THE two European giants who made it to the Champions League final last season are heading to Glasgow – for an autumn football jamboree that could be worth £100m to the Scottish economy.
By securing a place in the group stages of the tournament on Wednesday night, beating PSV Eindhoven, Rangers created a double treat for Scottish football fans, joining Celtic in the world’s most prestigious club competition .
The tartan army may not travel to the World Cup in Qatar, but today’s Champions League draw in Istanbul confirmed that Scottish fans will be playing the next best thing over the next next three months.
The kings of European football – Real Madrid – will land in Glasgow this autumn, having been paired with the Hoops in the competition’s Group F, which also includes Bundesliga giants RB Leipzig and Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk.
Ukrainians who have been displaced by the war with Russia will play their matches in the Polish capital of Warsaw, offering Celtic fans a trip to one of Europe’s stellar cities… and the continent’s cheapest beer.
It’s equally exciting in south Glasgow, where Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side are rewarded for their efforts in Holland this week with a ‘Battle of Britain’ clash with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
The Light Blues will also face Dutch champions Ajax home and away in Group A alongside Diego Maradona’s former Italian club SSC Napoli.
Fans of the two Glasgow rivals were scrambling for flights and hotel accommodation once match dates had been confirmed.
It is believed that with £40m each clawed back by Rangers and Celtic, the benefits to the Scottish economy will hit the £100m mark.
Travel agents will cash in, Scottish hotels and restaurants will host thousands of visiting fans and punters will flock to bars across the country to catch the action on TV, shown exclusively on subscription channel BT Sport.
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“This is great news,” said Paul Waterson, spokesman for the Scottish Licensed Trade Association.
“The hospitality industry has had to deal with waves of adversity, the coronavirus, energy costs and now even the emptying of bins.
“It’s really welcome that we have two football teams competing at the highest level in Europe for the first time in 15 years.
“You can be assured the publicans will do all they can to make match nights a brilliant experience – and it’s not just the west of Scotland that will benefit. Fans across Scotland will want to watch these Champions League games.
It’s the first Champions League season since 2019 that fans have faced no international travel restrictions due to COVID-19.
This year’s tournament also comes with a sunny bonus for away supporters.
Due to the start of the World Cup in November, the group stage match schedule has been brought forward this year so that it ends on November 2.
So, gone are the frosty nights in December – when group matches are traditionally played – with many European destinations still enjoying decent autumnal temperatures on much-anticipated trips abroad in September and October.
The final at Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium also promises to be warmer than normal as it won’t be held until June 10 next year, when temperatures in Turkey reach 80F (27C).
If that’s the biggest obstacle to Turkish delight, Rangers and Celtic fans will happily invest in a factor of 50 if their team pulls it off.
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