Driven by Bigotry?

RangersFC_FansRangers disappointed? They should be seething with their supporters.

By Andy Muirhead

Saturday’s game against Berwick Rangers should have been about the football on the pitch, but it was overshadowed by Rangers supporters in attendance who decided that singing sectarian, bigoted and sickening songs was more important than singing about the club they claim to love so much.

The songs and chants forced broadcaster ESPN to apologise to their viewers and to report the Rangers support to Northumbria Police, who arrested two supporters during the game.

The numbers arrested though do not equate to those who were singing sectarian songs and offensive chants, but we have been reassured by Northumbria Police that they have video footage which could result in more Rangers fans receiving a knock on the door in the early hours.

With the very public outing on ESPN, there was no ignoring the latest bout of sectarianism and Rangers immediately issued a statement.

A club spokesperson said: “The Club is disappointed by certain outbursts of inappropriate singing by a section of the support at Berwick. Our fans have been excellent this season both home and away and we do not want to see this tarnished.”

Is racism and anti-semitism disappointing and inappropriate? Or is it sickening and disgusting? Not to mention illegal. So why is sectarianism referred to as disappointing and inappropriate?

Rangers chief executive Charles Green, was asked after the Berwick match to comment, but he refused to do so. The first time the Yorkshireman has kept quiet on an issue involving the Ibrox side.

It was only in July that Green claimed the reason why SPL clubs blocked Rangers entry into the top tier was ‘driven by bigotry’. Strange that he wouldn’t be so vocal about bigotry when it was his own club’s supporters peddling hatred. Is his silence more to do with protecting his investment and his own new found fame and standing with a support that had previously threatened and abused him?

Limp rhetoric from Ibrox

While they may be ‘pro-active’ as a club in trying to rid their support of sectarianism, statements claiming sectarian and bigoted songs as ‘inappropriate and disappointing’ is not going far enough. Why not call a spade a spade and call such songs sectarian?

With the silence from Green deafening, manager Ally McCoist was left to face the media.

He commented: “Our fans have been nothing short of sensational all year at home and away. We weren’t aware of the singing because you get so involved in the game itself you don’t notice other things that are going on.

“But I was told when I came off the park at the end that the club had issued a statement on it and if some fans have let themselves and us down today, I would hope it is a one-off. They have been brilliant and we need their support. I can’t tell you just how much we value it but they have to give us it in the correct manner.

“I have to say that if what I’m being told is true that’s disappointing as we all have to head in the one direction together. That’s the one thing which has been happening. It has been really evident since the takeover and with the fans buying so many season tickets.

“There has been a real desire to move forward as one and that will have to be the case. We want to get back to the top but it’s going to be a difficult journey. We’ve a much better chance of succeeding if we do it as a unit rather than if we have separate factions. We have to stay together.”

Was it just a one-off?

The simple and straightforward answer is no. It was not the first time that Rangers fans sang sectarian, bigoted and offensive songs and chants this season.

At the end of December 2012, Rangers fans celebrated a goal scored by Fraser Aird by singing the sectarian Billy Boys song. It was far from a minority that sang it that day, as thousands sang it with much gusto.

Unlike Saturday’s game which saw widespread condemnation and coverage within the media, December’s game against Queens Park saw only one mainstream media journalist come out and state there had been sectarian singing. Where were the rest? They were certainly in attendance.

The two incidents prompt fans of other clubs to ask did the mainstream media have no option to do their usual and ignore the sickening chants and songs, as ESPN forced their hand.

Are Rangers fans united over the singing issue?

Going on previous statements from fans groups and current comments from fans on forums and social network sites – the fans are split over the topic.

Jordan MacMillan, general secretary of the Rangers Supporters’ Association, rightly called for those fans responsible to be banned from Rangers games.

MacMillan said: “I am 100% confident that if individuals can be identified – and I hope they can be – they will be banned from the club. I know that this season one or two already have been banned for similar offences.

“Of course, identifying individuals is easier said than done. But the club has got to take that course of action in this instance if they can be.

“I thought we were starting to get over this nonsense. What happened in Berwick was very, very disappointing. That behaviour can’t be condoned in any way whatsoever.”

MacMillan’s comments were echoed by Rangers bloggers, fans and some club officials. But when a fans group, in the guise of the Rangers Supporters Trust, previously supported the singing of The Billy Boys and failed to issue a statement on the sectarian singing on Saturday, you have to wonder if every Rangers fan and fan group are really behind the notion of moving away from years of bigotry and sectarianism, which has blighted Scottish football for decades.

Impotent Governing Bodies?

There is no denying that Rangers have been trying to rid their support of such unsavoury elements, but does that absolve them of any punishment? It seems that the governing bodies seem to think that is enough. UEFA see it in a different light, as they not only fined the Ibrox side for numerous instances of sectarianism and violent clashes over the years, but banned their fans from a Champions League qualifier last season.

