2007 - 2022

MoJo Rising: Maurice Johnston 30 Years On

MOJO RISIN’: 30 years on, Rangers’ signing of Maurice Johnston proved a missed opportunity in the fight against sectarianism in Scottish football.

It was July 1989, exactly thirty years ago this week, when Graeme Souness’s Rangers stunned the world of Scottish football by signing the striker Maurice Johnston from under the noses of the Glasgow club’s perennial rivals Celtic. Johnston had previously spent three seasons on the green side of the city, scoring fifty goals in a hundred appearances for the team he had grown up supporting, but he had passed the last two years in relative anonymity with the French club Nantes, where he had fled in 1987 to escape the press intrusion and sectarian abuse which he had been subjected to after a number of high profile incidents during his playing days at Parkhead. On 10 July 1989 however, the Scottish game collectively fell off its chair in astonishment, as a sheepish looking Johnston, flanked by his new manager, was ushered into the Blue Room at Ibrox Park and presented to the media as free-spending Rangers’ latest acquisition.

The signing was remarkable because Johnston was from a Roman Catholic background and, ever since the days of the Edwardian era at the turn of the 20th century, Rangers had been operating an exclusionary employment policy which prevented them from signing players from that section of the community. For most of the next sixty years, Rangers’ policy went largely uncommented upon in polite society. The religious divide in Glasgow, between Catholic Celtic and Protestant Rangers, was allowed to fester and deepen over decades of increasingly bitter and trenchant rivalry, with the matter effectively becoming a taboo subject and criticism of the Ibrox club’s stance in the press or in the wider society was almost unheard of. One or two individuals did manage to slip through the net however; in the 1950s the South African striker Don Kichenbrand had a short, largely unproductive spell at Ibrox. Known as ‘the Rhino’ and lambasted for a series of outrageous misses in front of goal, Kichenbrand went to extraordinary lengths to disguise his Catholic upbringing and fit in with his new team, even confirming his induction into the Ibrox faction by joining a Lanarkshire Masonic lodge. His secret remained safe until the day after Johnston’s transfer to Rangers more than thirty years later, when the Daily Record, having missed out on the scoop of the century after Souness confirmed the story of the signing to his favourite newspaper The Sun, carried an interview with Kichenbrand. In the article, the former striker admitted: “My teammates and bosses at the club just assumed that I had been vetted before I was signed. Every player was.” In fact Rangers’ South African scout, Charlie Watkins, had forgotten to look into the player’s background and only remembered to ask the pertinent question as the pair were waiting at the airport before boarding the flight from Johannesburg, as Kichenbrand remembered: “Charlie Watkins, the man who had convinced Glasgow Rangers that they should sign me, suddenly said, ‘By the way, you’re not Catholic, are you?’ When I told him ‘Yes’ he nearly collapsed. Then he growled, ‘Do not mention that again – to anyone!’ I never did.”

Other than the odd aberration, Rangers blazed a trail as the unblemished bastion of Protestant superiority in Scotland. Revelling in their role as the establishment club and the foremost Protestant sporting institution in the land, Rangers ruled the roost in Scottish football for decades, dominating the domestic game under managers William Wilton (1899 – 1920), Bill Struth (1920 – 1954) and Scot Symon (1954 – 1967). By the late 1960s however, isolated murmurings of disapproval and occasionally even outright criticism of Rangers’ stance had begun to appear in the popular press and elsewhere, usually in association with rioting fans in Birmingham, Manchester, Barcelona and various other locations. After the club’s defeat to Newcastle United in the semi-final of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup in 1969, former player Willie Waddell, then working as a journalist with the Scottish Daily Express, condemned the scenes of violence at St James’ Park after Rangers fans invaded the field when the Tynesiders scored a second, decisive goal in the tie. “I felt like crawling stealthily back over the border under cover of darkness, stunned and shocked that I had been connected with this club and its fans for more than thirty years,” Waddell lamented. Curiously, however, once he was installed as Rangers manager later in the year, and subsequently as general manager in 1972, Waddell instead took the view that the club’s internal affairs were its own business and nobody else’s, and he refused to correlate the twin issues which were blighting Rangers at the time, namely hooliganism and bigotry, as being in any way linked.

Eventually, however, in response to a UK- wide wave of indignation in the 1970s over hooliganism and Rangers’ no-Catholics stance, general manager Waddell announced in 1976, ‘We are determined to end Rangers’ image as a sectarian club… no religious barriers will be put up by this club regarding the signing of players.’ It was one of the first public references to a ‘sectarian’ agenda at Ibrox and there was widespread jubilation and hope amongst the wider community that Rangers might eventually, in the not too distant future, sign a Catholic football player. But as the years went by and no Catholic player appeared in the light blue, perhaps as a result of the lack of leadership and continued in-fighting in the club’s boardroom, these hopes were dashed. In his book Glasgow’s Giants, historian Bill Murray seemed to hit the nail on the head when he observed of Rangers’ habitually empty promises, ‘To the media and the public at large these statements were taken with large spoonfuls of scepticism. They had heard it all before: they were a necessary disclaimer to keep any investigators from FIFA at bay. A sop to the media and a wink to their fans who knew that everything would continue to be as it should be at Ibrox.’

During the 1980s, tales continued to abound about players at Ibrox even being ushered towards the exit door if they happened to fall in love with and marry Catholic girls. One such player was forward Graham Fyfe, who claimed that, despite his wife effectively renouncing her faith and their marriage taking place in the Church of Scotland, he nevertheless felt the need to leave Ibrox in 1980, after being questioned by the club’s management about his wedding arrangements and his private life in general. Fyfe’s allegation was contested by other players at the time who had also married Catholic women, such as Bobby Russell and Derek Johnstone, both of whom remained at the club into the new decade, and by 1982, striker Gordon Dalziel felt comfortable enough to announce publicly his engagement to a Catholic girl, telling the press, ‘I have already had the all-clear at Ibrox. It will not make any difference. I’m not going to get married in the chapel or anything like that.’ Manager John Greig added to the general tone of reassurance, informing the media, ‘It doesn’t matter who he is marrying. It doesn’t matter to me and it doesn’t matter to Rangers. Bobby Russell’s been married to a Catholic for years. Gordon Dalziel has a right to marry who he wants.’

Despite such worthy assurances however, the Church of Scotland decided to intervene in the situation at Ibrox in 1980, after the violent scenes witnessed around the world following Celtic’s 1 – 0 victory over Rangers in the Scottish Cup Final. The Kirk’s General Assembly proposed a motion calling on Rangers to end their exclusionary employment practices and publicly distance themselves from such discrimination, which was passed by a majority of 200. But of the 1250 commissioners, 400 had abstained, so the result was seen as ambiguous and the expected impact failed to materialise. Nevertheless the Church’s General Assembly report of the same year noted, ‘Tensions would be eased if all clubs, and Rangers FC in particular, would publicly disclaim sectarian bias in management and team structure, and through integrated team selection, publicly prove that sectarianism has no place in Scottish sport.’

By now it seemed clear that the growing controversy surrounding Rangers’ exclusionary employment policy was not going to go away. Despite these calls from the Church and elsewhere however, when Jock Wallace was reappointed Rangers manager in November 1983, he seemed less than taken with the ambivalent promises to end the club’s arcane practices. On the day of his appointment, Wallace emerged from the stadium onto Copland Road and told the waiting media, ‘I have been told by the board that I have complete control over who I select, and I will sign players on ability. Religion will not come into it.’ He then turned on his heels and departed without taking further questions.

