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. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 10

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch every game during Week 10 of the PL.

  2. David Silva to miss Manchester derby, out three weeks with knee injury

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Manchester City v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    City and United tangle at 8am ET on NBCSN this Sunday, and the absence of Silva will be a bonus for Louis van Gaal’s Red Devils.

  3. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton the standouts

    Oct 31, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT

    Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez AP

    Here’s how PST’s editor and lead writer sees things panning out this weekend.

  4. Premier League Power Rankings: Will Chelsea ever lose, Burnley ever win?

    Oct 31, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    Leicester City v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    We are a quarter of the way through the season. Scary, right? Anyway, here’s our latest rankings of power.

  5. Benfica boss says he’s FIFA Coach of the Year material; Five more names

    Oct 31, 2014, 10:21 AM EDT

    Rodgers Getty Images

    “Some weren’t in the European finals, some weren’t even domestic champions,” said Jesus. Others were, and weren’t nominated. We’ll give out some props.

  6. Premier League Preview: Newcastle United vs. Liverpool

    Oct 31, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL-NEWCASTLE Getty Images

    Suddenly-hot Newcastle United put their three-match win streak on the line when they host Liverpool on Saturday morning.

  7. Champs no more, proud Sporting KC coach Vermes laments late goal

    Oct 31, 2014, 8:40 AM EDT

    Peter Vermes AP

    Bradley Wright-Phillips netted twice in the final 13 minutes and Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes was left to explain the loss.

  8. Steven Gerrard will play somewhere next season, Liverpool deal or not

    Oct 31, 2014, 7:47 AM EDT

    Liverpool Training Session Getty Images

    It’s difficult to imagine him playing in a different shirt, but one-club men grow more rare by the season.

  9. MLS playoff update: How does postseason picture look right now?

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:13 AM EDT

    mauro-diaz-10-of-fc-dallas Getty Images

    After FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls defeated their opponents in the first two games of the MLS playoffs, the postseason picture exists in its beginning stages.

  10. Robbie Keane, regardless of playoffs, will play in US-Ireland match overseas

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:37 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Galaxy  v Chivas USA Getty Images

    Robbie Keane stands ready to play for his international side right after the LA Galaxy’s playoff contests vs. Real Salt Lake.

  11. WATCH: Men in Blazers preview Round 10

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:38 PM EDT

    Can United bounce back from 'that' defeat at Leicester? Getty Images

    Men in Blazers preview Round 10, most notably the Manchester derby.

  12. Fernando Torres on time at Chelsea: ‘I needed to feel important’

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:36 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-CHELSEA-STEAUA BUCHAREST

    Fernando Torres, expanding on his decision to leave Chelsea on loan, says he wanted to “feel important.”

  13. Sam Allardyce delighted Newcastle hasn’t axed Pardew

    Oct 30, 2014, 7:21 PM EDT

    Alan+Pardew+Sam+Allardyce+VFGweDnwiSUm Getty Images

    West Ham boss Sam Allardyce is happy for the recent triumphs of criticized Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.

  14. Wayne Rooney cleared to play in Manchester derby

    Oct 30, 2014, 6:35 PM EDT

    Will United surge towards the top four with 14 games to go? AP

    Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney will be available in the upcoming Manchester derby following his three-match suspension.

  15. Celtic midfielder Aleksandar Tonev faces seven-game ban over racism

    Oct 30, 2014, 5:56 PM EDT

    Aleksandar-Tonev-529522 Getty Images

    Action taken against alleged racist actions in the Scottish Premiership.

  16. Daniel Sturridge links injury problems to his ‘Caribbean vibes’

    Oct 30, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

    Manchester City Liverpool Soccer AP

    Sturridge on injury woes: “Maybe it’s my body type, maybe it’s hereditary.”

  17. Fabio Capello attempted to ink Messi on loan at Juventus

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v Club Leon - Joan Gamper Trophy Getty Images

    A young Messi was eyed by Juventus in 2005, says Russia manager Frank Capello.

  18. Twitter reacts to Los Angeles FC’s entry into Major League Soccer

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT

    B1NhSSECIAIZL5p

    How has the soccer world (via Twitter) responded to the news? With a mixture of interest and humor.

Featured video

PST Extra: The Manchester derby