Aug 21, 2012, 9:02 AM EDT
LONDON – “Did you see the attendance,” a man calls to another table at the Sussex Arms, a pub in Westminster. As Gary Neville analyzes the round’s results for Sky Sports, the two tables have started their own weekend review, with the most talked about team in Britain stealing the group’s attentions from the Premier League.
“They’re in the fourth tier,” a middle-aged man tells a group of young men from Manchester. Of course, he’s talking about Glasgow Rangers. “Normally, second and third tier, you get a 200, 300 people. Rangers got 44,000.”
The number was actually larger. Rangers got 49,118 to their Saturday match at Ibrox against East Stirlingshire, the third-highest attended match in Britain (only Arsenal and Newcastle drew more). The weekend’s four other fourth division matches drew a combined 2,402 people, with Elgin City’s 631 the largest non-Rangers crowd.
With such an ardent fanbase, it’s easy to see why Britain remains fascinated with the Glaswegians. The team was a prominent part of Football Focus (BBC’s traditional match day lead in), with Mark Lawrenson and Peter Reid still expressing shock at the circumstances, even though the club’s application to rejoin Scotland’s Premier League was rejected at the beginning of July. Throughout the weekend, most of Britain’s review shows echoed Football Focus’s attentions, Rangers’ first home match since relegation clearly a story to be pushed.
Reid, 56, and Lawrenson, 55, are from a time when Rangers were a huge and significant club. As evidenced by their attendance, they remain huge, but embodying the wane Scottish soccer has experienced in recent years, Rangers are hardly significant. Last season, the club failed to play their way into both Champions and Europa League. In a season of turmoil (entering administration in February), Rangers failed to win any of Scotland’s three trophies for the first time since 2007. Combined with the pitfall in the Scottish league’s prestige, Rangers’ significance outside Scotland may have never bene lower.
All of which makes this weekend’s coverage curious. Among younger soccer fans, you see Rangers’ waning significance (just as one example, the man quoting Rangers’ attendance numbers at Sussex Arms appeared twice the age of his target audience), but on television, nearly every show treated Rangers as if it were a story fit to put on a pedestal just below the Premier League’s opening weekend.
And perhaps it was. After all, the club did draw just under 50,000 people to a fourth-tier Scottish league match. That, independent of Rangers’ financial problems, is huge news. But if Rangers F.C. wasn’t one of the teams involved, 50,000 fans at a Third Division match would have been treated as final segment curiosity, like Ron Burgundy’s waterskiing squirrel in Anchorman. Instead, it was a top of the show issue that drew panel analysis.
When we see coverage like this – disproportionate attention given to a story that was more attractive to a preceding generation of fans – it’s important to know how media works. The people who make the final call on the big stories are usually ones that come from Ried and Lawrenson’s generation. They’ve worked their entire careers to become managing editors and editors in chief, levels they’ve reached because they’ve been successful at their jobs. That success was garnered by their coverage of big stories, and while those editors (in Britain) were coming up, Rangers would have been a big story. Once you’re on top of the pile, you’ve developed habits, routines, instincts, all of which lead to Rangers continuing to get headline coverage even though the person who’ll eventually take your seat is already focusing on other, more relevant stories.
In the United States, we see this with the Kentucky Derby. Do you see today’s major media consumers (the 18-35 demographic) consumed with horse racing? Neither do I. Same goes for golf, tennis, and to a certain extent, baseball. The people who are coming into their money now (the people who advertisers want to cultivate) still love their football and basketball, but they also love Mixed Martial Arts and soccer. If your major sports network doesn’t cover those, in 10 years, it’s not going to be covering anything.
Rangers coverage is a product of that cycle. In media, people spend their entire careers working to get the big chair only to find a cold water irony once they recede into its leather: Their knowledge is already outdated. The first thing most successful people in sports media must do is change.