Wallace, it seemed, having returned to his ‘dream job’, was living out his schoolboy fantasy as manager of his favourite team, ‘I’ve always been a Rangers fan,’ he announced after the first game of his second spell in charge at Ibrox, a 3 – 0 defeat to Aberdeen at Pittodrie, ‘Ever since I was a lad of nine and they came through to play near my home on the east coast. The team that made me a Rangers fan for life still trips off the tongue: Brown, Young, Shaw, McColl, Woodburn, Cox, Waddell, Gillick, Thornton, Duncanson and Caskie,” he rattled off Bill Struth’s team from the immediate post-war period. On that first trip up to Pittodrie, Wallace invited his agent Bill McMurdo, whom he had dubbed ‘Agent Orange’ because of his Rangers allegiances and his political views, onto the team bus. A founder member of the Scottish Unionist Party and an acknowledged Orangeman and Freemason, McMurdo had turned his Uddingston home into a Rangers shrine, naming it ‘Ibrox’ and decking it out in the club’s colours of red, white and blue.

On the journey north, McMurdo provided Wallace with a cassette so that he could play Rangers songs over the speaker system and the manager encouraged his players to join in the singing of ‘No Surrender’. McMurdo later confided, ‘Jock acted as compere and… those who didn’t know the words were urged to learn them for the next away game. [Ulsterman] Jimmy Nicholl knew the words inside out and Jock said to him, “Brilliant Jimmy, you know all the words, you’re the captain today!”’ It’s an apocryphal story; Nicholl had only just arrived at the club, having been signed by John Greig in his final days in charge at Ibrox, and the Irishman didn’t in fact captain the side that day. But nevertheless, it’s easy to see how a Catholic player might have struggled to flourish in such an environment and, needless to say, by the time Wallace was sacked in April 1986, there was still scant sign of a Catholic football player at Rangers, with only youngster John Spencer having made a handful of first team appearances for the club.

Wallace’s replacement as team manager, in the wake of a boardroom coup at Ibrox which had cleared out a cabal of old guard custodian-directors, was the former Liverpool and Scotland midfielder Graeme Souness. Immediately on his appointment, Souness was quizzed about the signing policy, ‘I was asked the question the very first day I went to Rangers, would you sign a Catholic?’ He later recalled. ‘And my answer then was quite simple. I said, look, my wife is a Catholic, I’ve got two kids who’ve been christened Catholic, so you’re saying to me I can’t come to work with a Catholic, but I can go home to a Catholic? I said of course I would sign a Catholic.’ Once again, hope sprang eternal that this more genuine sounding claim would lead to the longed for breakthrough.

Souness seemed determined to end the policy and privately, behind the scenes, he was making enquiries about the potential impact of such a signing, almost from the moment he arrived. The sheer iconoclasm of the idea appealed to Souness’s maverick personality and, as well as the backing of the new Rangers board, Souness also found that there was tentative support from the wider community for the potentially seminal change, with one young Rangers supporting journalist telling the new manager that he thought such a signing would be accepted, ‘as long as it wasn’t Peter Grant or Maurice Johnston’! Publicly however, as time went on, the old issue kept reappearing, with the situation not helped by the fact that Souness was a provocatively confrontational figure, who seemed to be always looking for an enemy, and who now found himself at the centre of one of the most heated and intense rivalries anywhere in world football.

Almost inevitably, there were high-profile incidents; as early as November 1986, Johnston, then playing for Celtic, was involved in a particularly notorious incident at the end of the Skol (League) Cup Final against Rangers at Hampden, which would turn out to be Souness’ first trophy as Ibrox manager. After being sent off late in the game, in the face of gleeful abuse from the Rangers supporters, Johnston blessed himself as he left the field. This was considered provocative firstly because, although he was brought up in the faith, Johnston was not, unlike some of his Celtic teammates, a practising Catholic and it was later pointed out by an indignant press that the striker was the only member of Celtic’s large Catholic contingent who had not attended Mass on the morning of the game.

At the time, Johnston’s actions sparked outrage. The idea that he might one day sign for Rangers seemed utterly unthinkable. Yet a little over two and a half years later that’s exactly what happened. The striker had apparently grown restless with the slow pace of life and the relatively low profile of football in France during the period of his sabbatical from the Scottish game. After initially vowing that he would never return to Scotland as a result of the scrutiny and abuse which he was subjected to following the Skol Cup final incident, Johnston announced publicly, in May 1989, that he was indeed on the verge of returning to his boyhood heroes Celtic. The Parkhead side were then managed by club legend Billy McNeill, who had been made aware of the player’s willingness to return home by his captain Roy Aitken, whom Johnston had been entreating while the pair were together on international duty with Scotland. Johnston was subsequently paraded at a press conference wearing a Celtic shirt, where he professed, amidst a lengthy roll call of footballing platitudes and truisms, his undying love for the club. ‘When I joined Celtic in 1984 it was like an answer to prayers, and I don’t say that lightly,’ the striker assured readers of the Celtic View. ‘At that time I fully intended to see out my career at Celtic, if the club would have me,’ he continued. ‘I never fell out of love with Celtic… when I joined Nantes it had always been my intention to return to Celtic one day. No one can accuse me of being two-faced… I didn’t intend to leave Celtic then and I don’t intend to now,’ Johnston maintained, while rumours of a desire to join Manchester United were fabricated, chiefly because, ‘There is no other British club I could play for apart from Celtic.’

The son of a Protestant father and Catholic mother, Johnston attended St. Roch’s secondary school in the Royston area of Glasgow and supported Celtic as a boy. He played for Partick Thistle, then Watford, before Parkhead manager Davie Hay signed him as an intended replacement for Charlie Nicholas, who had left Celtic for Arsenal the previous year, and he went on to form a prolific partnership with Brian McClair, scoring 52 goals in 100 appearances for the Parkhead side. After his infamous Celtic press conference in May 1989, Johnston travelled with his proposed new colleagues on the team bus to the club’s final league fixture of the season against St Mirren in Paisley, where winger Joe Miller scored the only goal of the match to give Celtic a 1 – 0 win. The following week, Miller repeated the feat, lighting up the showpiece Scottish Cup Final with the game’s solitary strike against Rangers, leaving Souness furious at being denied a potential Treble. The Rangers manager is reported to have told his players in the dressing room after the defeat that he had something up his sleeve which would rock Celtic, and that the Parkhead club had a shock coming. Something had evidently changed during the week between Miller’s two winning goals and over the summer rumours continued to circulate that the proposed deal on Johnston’s return to Celtic might not be as cut and dried as everyone assumed. The fly in the ointment seemed to be the player’s agent Bill McMurdo, Agent Orange himself, the same man who had represented Jock Wallace and whose Rangers allegiances and political views were a matter of public record. McNeill had informed Johnston that he would not deal with McMurdo and the striker appeared to accept this condition when he signed a ‘letter of agreement’ to join Celtic, which, although not a contract, was later ratified by FIFA as being legally binding, the equivalent of a modern-day precontract agreement. It was on this basis that Celtic decided to go ahead with the May press briefing and photo shoot, but the jilted McMurdo sent a letter to the club informing them that it was his company, rather than Nantes, who owned the player’s registration and that the agent could not therefore be bypassed in any transaction. While Celtic were pondering the implications of all this, McMurdo was offering the player to Souness on the other side of the city.

The Rangers manager soon became aware of the contractual difficulties over Johnston’s proposed move to Celtic, and he immediately expressed an interest in the striker. Souness admired the player and he persuaded the club’s new owner, David Murray, that with one swoop they could secure the services of a talented forward who had apparently been destined for Celtic and at the same time end the exclusionary signing policy, which with every passing year was becoming more of a black mark on the club’s reputation. At the time FIFA were investigating racist and religious prejudice in the game and Rangers’ unspoken policy was sure to come under the microscope at some point, with the world governing body holding the power to impose the ultimate sanction of withdrawing licences and shutting errant football clubs down. Johnston and McMurdo subsequently met Souness at the manager’s Edinburgh home, where a deal to bring the player to Rangers was agreed in principle.

