THE use of the phrase ‘the Old Firm’ to describe Celtic and Rangers stretches back to the early1900s and has come to denote a rather cordial arrangement whereby the occupants of both these Glasgow boardrooms profited rather handily from their duopoly over the Scottish game.

Okay, so Rangers were already 16 years old as a club by the time Celtic came into existence but they were invited over for a friendly to mark the inauguration of first Celtic Park and back then it was commonplace for the two clubs to travel together through to fixtures in Edinburgh. After the 1909 Scottish Cup final replay at Hampden – it was drawn 1-1, after the first match had finished 2-2 - both sets of fans even joined forces and rioted together in protest at they felt was institutionalised skullduggery to force them to stump up for a third match.

The intervening century of course has seen many ebbs and flows in the inter-dependency of these two clubs, Even in the modern era, after the long years when Rangers refused to sign Catholic players, companies such as Carling and NTL thought nothing of having lucrative joint sponsorships with both halves of the divide.

One-upmanship between the pair is quite simply a fact of West of Scotland life. But it seems to me that 2018 might just signal a new stage in the relationship. In other words, in some ways at least, I am starting to think that those Celtic fans who have told me ‘there is no such thing as the Old Firm’ pretty much every week since the financial collapse of Rangers might just be right. Both sets of supporters may still be bonded by the rivalry, but any sense of commonality of purpose in the boardrooms seems to have long since left town.

When Rangers went into administration then liquidation in 2012, one of the key unanswered questions was exactly what Celtic thought of it all. While they eventually confirmed that (along with the rest of the league, bar Kilmarnock, who abstained) they had voted against the Ibrox side being allowed to stay in what was the SPL, having to start from the bottom up meant a financial model largely predicated on the broadcast buck of four Old Firm matches a season was out the window for at least three seasons. In the end, it turned out to be four. Peter Lawwell openly spoke of it costing Celtic £10m a season.

By contrast, the Parkhead side have thrived – both on and off the park - since Rangers returned to the Premiership. To have their city rivals in the top division yet still apparently years away from competing on an equal financial footing has felt a bit like the early part of the David Murray era in reverse.

That is where Rangers’ decision to cut the away allocation on ‘Old Firm’ day (and its reciprocal move at Parkhead) comes in. As much box office as Steven Gerrard versus Brendan Rodgers in the dug-outs on Glasgow derby day seems to offer, this is a development which could alter the dynamic of this match for the broadcast viewer for good, however one-sided it has generally been in recent seasons.

There is a logic in Rangers’ calculations, both to maximise season-ticket sales and potentially increase their chance of winning matches and mounting a league challenge short-term. If it means torpedoing the biggest show in town for the external TV viewer then so be it.

The same applies to the protests from Dave King about Gary Hughes, a non-executive director on the SFA board, and Murdoch MacLennan, the new SPFL chairman, and by extension Celtic largest single shareholder Dermot Desmond. From the days of Fergus McCann taking down Jim Farry over the handling of Jorge Cadete’s transfer in 1999, big football clubs have always sought to flex their muscle when it comes to the corridors of power but, with one side hunting out back pages to discredit members of the Scottish football hierarchy and the other side backing calls from its fans for punishments for past European licences and EBTs, once again this seems like a relationship at crisis point.

Perhaps it was understandable that the balance of power in the Scottish game might swing against Rangers as they sorted themselves out again in the lower divisions. But it may take a while for the equilibrium of happy Old Firm co-existence to return.