Rangers, Scotland, Europe & Global Capitalism

Football fans have long memories but they are often selective; editing out the most painful recollections and choosing to create an idealised picture of their club. Supporters of Rangers, who appear in a European final tonight, are no different from others.

Fifty years ago – on 24 May 1972 – Rangers won the European Cup Winners’ Cup defeating Dynamo Moscow in Barcelona: the sole continental triumph of Rangers in their entire history. This saw the likes of John Grieg, Colin Stein and Willie Johnston enter into the pantheon of heroes of the club; unfortunately the game’s end was also marked by rioting, violence and the brutality of Franco’s infamous police. 

Ten years ago in summer 2012 Scottish football witnessed unprecedented events as Glasgow Rangers, after a host of financial and tax issues, went first into administration then liquidation. This forced them to begin again as a new club in the fourth tier of the Scottish league and work their way over four years back to the senior league, that previously they had always been part of.

Go back now one year ago – nearly to the day. Rangers fans celebrated finally putting their years of difficulty away by winning the Premier title under Steven Gerrard, made sweeter by stopping Celtic’s ‘nine in a row’ becoming a record breaking ten titles. Yet in their want to celebrate this moment Rangers fans took to George Square in Glasgow and twice within a matter of weeks caused widespread damage while engaging in intimidation and violence which left the authorities to clean up their mess.

Today Rangers reach some sort of turning point compared to the events of ten years ago, and it is to be hoped last year as well. After a decade of tumultuous and often raw emotions Rangers feel they are back, and reaching a Europa League Final against Eintracht Frankfurt – the club’s first European final in fourteen years – is massive.

It is a huge achievement for Rangers and the wider Scottish football. For Rangers fans this is a cathartic moment of exhilaration and affirmation after all they feel they have been through. Their fans generally see themselves and their club as nearly universally misunderstood, misrepresented and even loathed in Scotland, and this achievement gives them a chance to show naysayers the unique and special club they support. 

Scottish football and Europe

For Scottish football it is nearly as impressive an achievement. This is the tenth European final a Scottish team has reached, but in recent decades (as each year passes) it gets more difficult for a team from Scotland – or indeed any club outside the big leagues (England, Germany, Italy and Spain).

The golden era of 1961-72 saw Celtic and Rangers reach five finals and win two tournaments (Celtic 1967, Rangers 1972). The 1980s saw Aberdeen and Dundee United reach two finals and one emerge victorious (Aberdeen 1983). Since the turn of the century there have been slimmer pickings, but Celtic reached the UEFA Cup Final in 2003 and Rangers in 2008 – with both defeated. 

That Scottish record of ten finals is an impressive comparative record, admittedly one with half of the achievement in or prior to 1972 – fifty years ago. But it is still to view it in European terms a record which can stand tall and proud compared to most of Europe beyond the rich, powerful leagues.

Football and Global Capitalism

The nature of European football is increasingly defined and run by kleptocratic crony capitalism with different gradations across Europe, ranging from ethical and fan-owned football clubs to in effect brutal dictatorships owning Newcastle United and Manchester City. To take one topical example, the reign of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea which saw record spending even by Premiership standards and twenty-one trophies won only became an issue for the authorities after nineteen years and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Few in English football spoke out against the Saudi Arabian state’s takeover of Newcastle United towards the end of 2021, with an exception being Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, a man who believes in the importance of solidarity, who stated of the billions now involved in the English Premiership: ‘It’s basically like the Super League now – just for one club. Then Newcastle are guaranteed to play a dominant role in world football for the next 20 or 30 years.’

Across Europe football is heading in one direction. UEFA embody a winners’ takes all philosophy of football; the Champions’ League plans for historically successful clubs being awarded places in the competition (i.e. underperforming giants) is being morphed into a European Super League – which fans universally resisted last year – but this time run by UEFA.

Every single year Scottish football loses financial ground in relation to the behemoth that is the European football of the Champions’ League. Twenty years ago Rangers and Celtic could hope to appear in that other critical football league table and the one that matters to investors and owners – the Deloitte league table of the twenty richest clubs in the world – but now they are nowhere near that elite.

