Time to get firm with the Old Firm

Ranger's Madjid Bougherra (far left) is sent off by referee Calum Murray during the Scottish Cup fifth-round replay at Celtic Park
Ranger's Madjid Bougherra (far left) is sent off by referee Calum Murray during the Scottish Cup fifth-round replay at Celtic Park
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The Old Firm derby is a toxic and incendiary fixture which can often leave Glasgow’s casualty departments bursting at the seams.

I have never had the misfortune of covering the Rangers-Celtic ‘war’ and, frankly, I hope I am never asked.

The undercurrent of sectarian bigotry produces a crackling but wholly repulsive, backdrop.

A friend of my producer at ESPN who supports Celtic made the mistake of walking home alone in a green and white scarf after one Old Firm game.

He was set upon by a group of Rangers fans, who left his face scarred for life with a Stanley knife.

It is estimated that there have been 19 murders connected with the fixture in recent years.

Some fans wore tin hats in the past because thrown bottles would crash against stand stanchions and send glass raining down on people below.

Anyone wearing the wrong colours in the wrong pub is in danger.

Last week’s meeting in the Scottish Cup produced 13 yellow and three red cards and a vitriolic touchline bust-up between combative Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Rangers assistant boss Ally McCoist.

It was the fifth meeting this season between the deadly rivals and, perish the thought, there are still two more to be played before the end of the campaign.

That will take the cost of policing, law and hospital bills to a staggering £40m for a season packed with Old Firm games.

Is it all worth it? Of course not.

Over the years the fixture has involved many great players and dramatic games.

Now it is a game between two ordinary teams who would struggle to stay up in the English Premier League.

I am not sure the Glasgow economy can handle it but perhaps there needs to be a complete ban on alcohol sales in the city in the hours surrounding these poisonous occasions.

A Scottish Police Federation spokesman also suggested playing them behind closed doors.

That’s not going to happen but someone has to do something drastic to stop the kind of mayhem we witnessed last Wednesday.