If UEFA can take action against the Ibrox side, why not the Scottish FA and the Scottish Football League? Or are our governing bodies impotent in punishing Rangers because of the situation they find themselves in – another issue of their own making.

It seems that a decision has already been made in the corridors of power at Hampden, as newspaper reports this morning state that SFA compliance officer Vincent Lunny will ask both clubs for their comments, after listening to the evidence presented. But will be powerless to hand down any punishment to the Third Division league leaders as the Scottish FA can only sanction clubs who do not clamp down on bad behaviour or who fail to try to educate their fans.

The Scottish Football League have already ignored December’s sectarian singing, will it be business as usual over Saturday’s ‘festivities’ or will they take action?

The greater good of Scottish Football

It is somewhat ironic that I use a phrase utilised by Charles Green, but in terms of sectarianism, we must look towards the greater good of Scottish football, no matter whose nose is knocked out of joint.

The SFL and Scottish FA must ditch their limp-handedness when it comes to sectarianism and bigotry. The Offensive Behaviour Bill was put in place to target such instances of offensive behaviour and sectarianism, despite claims from Celtic fans that it was merely aimed towards punishing Celtic fans.

Why then do the SFL and Scottish FA, who were part of creating the bill, then blatantly ignore and fail to punish those fans who continue to flout the laws?

Why can’t the Scottish FA stop pussy-footing around and grab the sectarian bull by the horns and punish those perpetrators once and for all?

The mainstream media, football governing bodies, the police and football fans all have a part to play in riding our game of Sectarianism and bigotry once and for all. But, if they shirk their responsibilities then they are part of the problem, if they keep ignoring and turning a blind eye to it then again they are part of the problem and if they make excuses and fail to act decisively then again they are part of the problem.

After decades of tip toeing around the issue, the only solution now is a hardline approach. Heftier fines, stands closed and even a full stadium closure should be on the table. Otherwise our game will continue to be plagued and cursed with sectarianism and bigotry. Then and only then can we look towards the future development of our game.



Categories: Football

36 replies

  1. It’s no surprise that it was a combination of ESPN and the Northumbria police who decided to do the right thing. BBC Scotland, STV and the Strathclyde police are all headquartered in the Glasgow bubble, where it’s easier to let things lie for fear of antagonising one half of the population or the other. Understandable, but not acceptable. Time to follow the lead of others and do the right thing.

  2. When’s enough, enough? The scene is surely set for the powers that be; those who ought to be doing something about this trashing of the game in Scotland, to once and for all stamp pernicious sectarian cancer out.

    It’s ‘dark ages’ stuff and worse, because, it’s commercially driven by a lunatic business ethos heading only one way, down the drain.

    How many put off by such behaviour is open to speculation, but one thing’s for sure, neutral attendance at games and any others not prepared to put up with it are simply not turning up.

    The viewing public getting it broadcast into their homes are demanding action and there’s already a mass turn-off.

    So how’s this going to be played out; there’s one way, or no way and you won’t need a crystal ball to see into the future.

  3. In general, a fair and rational article. Oh that the main stream media in Scotland was equally so. One part I take slight exception too was :
    “The Offensive Behaviour Bill was put in place to target such instances of offensive behaviour and sectarianism, despite claims from Celtic fans that it was merely aimed towards punishing Celtic fans”
    The Law as it stood bjefjore the Offensive Behaviour etc Act was introy sufficient to deal with this kind of behaviour. Some Celtic supporters were undoubtedly ” offensive” in their behaviour but, in the main, not illegally so. The Law was introduced to ” even things out” in the words of one of its principal architects. That is what some Celtic fans were complaining about.
    Finally, can I make a plea that if you wish to criticise an aspect of The Rangers` fans, feel free to do so without introducing Celtic?
    I am sure there is enough wrong with come ot the support of the latter to have a separate article of condemnation.

    J A Barr

    .

  4. Some of the mistakes in my comment were caused by the fact that the box for my name and email appeared over where I was typing. Honest!
    Can this be rectified?
    J A B

  5. until scots can catch up with the rest of europe it will not change the evel songs were heard all over the world

  6. no place for it in football but why all this now , why wernt you up in arms when your team was at dens earlier in the season and caused mayhem and was said to be the worst in 20 years . clearly heard singing about the ira and other bigoted songs, oh or were they merry irish folk songs . no excuses get it out of football but theres more than one team at it .

  7. For decades I’ve been a promoter of Scottish Independence, but as it gets nearer to a possibility I feel its time to rethink. As its such a small country its easy to view our national pastime as a reflection on society in general. It remains corrupt with racist protestant supremacists (apologies to practising protestants) from pulpit, to police and parliament whose sole purpose in life is to spew this bile under the open protection of their brothers.
    Whilst it doesnt go far enough, we obviously need England to keep our vermin within a level of control.