This is not just a point about Scottish football and encouraging victimhood. Rather it is true for all European football in the smaller leagues: Portugal, Belgium, Holland – all countries with successful European pedigrees, the Nordics and Eastern Europeans. Since the Berlin Wall came down in the tumultuous years of 1989-91, not one team from Eastern Europe has won a major European tournament; two Russian teams and one Ukranian team have won the UEFA Cup over the same period.

Such an environment makes the achievement of Rangers this year all the more notable – and one many of us thought increasingly unlikely. But under Giovanni van Bronckhorst the Glasgow club have impressed and shown skill and intelligence in Europe in a way they have conspicuously failed to do so in the Scottish Premier League this year. Not only have they got to a European final playing convincing football, they have beat the number two and number four teams in the German Bundesliga – Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig.

Scotland and Glasgow Rangers 

Many in Scotland will not feel generous towards Rangers in Seville tonight. Such sentiments extend beyond Celtic fans to supporters of other clubs. Rangers do not make it easy in many respects to be magnanimous. The club for example never apologised to the Scottish game for going into liquidation; it never even apologised to its own fans or all the hundreds of companies, many of them small independents around Ibrox, that it left in debt. This is a pattern. The institution never offered one word of contrition for those of its fans who twice trashed and destroyed large parts of the centre of Glasgow. This reflects a deep-seated entitlement culture at the heart of the club, and in recent years the style of PR advice it has received from Jim Traynor.

Yet football is not about being equally small-minded, petty and prejudiced as those who already are. That is a race to the bottom, and too many who respond to Rangers ignore that this perpetuates and reinforces a vicious cycle of mutual antagonism in which we all ultimately lose and are diminished.

A word of perspective is also needed in relation to some of the wall-to-wall coverage of the media and such broadcasters as BBC Scotland – who never seem to need an excuse to serve up yet more football punditry. On the eve of the big match BBC Reporting Scotland presented us with Rangers as the first and last items with a litany of corporation staffers having gone over to Seville. Pity poor BBC Scotland Political Editor Glenn Campbell who had to cover the First Minister’s trip to Washington from Edinburgh.

I hope that Rangers play to their capacities tonight – and win, and that as importantly their fans (whatever the result) do not replicate the behaviour of some of them in Barcelona 1972, Manchester 2008, Glasgow 2021 and sadly many more.

I would like to live in a Scotland where we got past such grudges and ancient tribalism, and where it was possible to enjoy the success of Rangers in Europe as an achievement for Scottish football that puts us on the international map. 

I will be supporting Rangers tonight, wishing the team well and hoping that they make the headlines for the right rather than the wrong reasons. 


Comments (25)

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  1. Thomas Davidson says:

    The current team called “Rangers” has no legal or historical connection with the previous entity of that name: as Mr Hassan notes, that company was liquidated, whereafter one of the founders of the present club based at Ibrox, Charles Green, claimed to have purchased the deceased club’s history, with a view to conning its supporters (aptly described as ‘the gullibillies’), with a view to enriching himself and his associates, in which he succeeded amply.

    If teams in the ‘Big Five’ European leagues have been the subject of financial doping, so too has the team playing in Govan: in its ten years’ existence, it has made substantial losses; it has been able to keep the lights only due to injections of money from its directors; and rumours abound that it is in debt to HMRC and other creditors.

    The events that took place in George Square (twice!) last year; the hubris of the club and its supporters; the fans’ constant anti-Catholic and anti-Irish chants; Ibrox’s regular acclaim for the Fascist and KKK member Billy Fullerton; the unswerving support given to the Windsors and to the union – these and other factors should impel any progressive to hope, in the words of Captain Beefheart, that “the new dinosaur is walking in the old dinosaur’s shoes”.

    Come on Eintracht!

  2. Squigglypen says:

    Who cares?
    A neighbour- a Rangers devotee flies the Union flag…booed and hissed from his car with other Ranger thugs at me as I went to vote Yes for Independence.
    For Scotland and Independence.

  3. Sandy says:

    I seriously don’t give a damn who wins or for professional football as it has now become. And I say the same for any top-level professional so-called sport. Because, sporting it ain’t. Nothing like it.
    It’s big business, pure and simple. It’s about money and profit for owners and investors and ridiculous pay deals for those employed in running and playing it.

    The fans are deluded in ideas of loyalty and any thoughts about their connection with the football clubs (ie businesses) and their heroes ( ie millionaires who have next to no connection with the fans themselves).