Meanwhile Celtic, who had been unable to contact Johnston over the close season, were becoming increasingly aware that their putative deal for the striker was unlikely ever to be completed. Souness and McMurdo had turned the player and it wasn’t long before Johnston was privately threatening to quit football altogether if he was compelled to honour the recent agreement with his former team. Despite the FIFA endorsed letter, and with Nantes waiting expectantly for receipt of the £800,000 balance which would conclude the transfer, the Parkhead club, faced with the prospect of having an unhappy player on their hands, announced publicly that they were pulling out of the deal. At the time McNeill was still on holiday in Florida and he received his employers’ statement down the telephone, read out to him by a journalist. Had Celtic dug their heels in, they could have controlled Johnston’s future – even if he would never go on to play for the Parkhead club, they could have had a hand in his ultimate destination.

As late as July 2, McMurdo was still describing the rumours of a link with Rangers to the Sunday Mail as, ‘a complete fabrication – you can run that story for ten years and it still wouldn’t be true.’ When the paper’s chief sports writer Don Morrison called Ibrox to try and get to the bottom of the matter, he was told by assistant manager Walter Smith, ‘Remember the traditions of this club and, if we were going to break them, it wouldn’t be for that cunt.’

But with Celtic now officially out of the way, things moved forward quickly and the deal to bring Johnston to Rangers was finally concluded in a Paris café. It seemed inevitable that news would leak, despite all the mendacity and espionage, and by July 9 the Scottish edition of The Sun appeared to have the story, thanks to a 16 year old trainee reporter who had noticed that Johnston’s name had mysteriously appeared on Rangers’ insurance documents, which were being handled by his girlfriend’s father. The young lad, having apparently unearthed the biggest story in the history of Scottish football, presumably with the help of his intended father-in-law, dutifully conveyed his information to the paper’s editor, Jack Irvine, who had just stepped off a plane after holidaying with Souness in Majorca. ‘Print it,’ the Rangers manager eventually confirmed the story to Irvine, who went ahead and devoted sixteen pages of Monday’s paper to their scoop. Still nobody could quite believe it, with the other papers, clearly paralysed with incredulity, refusing to run the story, even after early editions of The Sun hit the stands. It wasn’t until Johnston was unveiled at the press conference on the morning of Monday, July 10 that the rumours were finally confirmed. The striker was ushered into the Blue Room alongside Souness and McMurdo, where he spoke, in more guarded terms this time, to his astonished audience of his ‘huge admiration’ for the Ibrox club, something which, in amongst all the Celtic-loving hyperbole, he’d clearly managed to keep to himself up to that point.

After Johnston’s signing some Rangers fans burned scarves, cancelled season tickets, and even laid wreathes at the gates of Ibrox, while others who had perhaps seen a move of this nature coming for some time were heard to observe, ‘It’s not that I object to us signing Catholics, I just didn’t want us signing that Catholic.’ Fans spokesman David Miller summed up the general mood when he told The Herald, ‘It’s a sad day for Rangers. There will be a lot of people handing in their season tickets. I don’t want to see a Roman Catholic at Ibrox. It really sticks in my throat.’ Miller then went on to claim that signing a Catholic from the continent would have been easier to stomach. Within the club itself, opinion on Johnston’s arrival appeared to be divided; the English contingent at Ibrox, including Terry Butcher, Chris Woods and Ray Wilkins seemed largely bewildered by all the fuss and agreed to attend a press conference, welcoming the new player to the club, but their Scottish counterparts declined the same request, and refused to be photographed with Johnston, while Ibrox kitman and bus driver, Jimmy Bell, snubbed the club’s new acquisition, preferring not to provide him with his playing gear and withholding chocolate bars from the striker.

Over on the other side of the city, the Celtic fans’ reacted to Johnston’s perceived treachery with predictable fury. They might not have believed every word of the striker’s regurgitated platitudes, but the last thing they could have expected was that he was about to join their greatest rivals. The Celtic fanzine Not the View, perhaps reflecting Johnston’s penchant for overstatement, captured the widespread sense of revulsion when they described the player as, ‘the human incarnation of the contents of Beelzebub’s dustbin.’ Others dubbed their former idol ‘Judas’, ‘le petit merde’ and during Old Firm games sang songs aimed at the forward, such as ‘Who’s the Catholic in the Blue?’ and ‘What’s it like to sign a Tim?’ At least they did for most of the game, until in November 1989, Johnston scored an injury time winner at Ibrox against his former club, silencing the Hoops faithful and precipitating something of a turning point in his acceptance at Ibrox.

In the aftermath of the signing, the press lavished Murray and Souness with praise for finally allowing Rangers to employ a prominent Catholic footballer, often with far greater enthusiasm than they had criticised the club’s now former, unofficial policy, which, given that it had just been so spectacularly done away with, was now able to be openly acknowledged. However, in retrospect, the signing of Maurice Johnston has to be seen as something of a missed opportunity in the fight against religious bigotry in Scottish football. In the years following the signing, there appeared to ensue a period of equivocation, appeasement and ‘whataboutery’, where Rangers fans and their apologists in the press seemed more inclined to try to deflect the problem onto other clubs, rather than acknowledge or attempt to deal with the ongoing issue at Ibrox. Some even claimed that Rangers now occupied the moral high ground, and the label of sectarianism could no longer be applied to the club. What was lacking from Rangers was some sort of admission of previous wrongdoing, or even a degree of humility or contrition after the Johnston signing, but instead it was almost as if a switch had been flicked: the club weren’t employing Catholics before, but now they’ve bought one and they did it while managing to stick two fingers up at their rivals at the same time. Perhaps as a result of the insensitive way in which the Johnston signing was handled, Rangers continued to be dogged over the ensuing years by the issue of sectarianism, which has refused, even in more recent times when the club has been regularly fielding Catholic footballers, to disassociate itself from the Ibrox side.

Any notion that the signing of Maurice Johnston, and Rangers’ subsequent recruitment of other Catholic players and even coaches, might have brought about an end to the wider problems associated with the club has proved to be misguided. Rangers supporters in recent years have continued to sing sectarian songs from the stands at Ibrox, even inventing new ones, such as The Famine Song, which was first aired in 2008 and has been subsequently proscribed, and the particularly unpleasant chant ‘Big Jock Knew’, a reference to a number of cases of child abuse at Celtic Boys Club in the 1960s and 70s, which was weaponised by Rangers fans and used as a stick to beat the Parkhead club and its supporters.

As journalist Graham Spiers noted in The Times when the slogan was first heard at Ibrox, ‘I have to admit I never thought I’d ever see the day when Scottish football supporters sang a song about a child sex abuse case, yet Rangers have duly delivered. Even more amazing is Rangers FC’s ongoing silence on the matter, as this cretinous chant builds up its head of steam among supporters.’ Spiers was correct about the increasingly frequent usage of the slogan and ‘Big Jock Knew’ or ‘BJK’ later migrated from the Ibrox stands to become a ubiquitous acronym graffitied around Glasgow as well as a salutation used by Rangers fans when they greeted one another in the street.