    • Ian, do you think it is beyond the wit of man to sort out the evils of bigotry and sectarianism in Scottish society? If you think we need other people (bless them) to save us from ourselves, what is it you think they have done, or will do in the future, to achieve this perfectly noble objective? It WILL be difficult to changes some people’s hearts and minds, and may even take 50 years as Graham Spiers suggests (link below) but I think we should give it a go, whether we become independent or not.

      http://www.heraldscotland.com/sport/opinion/spiers-on-sport-how-long-to-kill-off-bigotry-at-rangers.2013023893

    • Ian,
      Do you think we are all stupid? Have a rethink and try again. D -

    • The fact is that sectarianism in Scotland thrives because of the union and would likely wither and die if it were not for the constant fuel that is heaped upon it by state inspired discrimination and favour by unionist political parties who use it to further their own agendas.

    • Sectarianism exists as a consequence of the two unions. These people are not called UNIONISTS for nothing.

      • I’d just like to add that I also condemn any bigotry or celebrations of violence that takes place among Celtic fans.

    • Ah, the old argument that Scotland can’t handle self-accountability. Tell me, if we need England to save us from ourselves, how come things are the way they are, right now? What has Great Britain done to solve solve sectarianism? If we are so parochial, are we going to fix that by A- Continuing to use the union an emotional crutch and excuse to do nothing, or, B- Actually taking responsibility

  8. The biggest disgrace was the refusal by the SFA to aknowledge the problem, never mind attempt to tackle it. UEFA had to Intervene.
    What action do you think the SFA will take after the Berwick game?

  9. Surprise, surprise……. ANOTHER one sided diatribe….. Lets see…. Some Rangers “fans” embarrass themselves (??) and the club by singing sectarian songs….. All hell breaks loose and the usual suspects jump on the bandwagon about big bad Rangers.

    Every other Saturday, at Celtic Park, the singing, chanting and on occassion banners are heard /seen, of a sectarian nature and supporting a terrorist organisation….. What do we hear NADA !!! Nothing!!! Zilch!!!! Cause it seemingly isnt sectarian or laugh of all laughs, it didnt happen. THAT is at Celtic park. The away support is even worse.

    THis is a problem for BOTH halves of the old firm, and let it not mistake anyone, also, on occassions at other football clubs in Scotland.

    UNTIL the whole subject is approached even handidly the problem will NEVER go away !!!

    The above “article”, try propaganda, is so lacking in balance as to be beyond belief……. Green said nothing??? SO a statement isnt a comment then???? One supporters group didnt do something (allegedly) so you call into question everyones motives???? Get real!!! Hell the directors at Celtic Park by their own actions and statements tell you the hierarchy dont want to deal with what happens at Celtic park.

    • Think about this Graham – when your club’s house is in order, the bigotry at Celtic Park will stick out like a sore thumb. The authorities will come down on them, and you will be able to look down on them from the moral high ground and laugh.
      You can look upon it as a race to grow up and end the nonsense first, or you can continue to look like a 5 year old with a petted lip bleating “Bit he done it as well!!!” Your choice.

    • There is nothing sectarian about the IRA you obviously have no idea what Sectarianism means.

    • I hate to break this to you, but Scottish football doesn’t just consist of Rangers and Celtic. Not even in Glasgow. A lot of Scots aren’t even football fans either. Some even like other sports.

      This simplistic idea that “Celtic does bad things, so so can we”, doesn’t wash. Both are part of a wider Scottish society, which is no longer mainly Catholic and Protestant (90% don’t go to any church), whose immigrants are no longer mainly from Ireland etc.

      Time for the Old Firm to join the modern world.

      wash.
      This

    • The ‘usual suspects’ are an ever growing list. Every day new ‘usual suspects’ are added to the bandwagon and include ‘usual suspects’ you would never have ‘suspected’.

      You say both halves of the old firm.. Yet, Celtic haven’t been embarrassed in this way, Alex Thomson has not been writing about Celtic, and Celtic haven’t gone bust. Regardless of what you think of Celtic, the consequences are real, and are only going one way.

  10. To begin with there is no need to consider Celtic supporters, those of any other club or indeed extra terrestrials as this incident involves solely those who purport to follow Rangers. The feeble statements issued on behalf of the manager and directors of that club do not fill me with confidence that Rangers are seriously committed to eradicating this unacceptable behavior, amongst their followers.

  11. Graham Ross,
    BooHoo, it’s them too teacher! Grow up or die out. It’s your choice. NO team is bigger than Scots football and definitely NO Team is bigger than the good of Scots society. Get used to playing football and leave the politics, race relations, religious policy and social structuring of Scotland to the electorate. Christ it’s not even good football!