    1. 220518 says:

      I’ll be shouting on Die Adler, but only because Frankfurt United is owned and monetised by the club’s own membership.

    2. maxwell macleod says:

      I agree, beer, circuses, football and nationalism.

  4. Chris Connolly says:

    I never see anybody in Stranraer wearing the colours of Stranraer FC. There are lots of blue shirts to be seen, for sure, but they all bear the logo of an online betting company rather than that of Stena Line, who have sponsored Stranraer for years.

    When I see folk wearing Rangers tops or flying Union Jacks in their gardens I don’t think about football. Does anybody? What a Rangers shirt says to me is “I am a Protestant and a Unionist. Do you want to make something of it?” It’s a challenge, and not a friendly one.

    Wearing a Sheffield United shirt around the area where Wednesday play is likely to get somebody shouted at but at least it’s nothing to do with religious bigotry or sectarianism. It’s still mindless and stupid, but it’s more of turf war thing than real war. Rangers & Celtic fans are re-living the Troubles in Northern Ireland, but without the risk of being killed. That they make heroes out of terrorists and murderers makes them equally despicable.

    Like many of us, I shan’t be watching the match, and I’ll be giving Reporting Scotland a miss as well. Professional football has become toxic, and although I normally don’t care who wins, on this occasion I hope to turn on the news tomorrow and find that Eintracht Frankfurt won the trophy. Whoever scores the most goals, there are citizens of Seville who will need hospital treatment and bars and shops vandalised and staff intimidated tonight.

    There must be folk in Arbroath who are mightily relieved that the Gable Endies didn’t win promotion. It’s not that they bear any ill will towards their local team; it’s just that they won’t have to run for cover 4 times during the winter, unlike the unlucky citizens of Killie, Dingwall, Livingston, Motherwell etc. who would just like the freedom to go about their business in their own town centres without being bullied by hordes of drunken dunderheads.

    1. 220518 says:

      I was at the dominoes night at the Fitba’ Bar last night. Never mind the Europa League, there was a family steak pie up for grabs. Quiz night’s back on the 27th – I cannae wait! Old Firm fans, eat your hearts out!

      1. Chris Connolly says:

        If only it weren’t for the fitba!

    2. D. Malone says:

      Today in work I was waiting on customers, when I heard, “Bloody Irish!” shouted behind me. I looked to see a man standing with a woman wearing a Rangers scarf, both smirking. I’m from Ireland. I was born, and grew up , in the south east and the man knows this. I then had to serve these customers politely, while feeling intensely uncomfortable.
      I first moved to Scotland permanently nearly a decade ago to live closer to my partner’s family, and over the years I’ve experienced very odd, underhand, passive aggressive, or very straightforward aggression when people find out I am Irish. It’s bizarre and exhausting, and sometimes quite frightening.
      I’ve had people in my place of work tell me they’ve “served in Northern Ireland”, often repeating this fact many times in attempts to get a rise from me. This went on from the same one or two customers (and one colleague) on many occasions until a manager spoke with them.
      I also bizarrely had a random man in a shop, having heard my accent, claim loudly- and without preamble- that I must be a Celtic supporter because I was holding a book with a green cover (“Making Homemade Cleaning Products”, was the title for the curious) and when I looked confused he then told me he was a Rangers fan. I didn’t know at the time what that signified and felt really confused and intimidated. Also, on a night out in Edinburgh I even refused to speak until a large crowd of drunken , loud and aggressive Rangers fans passed by in case they decided to start something just because of my accent.

      These are the worst I’ve experienced, but every so often I also get some clichéd jokes made from randomers. Even though I’ve been here this long, I still get “turty-tree and a turd” or “Top of the morning to ya” far too often. These last ones are just annoying, and are usually well meant. I will tactfully reply, or give an alternative phrase (like “What’s the story?” or Cén scéal?) but honestly sometimes I just want to tell even these well meaning people to get tae fuck!

      I will say that these examples do not come close in number to the wonderful exchanges and conversations I’ve had with kind, caring, generous, hilarious and warm hearted people that I’ve met while living here.
      Alba Abú!

    3. florian albert says:

      ‘What a Rangers shirt says to me is “I am a Protestant and a Unionist. Do you want to make something of it ?” It’s a challenge and not a friendly one.’

