'˜Play Celtic v Rangers abroad or it will lose global appeal'
The two Glasgow clubs will be confronting each other in next season’s top flight following a four-year absence of the sort of league confrontations that gave Scotland’s bitterest footballing rivalry an international renown. However, Charlie Stillitano, the Relevant Sports chairman whose company is behind the International Champions Cup that will see Celtic play Leicester City, Barcelona and Internazionale next month, believes that without creating a new audience for the rivalry it will fade into obscurity beyond these borders.
“We had the idea for a Rivalry Cup in America. They tell me I’m insane!” said Stillitano, who claims he believes in respecting brands and meritocracy – despite attracting controversy earlier in the year by holding discussions about a breakaway European super league that involved the big five footballing nations.
“The plan was to have River-Boca, Celtic-Rangers, Roma-Lazio – all the really friendly rivalries.
“One of the things that was strange is that some of these games really translate well into North America. We think a Celtic-Rangers rivalry in the US wouldn’t be anywhere near like it is in Scotland. The idea was to do one in Toronto, one in Boston and that it would be a fun thing to do.
“We just could never make it work – due to genuine concerns over security.
“But these are the types of events we should do before this rivalry dies. Or that it becomes so local that people don’t understand the beauty of Celtic-Rangers. We want to host it away from Scotland, whether that is Wembley, Asia or North America. I’d like to do it every year, or at least every couple of years. It’s completely safe in North America but I also think it could be managed at a place like Wembley. They are used to the biggest events in the world. How could they not handle it?
“One of the problems you have with clubs like Celtic and Napoli, who have fans all around the world, is that the support is dying in these places.
“It’s a challenge because the kids are all growing up supporting other teams. If we don’t start taking Celtic-Rangers across the world, then the support is only going to be local for these teams. Then, eventually, it will die out across the world because the kids of Celtic fans now follow Barcelona or Bayern Munich instead.”