In the end, rather than any domestic authority, it was the European governing body UEFA who took exception to Rangers’ sectarian songbook and sanctioned the club after a number of high profile cases in the 2000s, including, in May 2006, a fine accompanied by a warning over any future misconduct, after incidents of hooliganism and bigotry surrounding the club’s Champions League tie earlier in the year with Villarreal. Privately, UEFA were disturbed and appalled when they uncovered what was still going on at Ibrox in the 21st century, with one official telling Spiers, ‘Yes we have racism today in football and many other problems. But it still shocking to us that, in the year 2006, we still have supporters in Glasgow shouting ‘Fuck the Pope’ and such things. We thought the world had moved on from this.’

The signing of Maurice Johnston may not have been the seminal moment that many were hoping for in regards to the wider problem of anti-Catholicism at Ibrox and in the wider community, but over the ensuing years, once Rangers had officially abandoned its dogmatic, discriminatory policies, it was as if the floodgates had been opened and a raft of Catholic players eventually arrived at the club, most of them foreigners, at a time when British football was opening up its doors to the world. Rangers have now been captained by a Catholic, and managed by a Catholic, an unqualifiedly welcome development, which has rightly exposed all the old lies and excuses about outsiders supposedly not being able to fully commit to the team’s cause. The present day Ibrox club has no compunction at all about signing footballers from all backgrounds, including even players from the Republic of Ireland, something that would have been unthinkable in Souness’s day.

So, in the end, we got there with Rangers, even if at times it felt as though the old institution had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. The extent of the club’s denials and equivocations down the years, however, has inevitably left many observers unconvinced about the nature of the progress within Ibrox, with the glaring lack of contrition or humility, coupled with the ongoing problems amongst the club’s fans and even directors, suggesting that the changes at the club have been largely cosmetic and have been adopted chiefly for reasons of expediency. Regardless, what can be said with some certainty about the club is that Rangers lost the battle of ideas, in the present and in the past, of what football clubs were supposed to be for and what the game had the potential to achieve in an often troubled society, and in the years since the Johnston signing, the club has subsequently faced numerous and, in the end sadly, catastrophic difficulties in facing up to its past.



This article is an edited extract from ‘Tangled up in Blue, The Rise and Fall of Rangers FC’ by Stephen O’Donnell, published by Pitch.

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  1. William says:

    Scotland segregates children on grounds of religion simply to please an utterly discredited and laughable religious organisation. One football club, which affected to have the moral high ground, is found to have been covering up widescale child sexual abuse simply to protect their ‘good name’.

    Yes, I can see that Rangers have a real problem and should have done more.

    1. Jo says:

      That’s a tired argument William.

      Sectarianism isn’t taught in Scottish schools, it’s taught in homes and invariably is accompanied by the support of either half of the “Old Firm”. That is a fact. It’s taught to weans from they can walk! In their homes.

      1. William says:

        Yes, Jo, separating children on religious grounds certainly does not contribute to a separated society on religious grounds. The State and Catholic Church are innocent parties! Why, it’s the parents! Boo! Hiss!

        Good point, well made.

        Further arguments from Jo – Racial segregation does not contribute to racially segregated societies.

        1. Alan Bissett says:

          Are you similarly vexed by All-Girls Schools, William? Or All-Boys Schools? Or Jewish schools? Can you point me to the angry comments you’ve left below other articles about them? Or is it just Catholic schools that get your goat?

          I keep hearing about how Catholic schools cause segregation (even although non-Catholics are allowed to attend them) but I went to a ‘non-demoninational’ school and we were never once addressed by any Rabbis or Imams or Buddhists or atheists at our assemblies. Only Church of Scotland ministers. Funny, that.

          1. William says:

            I’m sure defenders of the Jim Crow laws wished they had appealed to the existence of all-boys schools as a defence of their segregationist doctrine.

            If ‘non-Catholics’ (that charmless, dehumanising phrase so beloved of the Catholic Church) are allowed to attend Catholic schools then why do we have Catholic schools? Why is the Catholic Church allowed this authority? Maybe – here’s a mind-blower – have mixed schools in the first place?

          2. Alan Bissett says:

            You’re contradicting yourself, William: you agree that non-Catholics are allowed in Catholic schools on the one hand, then claim they’re discriminatory on the other. Can’t be both. But if it’s the former – and it is – then it’s hardly Jim Crow stuff, is it?

            I’d support moves to have all religious teachings removed from all schooling. They have no place there, as far as I’m concerned. But the issue always seems to be ‘Catholic schools’, never that the Church of Scotland pretty much has the ‘non-demoninational’ side of things sewn up. So how about this: we abolish Catholic schools, but accord to the Catholic Church the exclusive right to preach in ‘non-demoninational’ schools the way the Church of Scotland currently does. Sound fair?

          3. William says:

            The Church of Scotland does not vet teaching appointments as the Catholic Church does –


            “Therefore, applicants for any post within a Catholic school must be approved by the Bishop of the Diocese in order to be appointed.” Perhaps this fits in with your modern, trendy values. Pure against sectarianism an’ that.

            Non-denominational schools do not teach any worldview. Catholic schools exist for the purpose of teaching the views of the Catholic Church. That is their function. The Catholic Church does not demand segregation for Catholic children because ‘aw schoolz are jist the same’. Your comparison that some wee minister came in at Christmas to give the Christmas service at your non-denominational school is lame and pathetic.

          4. Alan Bissett says:

            Hilarious. “Your modern, trendy values. Pure against sectarianism an’ that.” Presumably by that sarcastic comment, you’re NOT against sectarianism. Aye, mate, it shows too!

            I already told you I was against all religious teachings in schools, so you’ll not get me on whatever the Bishop of the Diocese says, but I love the way to try to minimise the CoS’s involvement: “some wee minister came in at Christmas.” Every school assembly, which was every week, a minister spoke to us. Why? A minister was there at the school prize-giving too. Why? The school had an *official Church of Scotland minister* who’d been appointed to us. Why? It’s almost as though they were trying to teach us a specific worldview!

            Of course, none of this bothers you. Of course it doesn’t. Just the Catholic schools, eh?

            Let’s even say it WAS just ‘one wee minister’ coming in at Christmas time (even though it wasn’t). How do you explain the absence of Rabbis coming in to talk to the whole school during Passover, or Imams coming in during Ramadan, at our totally-benign-and-inclusive-nothing-like-those-sectarian-Catholic schools? After all, we had Jews and Muslims at our schools (as you’ll also find at Catholic schools, by the way), but we only ever heard the voice of the Church of Scotland?

            Go on, take me through that one.

          5. William says:

            Except, as has been pointed out to you, it is more than simple religious teaching. The Catholic Church does not insist on segregating children because of an RE class every week. It vets appointments, imposes Catholic teaching, opts out of the national curriculum when it suits, and ‘priorities the Catholic mission over other considerations’. None of this is comparable to non-denominational schools.


            When the Catholic Church abandons its insistence on religious segregation, pays reparations for the evils it has committed in Scotland and around the world then I might accept we’re taking sectarianism seriously in Scotland rather than crocodile tears and blaming Rangers.

          6. Jo says:


            I admire your resilience but William has laboured long and hard here and such is the depth of his hatred, you won’t penetrate it. Good try though!

          7. Alan Bissett says:

            William, Jewish and Muslim schools prioritise their own religious teachings. Private and Steiner schools opt out of the national curriculum. All-Boys and All-Girls schools ‘segregate’. Gaelic schools insist on teaching Gaelic. Not a peep from you about those. Just those pesky Catholics.

            So the basis of your argument seems to be that the Diocese vet appointments? I can see how one might object to that, but that’s not a reason in and of itself to abolish Catholic schools, simply to adjust the personnel on te hiring panel.

            So object to that, and to the exclusive presence of Church of Scotland ministers in so-called non-denominational schools, and I’ll accept your argument as a good faith one. Otherwise….

