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Scottish football is damaged by loss of Old Firm games, poll finds

A clear majority of people believe senior football in Scotland has been diminished by the loss of regular Old Firm matches between Celtic and Rangers.

The first poll on the subject, carried out exclusively by YouGov for HeraldScotland, found a two to one verdict among Scots when asked about the effect on the Scottish Premier League by the absence of the traditional fixtures.

The Glasgow rivals last met in the top flight in April 2012, before Rangers were thrown out of the league and re-admitted to the old Third Division. They won it in season 2012-13, and are currently top of SPFL League 1, with a 100% points record.

But even assuming they win that race, and are promoted again after season 2014-15, the first Old Firm league reunion in the Scottish Premiership is still at least 18 months away, although the clubs could meet in cup ties before then. Both are still in this season's Scottish Cup, with the final to be held at Celtic Park.

Read Graham Spiers' verdict

The temporary demise of the Old Firm has provoked a mixed reaction among football fans: some Celtic supporters believe their team's success in Europe more than compensates; some Rangers followers say they've enjoyed visiting smaller clubs in the lower leagues; some fans of other clubs have welcomed the chance of increased exposure.

But almost all have a view about the Old Firm.

YouGov asked almost 1200 Scots: "Would you say the Scottish Premiership is better or worse off without regular Old Firm matches between Celtic and Rangers?"

In total, 36% said the league was worse, split evenly between "much worse" and "somewhat worse". A total of 19% said it was better - with 10% saying "somewhat better" and 9% "much better". A further 14% said neither better nor worse, while 31% didn't express an opinion.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the loss of the fixtures is felt most keenly in the west of Scotland. There, and in the central and south Scotland regions, the total "worse" rating jumped up to as high as 48%, while the "better" verdict fell as low as 12%.

Far more men than women expressed an opinion: 43-23% for men, 30-14% for women.

There are no significant variations based on age or social status, but the political allegiances of those polled does throw up one notable statistic: SNP supporters are almost split equally, with 33% saying the league is worse, while 26% say it's better. The responses from voters from the other three main parties are closely aligned to the overall trend.

Want to take part in polls like this one? Join the YouGov panel today.

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