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Dundee v Celtic in the USA? Dens Park owners have lost it

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Scottish media outlet STV have reported that Premiership side Dundee have held preliminary discussions with the SPFL about holding a league game against Celtic in the USA.

While the SPFL will have to sanction such an idea, if the go ahead is given then it would be the first time that a Scottish top flight match has been played outside of the country.

The Dens Park side, owned by Texan-based Tim Keyes and business partner John Nelms since 2013, are reportedly eyeing up Philadelphia and Boston as potential venues for the game – with both cities home to a huge Irish American population and with that a sizeable number of Celtic supporters clubs with home they could secure a bumper crowd for the game.

The tie could be played as early as next season if given the go-ahead, but will Dundee get anything out of the fixture being held in the USA other than riding Celtic’s coat tails and earning themselves a few quid which will boost the coffers in the short term?

How many Dundee supporters are actually in the USA? Why hold the game in an area of the country which is predominantly home to Celtic supporters? Not to mention those who support EPL sides such as Liverpool and Manchester United? What does Dundee have to offer these fans?

It may be a good idea on paper with the American owners, hoping to gather support from their fellow Americans by holding a game there, taking their team over and hoping to convert fans to the way of Dundee Football Club.

There is also a huge risk that all they would do is further promote the Celtic brand and Dundee have nothing but scraps if that – and then when they return home to Dens Park, they find that the fan base that stayed loyal to them through thick and thin have turned their back on the club following this travelling circus of an idea.

If Dundee’s owners really want to expand their brand Stateside, why not do what other clubs do – use the pre-season to flog themselves to the market. They can set up a tour from East to West coast and even take in Canada if finances stretch that far – playing against both domestic sides but also a foreign side or two along the way.

Surely that idea has much more sense in it than a one-off game which reeks of nothing more than trying to milk those Celtic fans in the States of their money to boost Dundee’s coffers.

Would Celtic even contemplate playing a league game in the USA against Dundee? They would have to not only compensate their own fan base with the loss of one away game, but who would cover the costs of Celtic flying out there? Dundee? A match organiser? A title sponsor? Dundee’s owners?

Do you think Dundee v Celtic in the USA is a good idea?

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Back in 2010, the idea of a Celtic – Rangers match being played in the USA was touted with Boston being lined up as the host city.

And that followed on from an idea concocted by former Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov back in 2004, who proposed a league game between Celtic and Hearts be held in Australia – which failed to get past the drawing board.

The Celtic-Rangers game was criticised and both clubs attacked for being nothing more than moneygrabbers, while the Hearts idea was just laughed at. So what makes this proposal any different to the previous two?

Celtic may be flirting with the idea of starting up a North American Soccer League franchise, but at least they have the potential fan base over there to pull it off, Dundee should really focus on keeping their fans at home sweet and trying to build their numbers up before even contemplating playing games across the water let alone a league game.

The Dens Park side’s last home game, back on the 7th November, against Partick Thistle drew in 5,067 with a stadium capacity of 11,506. Their last home game against Celtic was back on the 22nd April 2015, when they lost 2-1 in front of 8,908 fans and the game before that saw 7,525 fans watch Celtic beat Dundee 2-0 in the Scottish Cup Fifth Round in February.

Anyone remember the United States Soccer League? Dundee United, Hibernian and Aberdeen do. Or should I say Dallas Tornado, Toronto City and Washington Whips.

Dallas Tornados 1967 more commonly known as Dundee United

Dallas Tornados 1967 more commonly known as Dundee United

The three Scottish clubs along with a number of clubs from around the world including Stoke City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Shamrock Rovers, Glentoran and Sunderland were imported into the USA to play games in the USSL’s inaugural season in 1967, while they looked to build their brand up.

Aberdeen finished champions of the Eastern Conference, with Hibernian being place third in the league. Dundee United played in the Eastern Conference and finished bottom of their league – with Wolves topping the group. Wolves would go on to beat Aberdeen in the final thanks to an own goal from Dons Hall of Famer Ally Shewan.

The league folded after just one season after it merged with the National Professional Soccer League, which imported clubs back into the country two years later.