  12. Not sure I can agree with the comments of Graham Ross above.

    As someone who goes to Celtic Park regularly I don’t hear what you are describing and believe me if I did hear it I would say so. So where is this coming from and on what is it based?

  13. years of a no signing catholics policy , years of sectarian songs . this is rangers . this is what a large majority hold to heart . passed on through generation to generation . as the topic is about last saturdays game between berwick and rangers i wont go into detail that other clubs are involved also . What i would like to know is why are the sfa doing nothing about it or the government ? sanctions need to be put in place regardless how big or how much problems a club has . serious sanctions .

  14. I have always thought that Rangers should simply ban fans from going to the away matches as they seem to think that because it is not Ibrox they can do and sing what they please and get away with it. As a Rangers fan myself I am embarrased by their behaviour and to be honest losing the away support might be a step in the right direction.

  15. Berwick isn’t actually a proper part of England, but I suppoe this is really one of the few occasions where I am glad Northumbria police were involved.

    Remember Manchester Police didn’t give them the kind of leaway that Strathclyde does.

    Rememb

  16. I used to follow Rangers many moons ago as a boy. Living in a rural area and religion not discussed in our home I naively made no connection of Catholic and protestant to Ranger &Celtic. Not until secondary school did I encouter the abuse simply because I cheered on a particular team. Being atheist and bored with the automatic assumption that I was protestant I quickly lost interest in following any team but still enjoy watching football to this day.
    Both Rangers and Celtic have achieved to date what they have off the back of vulgar hate and sectarianism, both clubs frightened to bite the hand that feeds them hence the token attempts to tackle this idiocy.
    Stopping the moronic chanting is a start, an obvious one, however, the vast majority of followers of either side do so with deep rooted allegiencies to thier team for all the wrong reasons.
    I remember reading my in-laws Daily Record during the early troubles Rangers encountered not so long ago and noticed a photgraph of protesters, one with a banner saying ‘To hell with the SFA and the SNP’, this spoke volumes to me.
    Sectarianism, subtly or out in the open such as on the terraces spans the length and breadth of our country is not just confined to our West coast.
    Support for an independent Scotland is losing out as a result, union jacks a plenty in the Rangers supporter’s ends are a sad but realistic indicator as to their voting intentions come 2014.
    Alex Salmond’s plans to keep the monarchy may yet prove to have been a master stroke for our cause as much as it riles many of us.
    Sectarianism must be tackled in the home and schools, the clubs and governing bodies can only re-inforce with severe penalties such as point deductions for inappropriate chanting.

  17. Probably the best thing that could happen is if moderate Rangers fans made an effort to purge the quasi-fascist element. This has been attempted in Hearts with varying degrees of success. But Ukio Bankas and Vlad seem to be in serious trouble (UB has had to be sold to the other Lithuanian Bank) so that club’s future may be more wobBlY thAn RFC’s.

    One solution might be to ban all national flags including the saltire (needs must) from domestic fixtures. Whether this would work is another question.

  18. One thing I can guarantee you of. Sectarianism and bigotry will survive and prosper as long as the Union and Irish flags are waved at Ibrox and Parkhead.
    Would you expect Man Utd fans to wave the French flag ? Or indeed Chelsea fans to wave the Saltire ? For all that Rangers and Celtic say they are dealing with the issue, why do they still insist on handing out tens of thousands of flags at ‘Old Firm’ fixtures ?

    • The only similar thing elsewhere, would be Barc,a and Espanyol, Barc,a’s very Catalan nationalist, Espanyol, represents Barcelonan unionists.

      But even that is not based around pseudo-religion (everyone’s Catholic more or less), and is directly connected with Catalonia.

      The thing which gets me is that fascist salutes are banned throughout Euro football, and yet Rangers fans raise the arm all the time. Even in Tel Aviv where they don’t like the red hand much.

  19. A plague on both your houses…

    • Ditto…

      All driven by money of course. Would be nice to see old firm assets frozen if they refuse to deal with their issue.

      The equivalent in English football, C18 etc is given little leaway.

  20. The real cause of all of this is the generations of indoctrination of children by the Catholic priesthood. Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you a Protestant hating Catholic for life. Sexual abuse doesn’t make you a Catholic for life or someone who hate Protestants for that matter. I grew up in Glasgow and remember well the half hidden hatred I was on the receiving end of. I remember when I was five years old being called a “Protestant Bastard” by a gang of other five year olds. ow what it meant at the time but I knew it meant something. It’s correct to say that prejudice is a two way street – in Scotland there is much more traffic going in one direction than in the other direction. There is simply no comparison!

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