So, welcome to Glasgow. You’ve decided to study at a renowned university in a city that’s home to Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s celebrated architecture, more public parks than any other city in Europe, three of Turner Prize winners since 2005 and the world-famous Old Firm derby between Rangers and Celtic
Only, you’ll probably have to wait a while if you want to see an Old Firm derby in the flesh. After years of financial mismanagement and boardroom shenanigans, Rangers entered administration last season. In one of the most prolonged, dramatic and downright ridiculous sagas in Scottish football history, Rangers failed to reach an agreement with their creditors and the club was liquidated. The newly founded ‘newco’s’ reapplication to join the Scottish Premier League was rejected and the club have since found a home in SFL division three, the bottom tier of Scottish football. An upshot to their demotion is the revival of the ‘original’ Glasgow derby with Queen’s Park, Scotland’s oldest club and the only amateur club in the Scottish league. What’s also interesting about Queen’s Park is that their home games are played at the 52,000 capacity stadium Hampden Park in the Southside of the city. Along with Rangers’ ground Ibrox, it’s a five star stadium that has played host to three European Cup finals, speedway, American football, a Mike Tyson fight and erm,Peter Andre. It’s also the home of the Scotland international football team. For lots of kilt-wearing, saltire-waving and the loudest rendition of ‘Flower of Scotland’ you’ll hear during your time in Glasgow, join the Tartan Army and get yourself down to Hampden for one of Scotland’s World Cup qualifying matches against Croatia, Serbia or Wales.
Rangers’ exile has all but handed this year’s SPL title to their rival’s Celtic. The first British club to win the European Cup, their 60,000 seater stadium Celtic Park means that Glasgow is the only city in Europe with three football stadiums with a capacity of more than 50,000. Progress to the group stages of the Champions League could mean clubs the stature of Barcelona and Manchester United making trips to the East end of Glasgow. While the atmosphere at these games is likely to pale in comparison to the ferocity of the Old Firm derby.
If you’re here for a four year degree and Rangers gain subsequent promotions there’s a strong possibility the two clubs will be reacquainted in the same year you’re worrying about your finals, so the chance to experience Glasgow in standstill mode as these two teams wage a rivalry across cultural, historical and religious divides should be motivation enough for you to hang about.
Glasgow’s other football club is the student-friendly, Old Firm-alternative Partick Thistle. Priding themselves as a sectarian-free footballing option, the club play their home games not in Partick, but at Firhill Stadium in Maryhill, with the population of the closely-located Murano Student Village accounting for much of their fan base. Unlike Rangers and Celtic they offer discounted ticket prices for students, so if you feel equally uncomfortable waving a Union Flag as you do an Irish tricolour, perhaps ‘the Jags’ are the team for you.
Up until last season the student population of Murano Street were spoiled in having both Partick Thistle and Glasgow’s only Rugby Union team situated only a few minutes’ walk away. The Glasgow Warriors, however, have since relocated to Scotstoun Stadium. Playing in both the Celtic League and the Heineken Cup, success hasn’t always came their way, though last season they did battle their way to the league play-offs. It’s been a similar story for the Paisley Pirates. What sounds suspiciously like the name of a gang that might roam Paisley is actually the popular ice hockey team that are based at Braehead Arena.
Cross-border rivalry is also found with the basketball team Glasgow Rocks. The only Scottish side to contest in the British Basketball League, the team are currently based at the Kelvin Hall. If you’re around campus and fancy taking in a game they’re only a five minute walk away. Along with the netball team Glasgow Wildcats, they’ll soon be moving to their permanent home the Commonwealth Arena, a brand spanking new building built specifically for the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
Set to become the largest sports event ever held in Glasgow and incorporating an extensive list of existing stadiums and venues, the Commonwealth Games is the city’s opportunity to replicate the success of the London Olympics. With organisers hoping to entice stars like Sir Chris Hoy – to cycle in a velodrome bearing his name – and Usain Bolt – to capture the only major athletic title he’s not won – the public’s appetite has been whetted after the success of the London Olympics.
In the bidding process for the games organisers used the phrase ‘People. Place. Passion.’, a fitting assessment of the role that sport has in this remarkable city.
And if an Old Firm game ever takes place while you’re here, wear white.