Dundee United returned as Dallas Tornado and Kilmarnock travelled over to play as the St.Louis Stars.

How many American fans did these Scottish clubs gather the support of? Of course football [or soccer]in the 1960s was totally different to football nowadays in America – it is a growing sport rather than one in its infancy. So how can a club like Dundee compete with the domestic teams in the MLS? Such as Portland Timbers, LA Galaxy, FC Dallas, Columbus Crew, New York Red Bulls, DC United and Seattle Sounders to name but a few. And that is not even taking into consideration the clubs in the North American Soccer League or the huge following that the English Premier League has also.

Dundee would, with all respect, be pissing in the wind and all they will have to show for it would be the splashback – in this case the expenditure of playing such a game.

The English FA rejected a similar idea from the English Premier League in 2008, when they touted the idea of a ’39th game’ being played abroad to further expand the English game worldwide.

If the English don’t think its a good idea and we all know how well they have marketed their game – can you honestly see this game being a success for Dundee? Celtic will get to play in front of what is in effect a home support, they will also be able to flog merchandise by the bucket load and that potential support could further boost their wooing of the NASL for Celtic to secure a franchise within the league.

Can Dundee honestly be guaranteed similar? Not a chance in hell and that is why Dundee fans are rubbishing the idea on their fan forums and messageboards.

Perth Road Dee on The Dark Blues Forum said: “Checked the date three times there and it’s definitely not April the 1st. Absolutely ridiculous. £360 minimum for a season ticket. Celtic probably the 2nd biggest game after the derby but we’ll play the home game thousands of miles away overseas? It’s ridiculous.”

Cerulean added: “Futba’ can well and truly poke it if this ever happens.”

Edin_Dee gave his thoughts: “Absolutely ridiculous suggestion if true. I don’t care how much money we might get from this game. Dundee should be playing all home games in Dundee its as simple as that. Once you start travelling for “tourist” fans you lose your identity and identity is why most fans support Dundee I would say. Football needs to stop being so much about the money and more about the fans. Without fans football is nothing!

“If we play this game it is essentially allowing it to be like a Celtic home game so you are making it harder to get 3 points. Then the following week with all the jetlag etc. you are making it harder to get 3 points. A 6 point swing could make a massive difference to our season. In conclusion a massive NO!”

UoDee was contemplating turning his back on the game, if it comes to fruition, he commented: “Absolute farce. Can honestly see me not going back of [sic]we do this. Play each other an equal amount of times home and away. It’s that’s simple.”

However, Superdee warmed to the idea, he said: “Just read the article on STV. On the face of it our owners only think in money terms (seen that with prices etc..), so they must think they can make a profit out of it.

“I’d prefer if it was a pre-season game, but if its a league game, then so be it. A lot small business mentality going on here. Its one game, that Dundee could make a big profit from it. TV money, strips getting sold, in the long term leading to growth in our fan base which leads to more money. Surprised its not Houston or Austin though, Boston or Philadelphia must have a gap in market for it to be in one of these cities. Scottish Football is not great for bringing in money so any ‘out of the box’ ideas need to get looked at, at least. The club wouldn’t do it to lose money, so something must be in it for the club. Take my mrs to Boston for her holiday.”

While Cobra added: “A one-off game in the US that significantly boosts the coffers and helps put a better team on the park. I could live with that.

“I think if a club of our size is going to survive, prosper and win trophies, we need to be open to new ideas.”

And Valeyboy added: “Think people should think about this before the angry bashing of the keyboards, we are due two games against the Tic at dens next season, to move one ain’t a big deal, good chance we might get them in a cup draw as well, so missing one game against them, for potentionally a big pay day is a great idea, and I like the fact the Yanks are thinking outside the box, I’ll bet PH would welcome the extra money in his preseason budget.”

The Dundee board and the American owners should think about their actual supporters than the phantom ones they think they will attract to the Dark Blues. Otherwise they could see those who go to Dens Park disappear as quickly as a Giovanni Di Stefano law degree.

What are your thoughts on this proposed league game?

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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