      I am a million miles away from being an admirer of Rangers, but that particular statement tells me more about you than about the tens of thousands of different people who support Rangers.

  5. BSA says:

    It is not ‘grudges and ancient tribalism’ which deny support for Rangers. It’s disgust at the scum who follow them, disgust at the club which shelters these ‘supporters’ and scepticism at the ‘decent supporters’ who turn a blind eye to them. The idea that Scotland should feel any affinity for any of them is ridiculous, particularly considering the standards set in Scotland by the Tartan Army and the Fair Play award for Dundee United after the UEFA Final – to name but two. Away ye go Gerry.

  6. Wul says:

    Tonight I watched Rangers trying to produce “…the success of Rangers in Europe as an achievement for Scottish football that puts us [Scotland] on the international map.” I didn’t see a single Scottish flag in the stadium.

    1. 220519 says:

      But there were tens of thousands of saltires, Wul, incorporated into all the Union flags.

      Frankfurt did well, though, with neither a Bund nor a Länder flag in sight.

      (BTW Maybe we should be demanding of the Scottish government, as a condition of our consent to its independence, that, rather than just recreating its own wee Whitehall in Edinburgh, it instead institutes a régime that emulates Germany’s Grundgesetz, which, in reaction to the nationalisation of power during the Nazi era, leaves its constituent states like Hesse with considerable autonomy. A kind of Bundesrepublik Schottland, as it were. Such a republic would be more conducive to democracy than the sort of régime that the Scottish government is currently instituting in advance of its independence.)

      1. Wul says:

        True. Although, it’s the wrong shade of blue. I am no fan of flags or flag-waving anyway.

        Yes, a much more distributed network of power would make us more resilient and vigorous. No appetite for that at SNP HQ though. Surely good leaders should always be working to make themselves redundant?

  7. Fay K says:

    Will that day ever come when this stupidity is gone? It is the most insidious narrative and its damage never really leaves which is such a waste.

  8. Bradley Brady says:

    Again with the ‘two tribes, as bad as each other’ guff. Ignoring the brutal reality is to exhibit a de facto tolerance of a situation where we all ultimately lose and are diminished.

    Really, really glad they lost. And not out of equally small-minded, petty prejudice and ancient tribalism. I just really didn’t fancy thirty thousand drunken Orangemen in George Square fantasising about being up to their knees in mine and my families blood.

    1. Derek Thomson says:

      “And not out of equally small-minded, petty prejudice and ancient tribalism. ” No, of course not. Perish the thought.

  9. Chris Connolly says:

    Of course, the papers are full of Rangers’ heartbreak and devastation today. Fucking hell! If it breaks your heart to not win a Cup then perhaps it wasn’t worth the time, money and emotional capital involved in going to see the game. Lots of things are heartbreaking and devastating, but losing at football surely shouldn’t be one of them.

    There should be a Fans Anonymous for people who are addicted to fitba and would like to get away from it, because all it brings to most fans is disappointment. Last year Celtic supporters demonstrated outside Parkhead because they weren’t going to win the League for the 10th successive year, which is like a wean shouting at her parents because they only gave her 9 chocolate selection boxes for Christmas. Fans are ripped off, exploited, treated like fools and then live down to expectation by building up pathetic rivalries not just with other teams’ fans but now, on internet forums, with their own comrades as well. It’s not enough to just follow St Mirren, for example, you have to hate Morton too, and woe betide any other Buddie that disagrees about whether your manager should be sacked or not.

    I have a friend who loves football so much he once told his wife some cock & bull story and was out all night, not because he was having a secret affair but because he made a 300-mile round trip to watch a non-league match. He has probably forgotten the game completely by now. There’s a website called the Non League Matters Forum, on which folk talk about their trips to see games all over the UK. Last year, during lockdown, one guy boasted about taking a train from King’s Cross to Dumfries and a bus to Lochmaben so he could attend a South of Scotland League fixture, that was taking place in an empty ground, by peeking through a fence. These guys rarely enjoy their trips; they are full of complaints about the traffic, the weather, lack of programme, inedible pies and so on, but more significantly they seldom enjoy the game itself. The most common summing-up is “Not one that will live long in the memory.”

    Here’s a bit of news that might surprise the press and TV folk: there are a large proportion of people who either don’t like football or are indifferent to it. Many of them are part of that mysterious bunch known as women, for whom the idea of being devastated by your team losing a match seems ridiculous.