    2. Millsy says:

      Allan , good try but remember the wise words of Mark twain :

      ” Never argue with an idiot . They will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience ! ”

  2. Alan Bissett says:

    My memory of the Mo Johnston event, speaking as someone who supported the club, is that very, very few Rangers fans had an issue with the signing. On the contrary, they were delighted, knowing what a psychological blow it would (and did) strike to Celtic. Those burning scarves and season tickets were given media attention, of course, but they were in no way representative of the tone among the Rangers support. Not even close. The mood was one of jubilation.

    1. Its interesting looking back and thinking how many catholic players have signed since – can we get a Rangers Popes XI?

    2. William says:

      Rangers crowds were unaffected. No evidence of any boycott. A nothing story.

      Where are the Scottish RC’s desperate to play for Rangers? The Catholic Church insists on taking Catholic children away from ‘non-Catholics’ and then acts surprised when they support the Catholic team in Glasgow and don’t want to play for the Protestant team.

      Why, that’s incredible. They jailed Galileo for less.

      1. Jo says:


        While I believe both sides in the Old Firm bear responsibility for sectarianism problems in Scottish football, Celtic have never had a policy whereby only Catholic players were signed. Your entire post is, therefore, nonsense.

  3. Jo says:

    Ok, I’ll bite!

    It’s true to say that often, during the summer, news can be slow. This summer, however, we can’t say that.

    This week alone we’ve seen, for example:-

    The launch of Scotland’s Citizens Assembly plans.

    A truly awful TV “debate” between two woeful candidates vying to be future PM of the UK. A debate which made only too clear just how bloody terrible our future is looking.

    A move by MPs from Scotland’s governing Party to assist Westminster to impose legislation, on another devolved part of the UK, concerning devolved issues which come under the jurisdiction of that devolved part’s own (currently suspended) Assembly.

    So there you are, three pretty current, pretty important topics.

    And what does Bella give us? It gives us this one sided and very, very long attack on one half of the two teams once known as “the Old Firm”. I despair, Bella!

    There is certainly an article to be written about sectarianism in Scottish football where a mix of tribalism, Irish politics and worse ensures the environment remains toxic. This isn’t it.

    I am a football supporter but, at 14, I chose a team from outside Scotland to follow and they’re still my team today. My reason for doing so was that I didn’t want the baggage that goes with following either half of the “Old Firm”. And the biggest lie is, it’s nothing to do with religion or God. The worst offenders on both sides probably wouldn’t recognise the inside of a church.

    This was a bad choice of article here today. With all we are facing politically at the moment I’m amazed it was considered suitable.

    1. Actually Jo this week we’ve published:

      A detailed and comprehensive dossier on our incoming PM Boris Johnson:

      A feature article on the constitutional crisis and democracy movement by award-winning journalist Neal Ascherson:

      A detailed proposal on gaelic culture and language development:

      A critical assessment of the frailties of the climate change response:

      A personal account of the challenges of being gay and from a traditional rural background:


      a detailed assessment of the state of democracy after twenty years of devolution:

      Given the fact that this is the 30th year anniversary of this event (MoJo) and given the fact that we witness this week continued and appalling public order issues related to sectarianism I completely defend publishing this excellent account.

      I’m sorry you didn’t like it.

      1. Jo says:


        What I like is balance. This doesn’t deliver balance.

        In Scotland right now those who support independence are working to bridge the gap between YES and NO. It is vital to do that if independence is to be achieved. Again, this being Scotland, the whole independence issue has, for some, been split along “Old Firm”, Unionist/Nationalist (as in NI) lines.

        By publishing this one sided piece I genuinely think you’re not helping that process.

        1. I just don’t agree with the idea of False Balance – that if you are covering climate change you should include someone who “believes” in climate change and someone who does not. Equally I do not believe that both sides of the “Old Firm” have equal culpability on this issue. This just doesn’t make any sense. Its not my job as a publisher/editor to sugar-coat reality or to sweep away historical problems.

          1. AndyS says:

            KAH banners and KKK style nooses taken to Ibrox, deliberately provocative and offensive paramilitary style banners taken to Linfield, the Lee Rigby song at Sunderland and elsewhere, repeated UEFA fines for disorder including attempted attacks on players but thankfully it is them proddie ‘uns that are to blame for sectarianism.

    2. Alan Bissett says:

      What you on about, Jo? Virtually every newspaper in Scotland is carrying something this week about the 30th anniversary of the Mo Johnston signing. It was a significant event in the story of twentieth-century sectarianism in Scotland (one might argue THE event) and given that many of the issues surrounding it are still with us it would be very strange if Bella DIDN’T publish something about it.

      1. Thanks Alan. In fact Jo – Alan is one of many Bella contributors – and many in the indy movement who are Rangers fans.

        I can publish articles which are critical of the institution of Rangers football club and its own problematic culture and history, and still celebrate and connect with Rangers supporters who reject sectarianism.

        1. Jo says:


          Yep, I know who Alan is and I’ve read many of his articles in Bella.

      2. Jo says:

        Hi Alan

        I remember well the day Johnston signed for Rangers and the howls of anguish from both Rangers and Celtic supporters in my place of work.

        Personally, I couldn’t stomach Johnston. He was deemed to be Catholic but, in fact, didn’t practise any religion and, sadly, only blessed himself in an effort to incite a reaction from Rangers supporters. I found that disgusting. So, no, while the signing of Johnston caused a stir, I wouldn’t call it “the” event.

        As for the Scottish press, och, they’ve functioned for years as the major stirrer. They feed the frenzy yet stay quiet when they should speak out, for fear of losing sales. And they love nothing more than fanning the flames.

        What is it about Scotland? There are cities in England that have strong bonds with the island of Ireland but they don’t have this. There are faith schools in England but they don’t face the sheer hatred Scots like William direct at such places.

        It’s all very sad to me and it holds Scotland back bigtime.

  4. Douglas says:

    Oh for the days when Scotland had a striker who was worth Celtc and Rangers fighting over….

    ….McCoist was around then too, and Brian McClair and Frank MacAvenie and Davie Dodds was probably scoring 40 goals a season and not even in the national squad…. maybe Cooper was still playing too.

    As for Bisset trying to make out Rangers just have a fringe element, I’m afraid it’s not true. Anybody who has been at Ibrox supporting a team playing in green knows the hate is there. I , like many, have been chased by Rangers fans in my time, threatened, spat and abused. It’s not normal behaviour. They’re a bunch of bigoted retards and if the club disappeared tomorrow I’d open a bottle of champagne.

    And unfortunately there are RC schools in Scotland and unfortunately that is because Scotland has a long and deep history of fanatical anti-catholicim. .it’s just a fact.

    I wouldn’t set foot in Ibrox again if they paid me.. . They can fck off. Rangers should have been banned by the authorities decades ago on the grounds of being a factory of religious hatred. A bunch of retards disguised as a fitba team and an international embarrassment to Scotland .

    1. Douglas says:

      Let’s face facts, people…

      ..in no other walk of Scottish life but football, would an institution have ever been tolerated with such a disgraceful and shameful track record of hatred, violence, religious bigotry and systematic discrimination as Glasgow Rangers FC have been allowed to get away with…

      1. William says:

        Well, the Catholic Church is allowed to remain open despite running a worldwide sexual abuse network. If McDonald’s simply moved its managers around when it discovered they were abusing children on the premises, they would have been shut down. And rightly so. We operate a different standard in Scotland.

        Some happy viewing for you, Dougie – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7Bq7KcAsG8 Keep the faith, bro.

