Ugly scenes mar Old Firm return in Celtic Park

Saturday’s events have focused attention once more on the most combustible derby

The first league meeting between the Old Firm in more than four years was marred by ugly scenes inside and outside Celtic Park in Glasgow on Saturday.

Rangers fans destroyed a toilet block in the away section of the ground. Widely circulated photos showed extensive damage, with doors pulled off hinges and ceiling tiles torn down.

In the Celtic end, sex dolls with Rangers scarves were seen hanging from the stands during the game. Images of the dolls with with their hands tied behind their backs appeared on social media following the match – which Celtic won 5-1.

Some Celtic fans also appeared to display sectarian banners in the stands.


Saturday’s scenes have focused attention once more on arguably the most combustible derby in world football.

The often unpleasant rivalry has deep roots in Glasgow's sectarian history. Celtic, founded in 1887 by Catholic immigrants in the city's east end, soon became identified with Ireland and Irishness.

Rangers, who were formed 15 years earlier, developed a strong Protestant character. Both teams' identities were built upon being perceived in opposition to each other, in politics as well as religion.,Celtic have been associated with socialism and Rangers with conservatism; Celtic with Irish republicanism, and Rangers with Ulster loyalism.

The end of the Troubles in Northern Ireland has done little to blunt the animosity between the Old Firm. The sectarian chants of the "Billy Boys" still frequently ring out on the terraces at Ibrox, while some supporters at Celtic Park sing songs celebrating the IRA.

Old Firm fixtures have routinely been characterised by violence – even on the pitch. In 1988, three Rangers players, Graham Roberts, Terry Butcher, Chris Woods, and Celtic’s Frank McAvennie, were tried for breach of the peace following a match.

The old rivalry was halted, temporarily, when Rangers was liquidated in 2012, after years of over spending. A new company was constituted and forced to start life in the fourth tier of Scottish football.

Saturday’s game marks the return of an aspect of Glasgow life that few outside of the two clubs’ huge fanbase will welcome. The massive policing operation around the game – which sees both sets of supporters separated long before they reach the game – is very expensive.

Policing the six derbies played in 2010/11, the last year for which figures are available, cost almost £2.4million. Old Firm games have also been linked to a rise in domestic violence in Glasgow and the west of Scotland.

While sectarianism has largely been eradicated from Scottish life, it remains a feature of Glasgow football, says Dave Scott, chief executive of anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth.

“As a society, sectarianism has been taken on but football has been the toughest nut to crack,” says Scott.

“The Old Firm is a mix of passion, pantomime and poison. We need to take the poison out of it.”

Many Celtic fans expressed disgust at the images of sex dolls draped in Rangers scarves, which some have linked to a recent suicide of the brother of a former Ibrox legend.

“Most Celtic fans seem to be appalled at the incredibly tasteless scene of dolls with Rangers scarves around them hanging from the stadium,” says Angela Haggerty, a Glasgow-based journalist and Celtic fan.

“It’s so shocking that many simply didn’t believe it until more and more evidence began emerging on social media. It’s still not clear exactly what motivated those responsible, but it coincided with World Suicide Prevention Day, which has added extra disgust.”

So far there has only been a single arrest in relation to Saturday’s game, of a 22-year-old man on a drink related charge. The vandalism in Celtic Park is being dealt with internally by the club.

A spokesperson for Police Scotland said the force had yet to receive any complaints over the images circulating online.

“There is lots on social media we haven’t received any complaints yet but we continue to monitor social media and action may be taken,” they said.

The Old Firm next meet in the Scottish premier league on New Year’s Eve.