But old habits die hard, which is why the Kentucky Derby is still huge in the States, baseball is still insecurely touted as the national pastime, and Rangers F.C. got disproportionate media coverage in Britain this weekend.
Which, for three days, has made them the most talked about team in Britain.
Apr 21, 2015, 7:25 PM EDT
Enrique has won 42 of his first 50 games in charge at Barcelona, and has his side gunning for a treble.
Apr 21, 2015, 6:37 PM EDT
Toure: “No amount of wages will make me stay at a club if I feel that I no longer belong there or if no challenge exists for me.”
Apr 21, 2015, 5:48 PM EDT
Time to take a trip down memory lane and look at some stunning UCL comebacks.
Apr 21, 2015, 5:08 PM EDT
This. Is. Awesome.
Apr 21, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT
Guardiola’s boys batter Porto to reach the final four of the Champions League.
Barcelona 2-0 (5-1, agg.) Paris Saint-Germain: Neymar brace eases Barca into Champions League semifinals
Apr 21, 2015, 4:39 PM EDT
Barcelona reaches the semifinals for the seventh time in eight seasons as the Catalans eliminated PSG from Champions League play.
Apr 21, 2015, 3:39 PM EDT
Bayern Munich has put in FIVE first half goals against FC Porto, while Barcelona tightened it’s grip on a semifinal berth.
Apr 21, 2015, 3:18 PM EDT
A thigh strain threatens to end his injury-plagued season.
Apr 21, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT
Manchester United spent the most money in the Premier League, while Tottenham made the most.
FOLLOW LIVE – Champions League: Bayern Munich, PSG aim to overturn 3-1 deficits to Barcelona, FC Porto
Apr 21, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT
Two UCL quarterfinals will take place on Tuesday. Follow them both live, right here.
Wolfsburg, already down 4-1, will be without De Bruyne and Schurrle for Europa League 2nd leg vs Napoli
Apr 21, 2015, 12:36 PM EDT
As they look to mount a dream comeback on the road, the Bundesliga club will be without two of its best attackers.
Apr 21, 2015, 11:41 AM EDT
Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini has dubbed him the “new Messi” in an attempt to boost his value.
Apr 21, 2015, 10:23 AM EDT
With the most goals of any defender in the Premier League, Chris Smalling has emerged as a solid member of Louis van Gaal’s lineup at Old Trafford.
Apr 21, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT
Manager Neil Redfearn is dealing with countless off the field issues, while the club’s legal team now has a new task with problems piling up.
Apr 21, 2015, 9:12 AM EDT
A player whose departure many thought was a foregone conclusion appears to be reconsidering.
Apr 21, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
NBCSports.com’s Managing Editor Randy Kim spoke with Der Kaiser, as the German legend visited NYC.
Apr 21, 2015, 7:42 AM EDT
Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, and Marcelo are all already out for tomorrow’s 2nd leg with Atletico Madrid, and now their striker is unavailable as well.
Apr 20, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT
Mourinho says Chelsea will look to the club’s stacked youth academy for reinforcements, as well as the transfer market.
Apr 20, 2015, 9:44 PM EDT
Liverpool’s captain-in-waiting is reportedly set to sign a new long-term deal at Anfield.
Apr 20, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT
PSG and Bayern Munich did themselves no favors in the first leg, but it’s still 90 minutes from over.
- VIDEO: Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller grabs megaphone, leads fans’ celebrations 3
- Bayern Munich 6-1 (7-4, agg.) FC Porto: Bayern obliterate Porto to reach UCL semifinal 2
- Barcelona 2-0 (5-1, agg.) Paris Saint-Germain: Neymar brace eases Barca into Champions League semifinals 0
- FOLLOW LIVE – Champions League: Bayern Munich, PSG aim to overturn 3-1 deficits to Barcelona, FC Porto 0
- Chris Smalling signs new Manchester United contract through 2019 0
- Franz Beckenbauer: Der Kaiser weighs in on Klopp, Dante and Bayern’s CL hopes 0