        1. Douglas says:

          I strongly object to any organization in Scottish society fueling peddling and providing a venue for mass religious hatred of any one of Scotland’s faith communities, whether than be RC, Jewish, Muslim Scots or whatever…

          We’re in 2019, this stuff is way out of date everywhere else in Scottish society. It’s totally out of order.

          One single anti-catholic song next season and Rangers FC should be banned until further notice…. one song and the Scottish courts should close Ibrox until further notice…

          1. William says:

            Ha, ha. Brilliant stuff!

            Unfortunately, for you, we no longer live in a theocracy and we can say whatever the hell we like about anyone’s beliefs. No special protection.

            “It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.” – Stephen Fry

          2. Douglas says:

            It’s clowns like you who are the problem…

            Glasgow Rangers FC have been systematically in breach of EU law, international law, human rights laws for decades now… it’s just needs a lawyer to decide to go for it and take the club to a European court and read out the charge sheet…it’s an open and shut case…

            If I had my way, wee pathetic men like you, William, would be watching junior fitba at the weekend and Ibrox would be demolished and turned into flats….

          3. William says:

            Not bitter at all. A shining example of independent thought.

            Mind the chest pains.

    2. Alan Bissett says:

      Douglas, I in no way made any reference to a ‘fringe element’ or otherwise at Rangers. What I said was that the majority of Rangers fans, in my experience, were delighted by the signing of Mo Johnston. Don’t put words in my mouth.

      1. Douglas says:

        Rangers fans often, like yourself Alan, will tell you how it’s just a minority who spoil things, just like it was a minority about Mo Johnstone according to you.

        I don’t know if that’s true or not, I recall Rangers buses being canceled and that Mo lived in Edinburgh for safety reasons.

        But I know I’ve been at Ibrox a few times over the years – one of which, a long time ago now, saw a physical assault on the Hibernian full-back Kevin McKenna when a Rangers fan ran onto the pitch and punched him – and when the whole stadium was rocking to “The Sash My Father Wore” or “The Billy Boys” I know for a fact that it wasn’t a minority singing it, it was the whole fckin stadium… the whole stadium…

        Guys like you, Alan, provide intellectual cover – unwittingly or otherwise – to what is a long standing national scandal and an international embarrassment for Scotland….

        How on earth any 21st century Scottish writer can support Rangers, a byword for bigotry, hatred and blatant religious discrimination, is a total mystery to me…

        1. Alan Bissett says:

          So, Douglas, it’s not enough to be a Rangers fan who calls out sectarianism on their own side? Being a Rangers fan – of any kind – is in itself completely objectionable? Is that your position?

          1. Douglas says:

            Alan, if you want Rangers to become an unobjectionable football club, you need the Rangers board to a) acknowledge that it has practised a policy of systematic religious discrimination against Catholics for decades, b) apologize to the Scottish Irish Catholic community for encouraging and making money from Catholic baiting and c) and promise that any Rangers fan involved in anti-Catholic discrimination – say William up the page here – will be banned for life from attending Rangers matches…

            You know, just being a Rangers fan against sectarianism doesn’t really achieve anything, though I’m not doubting your good intentions.

            The sad fact is that Rangers are a faithful expression of a certain part of Scottish society I’m afraid to say, so Rangers will never apologize of course….

          2. Alan Bissett says:

            Douglas, I understand your point and share many of your issues with the ideological underpinning of what’s commonly understood as the Rangers ‘identity’. My problem is that your to-hell-with-the-lot-of-you approach makes you sound no different to those Rangers fans who hold every individual Celtic fan accountable for Catholic church abuse scandals, or IRA atrocities, or graffiti mocking the victims of the Ibrox Disaster. These are real and horrific things, but when I meet a Celtic fan I don’t insist that they justify themselves because of them or demand that their club be shut down. I try to find as much common ground with them as I can, if they’ll let me. If they won’t, then I know what kind of person they are.

            There needs to be a place at every club for people whose attachment is based on, say, their friendships or childhood loyalties or relationship to a father or uncle, people who may not subscribe to – or who are critical of – some of the attitudes of the wider support. I am embarrassed by Rangers’s historic signing policy and can’t stomach the Union Jackery that surrounds the club, but I know many wonderful people who are Rangers fans and I’d never accept anyone writing them off as a human being simply on that basis.

            Not every Celtic supporter is comfortable with the Green Brigade. Not every Rangers fan likes The Sash. I’d prefer to judge people not on the colours they wear but on the values they espouse.

            As the great Edwin Morgan wrote in his poem ‘King Billy’: “Deplore what is to be deplored, and then find out the rest.”

          3. Douglas says:

            Alan, I don’t think of you as a bigoted person at all. I know your writing here on Bella and I’ve read “Pack Men” so I know you’re conflicted about Rangers.

            And I understand what you say about friends, family, background etc. That’s true, but up to a point. To be a free human being, to be a coherent human being, which is extremely difficult, in fact almost impossible for most of us, you have to be able to reject all of that. Ideas, principles, political beliefs, identities, loyalties are not transmitted biologically – that’s what Fascists think. They’re all choices. And you get to a certain age, and you have to make your choices.

            And it pains me to see you coming out with the usual Rangers handbook of self-justification / Celtic blaming. The Catholic Church child abuse scandal has got nothing to do with religious bigotry in Scotland, which predates it by 400 years. Likewise the IRA. And nobody is suggesting closing Rangers down because their fans write nasty graffiti about the famine or whatever….

            It’s about the club. It’s about the institution of Glasgow Rangers FC. It’s about the very highest level of Scottish society and its number one sporting team, which is Glasgow Rangers and always has been. What individual fans do is secondary to that in a country with one of the most ferocious anti-Catholic histories in Europe, where Catholics are a minority and a Catholic cannot be Head of State by parliamentary act… I mean, you are on the side of the reactionary, Unionist Scottish establishment, Alan. Sorry man, but that’s the the way it is…

            The fact is that Scottish football is way behind the curve on LGBT rights, on racism still and on sectarianism and religious hatred. It’s about 20 years behind the rest of society….it’s absolutely pathetic and totally embarrassing.

            If the clubs can’t change it, the courts need to get involved, Scottish Justice has to get onto this. And just close stadiums down for a month every time there is a breach of the same rules of respect for people’s lifestyle choices, religion, race and sexual orientation which govern the rest of society…

            Finally I don’t think Rangers fans like yourself, the sensitive kind Alan, have any notion of the level of aggression, menace and the sheer, unadulterated hatred you give off when you’re singing your retard songs at us in green…. you really are, an ugly bunch of bstards…


          4. Alan Bissett says:

            Man, I certainly hear what you are saying. Please don’t think that I don’t. And I wasn’t reaching for references to the Catholic church/the IRA etc as a means of attacking Celtic or defending Rangers – as *I* don’t make an immediate connection between Celtic fans and these things – but both you and I know that many Rangers fans do. I don’t think that’s fair of them. That’s the point I was making and one which you absolutely seem to accept for the reasons you gave.

            That’s why I also don’t think it’s fair that you seem to make *me* complicit in propping up the Orange Order, the Union, the monarchy, the establishment, all the things which I take absolutely nothing to do with but which you (and, to be fair, many Rangers fans) associate with the club. I don’t understand why publicly disavowing myself from these things is somehow assumed to be tacit support unless I also publicly disavow Rangers FC and all of its fans completely.

            The aggression though I do hear, and I don’t like it. I guess I’m fairly alone in thinking that in order to support one club it shouldn’t necessitate hatred of another.

          5. Douglas says:

            Well, I know you don’t hate Celtic fans because that comes across very clearly in your book, and the narrator’s discomfort with fellow Rangers fans comes across. too

            But you can’t make up your own private Glasgow Rangers FC, Alan and expect the rest of us to go along with it. Football clubs are highly social organizations..

