In soccer and mainly Scottish soccer, two clubs have reigned supreme since time immemorial – Rangers Football Club and Celtic Football Club. The powerhouses have jointly had a stranglehold on Scotland’s top flight that has lasted for well over a century and accounts for over 80% of the Scottish Premiership titles and 50% of the Scottish Cup trophies since the competitions’ formation in 1890 and 1873 respectively. Any soccer fan worth their mettle can also attest to the heated rivalry that has existed longer between the two teams and continues to intensify with each passing year despite being older than most people alive today. A rivalry born out of the fact that the clubs often stand between each and ultimate glory.
Who has won more trophies Celtic or Rangers? As of 2022, Rangers have won more major trophies with an impressive 118 to Celtic’s 113. Rangers’ trophy haul includes 55 top-flight titles, 34 Scottish Cups, 27 Scottish League Cups, 1 Scottish Challenge Cup, and 1 European Cup Winners’ Cup. In comparison, Celtic’s trophy cabinet boasts 52 top-flight titles, 40 Scottish Cups, 20 Scottish League Cups, and 1 European Cup.
An Illustrious History
Rangers have arguably the most storied histories of any top-flight soccer club in Europe. Upon their formation in March 1872, predating the Scottish Cup by a year and the Scottish Premiership, the Scottish Football League by 18 years.
The Gers have won at least one top-flight title in every decade since the 1890s including three in the latter half of the 1940s – the aftermath of the Second World War. Rangers won their first major title in their maiden campaign in the now-defunct Scottish Football League alongside Dumbarton.
The club has overcome several key challenges over the years, the most prominent being the infamous Ibrox disaster of January 1971 where 66 fans lost their lives, and the financial collapse the team suffered in 2012 which led them to be demoted to the fourth tier of Scottish football.
The Light Blues nevertheless rose out of the ashes like the proverbial phoenix winning promotion to the third, second, and first tiers in the following three successive seasons, capping it off with winning their most recent Scottish Premiership title in their 2020-21 campaign. Their most successful era is undoubtedly the 1980 and 1990s when they won nine successive titles – a feat that only their archrivals Celtics have managed.
On the other hand, Celtic have charted a much smoother path throughout history and have equally won at least one top-tier title in every decade with the exception of the 1940s due to the Second World War and Rangers’ resurgence in the former and latter halves of that decade respectively.
The Boys have won the top-flight title in nine consecutive years twice – once under former legendary boss and Captain John Stein and most recently from their 2011-12 campaign to their 2019-20 season thanks to managers like Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennox.
The Celts are the only Scottish team to win the prestigious European Cup (now the UEFA Champions League Trophy) and the only team from Scotland to reach the finals having won the competition in its 1966-67 edition and finished as runners-up in their 1969-70 season.
Celtics equally had their fair share of financial woes in the late 1980s but were bailed out by businessman Ferguson McCann, who then bought a majority stake in the company and subsequently spared them from suffering a fate similar to that of their archrivals.
Rangers and Celtics have arguably one of the most documented rivalries in soccer history – some of it memorable and some worth forgetting. The two clubs, which are jointly known as the Old Firm have met on 431 occasions as of November 2022 with Rangers winning 168 outings, Celtic winning 162 matches, and the remaining 101 ending in draws.
There have been numerous incidents recorded between players and supporters of the two clubs both on and off the pitch, some of which subsequently involved the authorities and even poured into courtrooms. An example of such incidents includes the infamous clash between former Celtic manager Neil Lennon and former Celtic assistant coach Ally McCoist in March 2011 which required police intervention and resulted in temporary bans for both men.
The first-ever match between the two Glasgow-based clubs was held in later May 1888 – a friendly fixture which Celtic won 5-2. Their first clash for a major title occurred two years later in mid-September when Celtic beat Rangers 1-0 in a Scottish Cup clash.
Ever since the formation of Scotland’s top flight in 1890, the Old Firm has dominated every era with the exception of two – the war-plagued mid-1940s through to the mid-1960s and the early to mid-1980s when the New Firm of league rivals Aberdeen and Dundee United won the Scottish Premier Division thrice and once respectively.
The term Old Firm is believed to have originated from the first match between the two sides when commentators referred to them as “two old, firm friends”. The clubs have since taken steps to register the terms as a trademark with the aim of possibly finding ways to exploit it commercially in the future.
Rangers and Celtic boast the largest followings in Europe with well over 18 million fans around the world and over 800 supporters’ clubs both within and outside of Scotland. Their reach and influence have transcended soccer into the political and socio-economic spheres of their society.
The diverse makeup of the clubs’ supporters has also necessitated the enactment of legislation such as the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 that sought to curb religious intolerance (commonly known as Sectarianism) between the two sides since Rangers fans are largely Protestants and Unionists whereas Celtic fans are traditionally Catholics and people of Irish descent.
The above-mentioned Act addresses conduct in and around matches between the two clubs and also discourages any communication (be it electronic or postal) that seeks to incite either faction against the other.
It is however important to note that the two clubs have enjoyed a cordial relationship with each club traditionally allocating a generous number of seats for their rival’s fans during meetings, though both teams have made attempts to reduce the accommodation they offer in order to prioritize their own fans.
The contributions that the two clubs have made to soccer are evidenced by the number of former players inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame. Rangers lead their rivals in this category with 33 inductees to Celtic’s 27.