FOOTBALL fans in Edinburgh were today implored to show their support for Hearts and Hibs next season as clubs across Scotland prepare for financial shortfalls with newco Rangers voted in to the Third Divison.
The ripple effect of having the Glasgow side shunted to the bottom tier of the game, which was decided on during a Scottish Football League meeting at Hampden Park yesterday, could lead to a re-negotiation of broadcasting deals and deprive clubs of anticipated income.
The absence of Rangers from the Scottish Premier League also denies other teams money generated by two visits from their vast travelling support during the season.
However, former Hearts chairman George Foulkes believes fans can play the biggest part in helping clubs survive. He advised all supporters of Hearts and Hibs to show their commitment by coming out in numbers and helping fill any financial void.
“I’ll be going to as many games as I can, home and away, and I think more Edinburgh people need to come out and support both Hibs and Hearts,” he told the Evening News. “The two teams have just contested the Scottish Cup final. If the people who went to the cup final were to attend Tynecastle and Easter Road regularly, we would be in a different league in terms of fan base. It’s clear there is a potential support base there. Now it’s time to realise that potential. I know people are worried about the finances but there are still a lot of supporters around. I would hope those who can’t go to away matches to support Rangers, but who come from Kilmarnock or Ayr or Motherwell or Edinburgh, go and see their local teams. They might find that’s more fun, more interesting, more enjoyable and a friendlier atmosphere. I’d like to see that happen where people take an interest in a local team rather than one in Glasgow.”
Foulkes also believes not having Rangers in the SPL offers Hearts an unprecedented chance to become the second force in Scottish football in years to come.
“I’ve said before we should be aiming to be the second force in Scottish football and I know Vladimir Romanov was derided a bit when he said that,” he continued. “But I think it’s possible. I believe we can do it given the right support and the right backing.”
The decision to accept Charles Green’s newco Rangers into the Third Division, rather the the First, was supported by 25 of the 30 SFL clubs at yesterday’s vote. While the concept of an SPL2 including Rangers has been mooted, as things stand, the Glasgow club will play in the bottom tier.
“I think it’s absolutely the right decision,” said Foulkes. “I think it’s what Vladimir Romanov suggested as well, that Rangers should take their punishment. The vast majority of Rangers supported wanted this because they believe they need to cleanse their whole system and, by going down to the third division and doing the penance, they will have done that.
“I hope the TV companies maintain their support and I think they will. They might have to revise things but there could be more interesting contests for them. Everyone assumes Celtic will run away with the league. They are favourites but the contest for European places will be very interesting. There could be a revival of Scottish football and some good could come out of this. I hope it will be the catalyst for complete change so that we aren’t playing each club four times a season.”