 1990-91, Fir Park played host to the final between Dundee and Ayr United with an attendance of 11,506.
Since then Fir Park has hosted the final three further times. Love Street has hosted it once, McDiarmid Park has seen the final played at their ground eight times, Broadwood Stadium four times, Excelsior Stadium once, Dens Park once and Almondvale twice including last year’s final between Queen of the South and Partick Thistle.
So the decision to award the final at Easter Road, with a capacity of 20,421, is one that gives both sides an equal footing before kick off.
However, it seems that some elements within the Rangers support led by the usual suspects within the blogging fraternity believe that such a decision was made because Rod Petrie and Peter Lawwell are on the Scottish FA board. Even though it is an SPFL competition, whose board is made up of Neil Doncaster (CEO), Ralph Topping (Chairman), Eric Riley (Celtic), Stephen Thompson (Dundee United), Duncan Fraser (Aberdeen), Les Gray (Hamilton Academical), Mike Mulraney (Alloa Athletic) and Bill Darroch (Stenhousemuir).
The focusing on the stadium decision stinks of an excuse to take the focus away from Rangers continuing off the field problems and trying to claim that their calls for a bigger stadium for the lower league cup competition would be good for Scottish football as a whole – when all receipts from gate, tv, commercial [less all costs ticket printing, ground rent, police, stewards etc]is split between clubs equally. So that blows McCoist’s claims that it would be good for Scottish football when it would only help two clubs – Rangers and Raith Rovers.
At the end of the day playing at Celtic Park or another big stadium would give Rangers an unfair advantage and a partisan atmosphere within what is supposed to be a neutral venue. Neither Rangers nor Raith Rovers had a say in where they were to play the final. McCoist is correct in that Rangers would not have been consulted in the decision to play the final neither were Raith Rovers – it was a decision by the SPFL and anyone at board room level with a conflict of interest would have left the meeting to let the others vote on the decision.
That is why Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell did not vote on the decision to give the Scottish Cup Final to Celtic Park as there was a clear conflict of interest. Despite claims from the paranoid ramblings of certain elements.
Raith Rovers are happy with Easter Road as the venue for the final, we know that Rangers are not. Raith Rovers are backing parity in the stadium over cashing in on their share of an increased gate. It looks like Turnbull Hutton is in favour of sporting integrity once again.