On Saturday 3rd June Celtic will play Championship side Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the final of the Scottish Cup. The Glasgow giants are looking to seal a treble, having already landed the league and League Cup. There are no certainties in football but odds of 1/10 for the Bhoys to win in 90 minutes and just 1/16 to lift the trophy suggest that the treble is about as close to nailed on as you can get.

Should the Hoops get the job done on Saturday it will be their eighth domestic treble and fifth since 2016/17. That would move them ahead of Rangers in terms of trebles and also give them a 41st Scottish Cup. Over the past 10 years or so they have been by far the best team in Scotland but more generally, they and Rangers have dominated the football landscape north of the boarder. In this article we take a look at just how much the pair have controlled Scottish football and ask whether this is bad for the game.

Just How Dominant Have Rangers and Celtic Been?

Old Firm Derby - Celtic v RangersWith 14 trebles between them, and a 15th seemingly on the way, the Old Firm have clearly been hugely successful in Scottish football. When we drill down into those stats further their supremacy becomes even more striking.

Rangers have won the league 55 times, Celtic 53, with the next best Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs, all with four titles to their name. Put another way, the Glasgow pair have won the championship around 86% of the time. If we restrict our analysis to more recent times, we can see that no side has won the Scottish Premiership (or its forerunners) since Aberdeen’s last success in 1985. What’s more, the title has only left the Old Firm four times since 1965.

If we look at the Scottish Cup, the two giants are slightly less dominant, winning it “just” 74 times between them. Celtic have the upper hand here with 40 (surely 41 soon), to Rangers’ 34. Once again, though, if we look at the last 50 years or so only, we can see that Scottish football’s biggest two teams have been particularly successful.

Since 1968 it has gone to a non-Old Firm side just 18 times. This may seem like a lot but it should be remembered that the first Scottish Cup final was played in 1874 but neither Celtic nor Rangers got their hands on the trophy until 1892. Overall the pair have lifted the trophy around 55% of the time.

The League Cup, as in England, is the least prestigious piece of silverware on offer in Scotland. Founded in 1947, Rangers won the first ever League Cup and have won the competition 27 times in total. Celtic’s tally stands at 21, with Aberdeen next with six victories, ahead of Edinburgh duo Hearts (four) and Hibs (three). This means that between them the Old Firm pair have landed the Scottish League Cup approximately 63% of the time. Celtic have clearly taken a shine to the competition of late though, winning it in seven of the last nine seasons.

Is This Dominance Bad for Scottish Football?

Scottish Premiership League Table - 2022-23

It is not uncommon in any country for a small number of clubs to hold a virtual monopoly on silverware. However, there is a big difference between two or three clubs often vying for the title and the sort of dominance enjoyed by Glasgow’s two foremost teams.

For example, in England, whilst Man United and Liverpool are well clear of the chasing pack in terms of top-flight titles, one of the things that makes English football so appealing is that anyone can beat anyone. Moreover, there are often at least three or four teams challenging for the title, if not every season, then certainly over a period of a decade. In the last 10 years, for example, seven different clubs have finished in the top two. We just don’t see that in Scotland.

Almost 40 years have passed since the title left Glasgow and the reality is that it is a long, long time since any other club has even begun the season with the slimmest of hopes of topping the league table. Right from the first kick-off, all the rest are simply playing for third: not even second, but third. This lack of competition is surely bad for the sport in Scotland, but what can be done?

Will Anything Change?

The rich get richer, so the saying goes, and in football terms, those clubs at the top are, naturally, unwilling to relinquish their control. The battle at the moment is for the Gers to mount a challenge to the Bhoys. As for the rest, who cares, many might say. Such is the power enjoyed by Celtic and Rangers that any meaningful change is unlikely to occur. The giants of Glasgow hold all the aces and why would a turkey vote for Christmas?

Different options have been touted at various times, with the most obvious ways to try and make things more competitive being to introduce a salary cap, distribute more money to the lower teams, or even more radically, introduce some form of draft system. None of these are likely to happen though.

Another way that Scottish football would be made more competitive is an alternative route. Rather than bringing the chasing pack closer to Rangers and Celtic, what about if those two teams competed in England? This has been talked about for at least 30 years. But if anything, due to the way English and Scottish football have moved apart in financial terms since the huge success of the English Premier League, it now seems less likely than ever. So to answer the question, will anything change, we say no, unfortunately!