    Never mind, Rangers fans. You’ll have got over their heartbreak by the time the new season comes around, unlike people who have had a recent experience that was genuinely worth feeling devastated about. Go to bed, wrap yourself in your Union Jack duvet, read the papers praising the players for their unlucky defeat and you’ll probably be feeling better in a day or two.

    1. Chris Connolly says:

      A man from Ilkeston, Derbyshire, was sent to prison yesterday following Nottingham Forest’s match against Sheffield United on Tuesday evening. 30 year old Forest follower Robert Biggs ran onto the field and headbutted United’s Billy Sharp, who hadn’t even taken part in the game and was once a Forest player who, presumably, Mr Biggs used to cheer on. And this wasn’t because he was in a bad mood; his team had won. He attacked Mr Sharp as part of his celebrations! Unless there are two Robert Biggses from Ilkeston, the attacker is a self-employed electrical engineer who, probably, wouldn’t even consider headbutting somebody for no reason if not at a match.

      Bring on Fans Anonymous. Since Mr Biggs has been banned from watching any more football for 2 years he’s going to be suffering cold turkey. He needs help! Perhaps he could channel all that passion into something more useful and less anti-social instead.

    2. Derek Thomson says:

      Here’s a bit of news that might surprise you – many, many people are really into fitbaw, you know, like, the game? And here’s the real surprise – a lot of them are that “mysterious bunch” (good grief) called women. And there will be no Union Jack duvet in my house, or any other manifestation of a Union Jack. As a Rangers fan, sorry for any confusion caused. And as for the tiresome “new club” trope from Gerry “I hope they win tonight, he lied” Hassan, did ye, aye?

      1. Chris Connolly says:

        Aye. I’m sorry I offended you with that cheap “duvet” remark, Derek. On the other hand, many of us feel indignant that the Scottish media expected us to watch the game, want Rangers to win and then to feel sorry for the fans when they didn’t.

        Not sure whether you are just feeling crabbit over the result or are being disingenuous but you seem to have missed every other point I made. I expect you’re still upset by Eintracht having won.

        Football just isn’t that important. Blimey, when my doctor told me I have cancer I didn’t respond by saying “Ah well, at least my fitba team won last night.” A large % of Scots, who are interested in the news, either don’t care about Rangers, Celtic or the game in general, while plenty more actually find it really annoying, especially when they plan an afternoon’s shopping only to have their town centre taken over by rat-arsed football fans.

        Frankly, I don’t understand how anybody could set foot inside Ibrox on a match day, spend a couple of hours among all those loyalists and bams, and come away unsullied. I’m not saying ALL Rangers fans are bams, but if you’re not it must amount to a hell of a personal conflict. It’s like going to your favourite bar, finding out it’s a meeting place for an extreme-right organisation and then carrying on drinking there regardless.

        1. Niemand says:

          I feel you protesteth too much, like an atheist who is just as dogmatic as the believer.

          Rangers apparently represent unapologetic, even aggressively right wing Unionism. The idea that they would get a fair hearing on a site like this is well, unrealistic.

          I do think it fair to say when it comes to sectarianism they are worse than Celtic and some of their fans come across as the lowest of the low. But this mantra also seeks to absolve Celtic as simply the good guys or to always deflect from the club’s similarly deep sectarian problem. Oh, and it just so happens Celtic represents the leftist-oriented desire for independence from the dastardly Brits. Who’d have thought it?

          1. 220520 says:

            It all comes down to flags. The Celts rally around their Irish tricolour and all that it represents to them, and the Gers rally around their Union Jack and all it represents to them. Each to their own.

            Personally, I don’t understand how anybody could set foot inside Ibrox or Celtic Park on a match day. I prefer the wide open spaces of Brunton Park.

          2. Sandy Watson says:

            It’s a few years ago, but worth seeing again: the nonsense of ‘flag waving’ and the trouble it brings.


        2. Derek Thomson says:

          Aye, I was crabbit. Yes, it’s a hell of a personal conflict, which has turned into a kind of cussedness, I’ll admit. I’m not too fond of being pushed, stamped, filed, indexed, briefed, debriefed and numbered. My life is my own! There’s a lot of bigotry being disguised as righteousness on here though.

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