            The owners of Rangers have, over more than a century, chosen to identify with a set of values which are way out of synch with modern Scotland, and in fact, nowadays would be criminal offences with the Rangers board liable to be prosecuted and imprisoned for promoting religious hatred and discrimination.

            So, if Rangers wants to be taken seriously as a reformed club, then you would expect the boards to publicly condemn their past policies, publicly apologize, and promise it will never happen again. But the last time I saw a Hibs – Rangers game was when we were both in the Championship, maybe April 2014 or so, and the Rangers fans were still singing the same songs as they were in the 80’s…. what’s changed?

            I mean, if it wasn’t religious hatred and sectarianism, and was, say racism, if Rangers were singing racist songs against black people or Asian Scots, would you still support them? I don’t think you would… What’s the difference?

          6. Alan Bissett says:

            Well, come on that’s not a fair comparison as we both know that there have been racist incidents at every stadium up and down the land, involving numerous different supports, and without wanting to pretend Rangers fans are paragons of virtue I can remember Hearts and Celtic fans, for example, throwing bananas at Rangers winger Mark Walters because he was black. While I’d expect any decent Celtic or Hearts fan to condemn such action, I wouldn’t expect them to stop supporting their team because of it.

            But I also don’t want to deflect from the point you are making about the Rangers songbook. I do deplore those songs. It’s not a matter of making up a private Rangers in my head (or maybe it IS, I don’t know) and expecting the rest of you to go along with it. I *understand* why Rangers are so disliked by the rest of Scotland. I just don’t think a blanket condemnation of every single fan – unless they have themselves been guilty of the songbook to which you refer – is appropriate. I just don’t think anyone can tar every supporter with the same brush. Not every England fan is a football hooligan, even though it might look that way sometimes when the World Cup is on.

            Anyway, Douglas, I just wish dialogue like this between fans was more possible. It saddens me that it generally isn’t, and that almost everyone’s first instinct is attack, attack, attack. I’ll bow out now, while respecting the many good points that I think you’ve made, if that’s okay?

          7. This has been a good exchange – and confirms my belief we were right to publish it. Thanks. Pint in Robbies?

  5. John Mooney says:

    William sounds rather upset,did he lose is sash in glasgow last Saturday perchance? LOL.

  6. Douglas says:

    Look, Alan, the question I was asking you is that, if Rangers fans were to sing on a regular basis “We’re up to our knees in Muslim / Jewish / Pakistani / Indian blood, surrender or you’ll die”, would you continue to associate yourself with Rangers FC?

    Would you not run a mile and say “It’s not worth it, I’ll have to find some other team to support”? I suspect that is what you would do., as a writer, as a public figure., as an indie activist, as a socialist, you wouldn’t be able to stomach it, or to justify it to yourself…

    Why is it different with the Scottish Irish Catholic community then? Let me tell you the answer: it’s because anti-Irish Catholicism is so long standing and so ingrained in Scottish society, it is such a feature of establishment Scotland, and has been for centuries now, that it is perceived to be normal. A wee bit out of order, but basically, fair game now and again when the boys need to let their hair down…

    That’s is exactly how discrimination in any society works. It becomes so generalized and ingrained it is perceived as acceptable and normal. In America with Afro Americans or native Americans, or with homophobia in Scotland, especially back in the 80’s and 90’s, with misogyny and sexism and the role of women in society… and all of these are issues still today as you know.

    As for football, you sometimes wonder is it worth it. We’re in the year 2019, there is still not one gay football player in the world? I mean, what are the football associations doing, what are the clubs doing, what is government doing?

    It’s a multi billion pound worldwide entertainment industry and there is not one single gay person involved? It’s a disgrace. Young people look up to football players like they were gods, they could be setting an example, and yet there is nothing. The clubs need to get their fingers out. They’re way behind the rest of society…

    As for the decline of Scottish football, maybe we got what we deserved eh? Because the hatred became more important than the game itself for too many people a long time ago… it’s a beautiful game and the people who use it to vent their hatred are just the worst…

    1. Douglas says:

      Finally, Alan, a hypothetical question:

      How many Scottish football players do you think gave up the game because of their religion or their sexual orientation or their race over the last 20 or 30 years?

      There must be thousands of young Scottish men who just turned their backs on football and walked away because they didn’t feel comfortable in the homophobic, anti-catholic, racist environment which is Scottish football…

      There are so many young Scottish players who come through and then mysteriously go off the rails in their early 20’s…or stop playing… or their career just disintegrates… we don’t know why usually.

      But I would bet you money a good number of them are gay, or bi-sexual or it’s because they’re not white and feel intimidated, or because they’re catholic and just can’t take the extremely aggressive environment and the hatred which pours out the stands the length and breadth of Scotland…

      Neil Lennon has spoken out about it, Stevie Clarke has too… but they’re the survivors. What about all the guys who are invisible and just packed it in?

      In my 50 years on planet earth, and having lived in three countries, I’ve never seen hatred in such intensity as I have at Scottish football matches, and especially when Rangers come to town… it’s not normal, it’s poisonous.

      And does the SFA stand for Scottish Football Association or does it stand for Sweet Fck All? Because they’re meant is to provide leadership for Scottish football in these areas, and they just haven’t done anything at all to improve the environment of Scottish football as far as I can see…

  7. William Davison says:

    So to sum up : “Prior to 1989 Rangers were very bad, but they then did a good thing by signing Maurice Johnston, ushering in an era of non-sectarian recruitment. But they didn’t really mean it, as they and their supporters are inherently bad and no amount of penance will ever will ever cleanse them of past sins. In addition, a 2006 E.U.F.A. fine proves that they are just as sectarian as ever.”
    Looking from the other side of the North Channel, one might get the impression that while one side of the “Old Firm ” has no redeeming features, the other side are paragons of virtue. But then, for my own information, I googled, ” how many times have Celtic been fined by E.U.F.A.?” Courtesy of the Cork-based Irish Examiner, I discover that they have been the subject of 12 fines, over a 6 year period, amounting to a total of almost £170,000. Various fireworks offences are listed, as well as pro-I.R.A. chants in 2011, display of an ” illicit banner” of an I.R.A. hunger striker in 2013, an “illicit banner” featuring a paramilitary figure in 2017 and a fine for a supporter invading the pitch and assaulting an opposing player later the same year. Rather than being black/white, this would appear to be a pot-kettle-black scenario. While Rangers fans have behaved badly in the past, so have Celtic fans. While some Rangers fans continue to chant in support of sectarian murder gangs like the U.V.F. , some Celtic supporters continue to display admiration for an organisation which, according to the testimony of its own past members and its actions during the “troubles, ” was steeped in sectarianism and carried out numerous purely sectarian murders.
    I’m sure Stephen’s book will probably sell well to the Celtic-supporting community and others, and, no doubt, a plug on “Bella Caledonia” will help. But in the context of promoting the merits of an independent Scotland to all Scots, I would question the merit of giving a Celtic-supporting author a platform to slag off the other side of the “Old Firm.” If, of course, you believe that Rangers are a bastion of Tory Unionism and that their followers all vote likewise, then it may be a no-lose situation. The past success of the Labour Party and the current success of the S.N.P. in West-Central Scotland would, however, suggest that you are just going to lose some people who already vote S.N.P. and dissuade others from doing so. Other on-line forums already provide ample opportunities for tedious Green/Blue, “who is the most evil” exchanges.

