Barry Hearn: Scots football can’t focus solely on Old Firm

Barry Hearn speaking at the Scottish FA convention in 2014. Picture: SNS

Barry Hearn speaking at the Scottish FA convention in 2014. Picture: SNS

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Barry Hearn, the sports promoter who whipped up a storm when he heavily criticised those in charge of Scottish football, has cautioned the SPFL from focusing too much on the return of the Old Firm derby.

This Saturday sees Celtic and Rangers meet on league duty for the first time since 2012, prior to Rangers’ financial collapse.

During the Ibrox club’s absence from the top flight, the SPFL went through a barren spell where they couldn’t attract a sponsor for two years.

This prompted Hearn to savage the Scottish football league’s governing body, including chief executive Neil Doncaster, when he spoke at the Scottish FA convention in December 2014.

Almost two years later, Hearn, while hailing the return of the Old Firm derby as “fantastic”, echoed some of his earlier sentiments that Scottish football should be looking to champion itself further, rather than just relying on two teams to sell the game.

He told the Evening Times: “It is fantastic news for Scottish football that Rangers are there and the Old Firm derby is back. That is a massive game.

“It is great news for Scottish football and it will improve various sponsorship and TV deals because of the certainty of those games happening, and that is obviously a shot in the arm for Scottish football. But it mustn’t be an excuse and you forget about the bigger picture, which is the promotion of football in Scotland.

“In a utopian world, Dunfermline, Aberdeen, whoever, are all as big as Rangers and Celtic. That is not going to happen but it shouldn’t stop you trying to make it happen.”

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