Skip to content

Letters from London: The Most Talked About Team in Britain

Aug 21, 2012, 9:02 AM EDT

Rangers' Little celebrates scoring his third goal against East Stirlingshire during their Scottish Football League division three soccer match in Glasgow Reuters

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Reports: Manchester United submitted two bids for Gareth Bale over $110 million

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:28 PM EDT

    Bale Getty Images

    Apparently Louis van Gaal really, really wants Gareth Bale on his team.

  2. Report: AZ Alkmaar speaking with Werder Bremen about Aron Johannsson

    Aug 3, 2015, 7:55 PM EDT

    Johannsson Getty Images

    Could the USMNT forward be thinking about a move to the Bundesliga?

  3. Brighton brings back club hero Bobby Zamora, fans explode with joy

    Aug 3, 2015, 7:05 PM EDT

    Zamora Getty Images

    Bobby Zamora has returned to his old club 12 years after leaving, and Brighton fans couldn’t be more excited.

  4. Agent says Gonzalo Higuain rejected Napoli contract extension

    Aug 3, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT

    Higuain Getty Images

    Gonzalo Higuain won’t be leaving Napoli this summer, but he’s not impressed by the club’s feeble attempt at a contract extension.

  5. Juventus lose Sami Khedira for 2 months to hamstring tear

    Aug 3, 2015, 5:35 PM EDT

    Khedira Getty Images

    A massive blow to Juventus puts them on alert for midfield cover.

  6. Will this year’s Liverpool spending spree work better than the last?

    Aug 3, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    FirminoBenteke Getty Images

    Liverpool has spent big for the second straight summer, but it appears the Reds may have learned a valuable lesson.

  7. Lyon announces deal for Manchester United wing-back Rafael

    Aug 3, 2015, 3:48 PM EDT

    Rafael Getty Images

    Rafael’s rocky seven-year tenure with Manchester United is over as he heads to France.

  8. Premier League Goalkeeper preview: Who’s in our Top Five, and who switched clubs?

    Aug 3, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    <> at Emirates Stadium on July 28, 2015 in London, England. Getty Images

    Not a great deal has changed in the world of Premier League goalkeepers this offseason, but among the differences is a huge one: Petr Cech has moved from Chelsea to Arsenal.

  9. Best starting lineups for all 20 Premier League teams – Do you agree?

    Aug 3, 2015, 2:25 PM EDT

    PST selects the strongest XI’s for each PL team ahead of the 2015-16 season. Let us know what you think.

  10. Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema out injured for Real Madrid

    Aug 3, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Real Madrid v Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Real Madrid v Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League

    Forwards both left off Real’s Audi Cup squad after training ground injuries.

  11. Monday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Van Dijk to Southampton, Benzema to Arsenal

    Aug 3, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    All of the latest gossip from around the PL, right here.

  12. VIDEO: Watch Arsene Wenger snub Jose Mourinho handshake. Who is in the wrong?

    Aug 3, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    Arsenal v Chelsea - Premier League Preview Getty Images

    Wenger and Mourinho’s feud continues, but should both manager’s bite the bullet and make up?

  13. Paris Saint-Germain a “step up” from Manchester United for Angel di Maria

    Aug 3, 2015, 10:42 AM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-PSG-NICE Getty Images

    PSG’s skipper Silva is risking the wrath of United’s fans around the globe.

  14. Cristiano Ronaldo buys his agent a Greek island… as a wedding gift

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo Signs Contract Renewal For Real Madrid Getty Images

    Real Madrid superstar is a baller on and off the pitch.

  15. MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 2-0 FC Dallas (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    Accam Getty Images

    David Accam helped lead Chicago Fire over FC Dallas to end the visitors five-game winning streak.

  16. WATCH: Ex-Barcelona midfielder Xavi scores a wonderful free-kick on debut for Qatari club

    Aug 2, 2015, 8:06 PM EDT

    Xavi Getty Images

    Xavi gets up for preseason friendlies, and in his first match for his new club, the 35-year-old rips a classic free kick.

  17. MLS Snapshot: San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 Portland Timbers (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 7:03 PM EDT

    Valeri Getty Images

    Diego Valeri missed a penalty as neither side could take advantage of its few big chances.

Featured video

What can we expect from PL new boys?