    1. Douglas says:

      I’m not a Celtic fan, but again it seems only fair to make a clear distinction between fan misbehaviour on the one hand, which Celtic and Rangers fans do and other fans do too, and institutional sectarian hatred and discrimination on the other hand, which only Rangers FC have ever done in Scottish football, setting themselves up as a protestant only club for 100 years – something they used to boast about – and making millions and millions of pounds from peddling hatred and contempt for Scottish Irish Catholics, something which they have never apologized for, or tried to make amends for, and have never even tried to disown themselves from by clearly and unequivocally condemning…

      Instead we get this interminable line of people called William trying to equivocate and claim the two cases are the same. Well, they’re not the same, and the context is not the same either, because Scotland had one of the most extreme and violent protestant Reformations in Europe against the Catholic Church and continues to be today a Protestant country which holds Orange Walks for example but not St Patrick’s Day Celebrations – unlike the rest of the world – and Catholics in Scotland, a minority, have been persecuted and discriminated against over the centuries in this country…

      The only way this will end is if some smart Scottish human rights lawyer takes Glasgow Rangers FC to the European Court of Human Rights and we hear the whole sorry history of Glasgow Rangers discriminatory signing policy over the years, and its never-ending history of promoting religious hatred, and the club is effectively banned and liquidated on the grounds it is a serial abuser of human rights and cannot possibly be reformed…

      Maybe that’s how it has to end…

      1. The Clincher says:

        Douglas – that legal challenge will falter on the grounds that there is no such club as GLASGOW Rangers FC.

        That aside, what the article should have been doing is praising Rangers for having the courage to finally end the ‘ban’ which everyone knew was nonsense; instead it continues with the implication that not enough is being done. I remember that Celtic never had a Protestant manager till Stein came along but no mention of that. Rangers had a muslim player around 1908 I think but no, the focus is always on catholics. Sadly, the fact is the signing of catholics did not end the sectarian attitudes among certain supporters of both clubs.

        1. Douglas says:

          Clincher, why is it always Scots with a Roman Catholic background who get targeted? Why is it guys like Stevie Clarke and Neil Lennon and not the managers of other teams?

          Why does a boy of 14 years old, wearing a Hibs top, like myself, a very long time ago now, get called a “Fenian bastard” by grown men in their 40’s, shouting and screaming, their faces screwed up rage and hatred, in Rangers tops? And even getting spat at?

          How can it be normal for a 14 year old boy to be verbally abused by a group of grown men three times his age going to see a game of football? Where else does that happen? It doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world that I know of… the people who do these things have been brainwashed to hate Irish Roman Catholics, can you not see that?

          And it happens to thousands and thousands of Hibs fans and Celtic fans and anybody who wears the colour green anywhere near these people… just wearing the colour green, outwith a football context, is potentially controversial and even dangerous in Scotland… the only country on planet earth where you have to choose the colour of jacket or shirt or jumper carefully before you go out, depending on where you’re going… again, where else is that the case? Nowhere else.. Is that not enough for you to see that we have a problem here?

          Why is there nobody on this thread saying that it is illegitimate to be a Protestant in Scotland, the equivalent of William further up the page – whose posts are possibly actionable on the grounds of inciting religious hatred – suggesting that to be RC is not a legitimate choice in Scotland? I mean, William up the page is quite blatantly using abusive language about Catholics. But everybody is so used to it, nobody really cares… again, that doesn’t happen in other countries I know where religion is a personal matter of faith.

          Why does the Scotland national team play in blue and Rangers play in blue? Why does the expression “a true blue” in Scotland mean a true protestant? Why was Mary Queen of Scots dethroned and forced into exile? Cause she was a Catholic maybe?

          Why is it illegal under UK Law for a British monarch to marry a Catholic? Why do you think? Because Scotland’s identity historically is anti-Catholic, and so is England’s. Obviously, that’s why it’s still a problem today…of course it is…

          In any system of discrimination, there are the doers, and there are the enablers, and then there are the people who tolerate it. The people who actually carry out racist acts or sectarian acts are a tiny minority, the craziest ones. The enablers are much greater in number and kind of justify it to themselves and in this case, blame Celtic. The people who tolerate it, like yourself, like Alan Bisset, who don’t like it but who continue to associate with it, are greater in number even still and include the SFA, Scottish justice system and the Scottish Govt.

          If the people who tolerate it, stopped doing so, then the enablers might start having doubts about their justifications. If the enablers start having doubts, then the doers might start feeling less confident about carrying out their acts of hatred against people from a different background…

          But it’s obvious from this thread Rangers fans are still in denial and refuse to accept they have a very, very big problem… and they’re not alone, most of establishment Scotland probably think the same.

          As for me, I live in Spain and guess what? People here go to football matches to watch the football, to watch the beautiful game… you don’t need anything else…

          Fans don’t run onto the pitch and assault players. The players are completely focused on playing their game. The emotional intensity of the crowd is about ten times higher in Scotland than it is in Spain where people sit back, relaxed, and enjoy the spectacle. The standard of football in Spain is about 100 times better than in Scotland, and the amount of hatred and nastiness is about 100 times less….

          As I said, we’ve got the standard of football we deserve. We had a great league back in the 80’s with four teams competing for the title every year, with our teams in Europe and winning trophies even, and a national squad which would have given any team in the world a very tough game. It wasn’t enough. The press and the pundits wanted the aggro, and too many of the fans did too….the football became almost secondary..

          Now we have a very uncompetitive league, and a national team who, far from looking like the oldest national side in world football, looked like newcomers on the world stage when they played San Marino… incredible… players who look terrified to receive the ball… a very bad sign and proof they are subjected to abuse like no other professional is in their day to day lives.

          I think it’s all connected. I think the level of hatred, the level of aggression, the lack of basic decency and humanity in Scottish football, actually affects our players from the earliest age right up to the national team. And the centre of the hatred, the aggression and the lack of decency and humanity is Rangers FC…

          Professor Tom Devine, Scotland’s leading historian, and from an Irish Catholic background I believe, says that religious discrimination is virtually non-existent in the workplace in Scotland these days. Which is good. But what that means is the one institution which is guilty of perpetuating religious hatred from one generation to the next is Rangers FC…

          You need to change the whole football culture of Scotland if you want to revive the game… and Rangers changing is the key to that…

          1. Doghouses Reilly says:

            What he said

          2. ian ramsay says:

            Catholics who signed for Rangers before Johnston include, before the end of World War I: Pat Lafferty (1886), Tom Dunbar (1891–1892), J Tutty (1899–1900), Archie Kyle (1904–1908), Willie Kivlichan (1906–1907), Colin Mainds (1906–1907), Tom Murray (1907–1908), William Brown (1912), Joe Donnachie (circa.1914–1918) and John Jackson (1917). Thereafter, Catholic players prior to Mo Johnston’s signing include: Laurie Blyth (1951–1952), Don Kitchenbrand (1955–1956), Hugh O’Neill (1976), John Spencer (1985–1992) (Bill Murray, The Old Firm – Sectarianism, Sport and Society in Scotland (John Donald Publishers, 1984) pp 64–5

  8. Douglas says:

    If you are given a big head start ahead of the rest of the world in football, like Scotland were, and then you get gifted two or three generations of highly talented football players, roughly from 1965-1985, who were way above what a country Scotland’s size should expect to receive as its rightful due,…

    …and then, despite that good fortune, you don’t build for the future but instead turn the venue of the beautiful game into a place where people come to hate other people, to insult other people’s religion and beliefs, to engage in hate and violence and aggression, then the Gods of football will come down to earth and punish you, and banish you and send you into the wilderness…which is where we are now, the footballing wilderness. Otherwise said, Scotland has bad football karma…

    This is what football is about…the Brazil 1982 World Cup team is what football is about….

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