There must be many today who feel we have reached the end of the road with regard to the behaviour of football fans. For quite some time now there have been ongoing controversies surrounding Celtic supporters, the singing of “patriotic” songs and the display of distasteful or inappropriate banners. The Green Brigade has been the centre of potential division among the Celtic support. The Celtic Disabled Supporters Association has had to appeal for consideration from fans. So Celtic Football Club has not had its troubles to seek from its supporters. That is an undeniable certainty. However, the club has always recognised the failings of its fans and has constantly rebuked them and taken strong action against them. Banning orders have not been short on the ground and the club has never been reluctant to denounce misbehaviour. There are those who might even claim it has gone over the top with some fans in this regard.
Could the same be said of The Rangers after the objectionable singing by supporters last Saturday at Berwick upon Tweed. It would appear that a great number stepped beyond the pale if reports are to be believed. And why would they not be? One could have little doubt about the extent of the vile songs, given that the presenter, Ray Stubbs, for ESPN made a formal apology to viewers and protested to the police. For at least forty five minutes, the singing was regarded as so offensive and deemed so distasteful to the general public that the commentator decided it was not fit for broadcast any longer. While decent supporters would compliment ESPN for its action, I would go further and say that its stance was pretty well unique as media responses go. Normally, the despicable chants that were heard would have gone unnoticed, without comment or excused. If that seems an exaggeration, remember that only last season Scotland were misled by politicians who greeted sectarian filled cup final bile with acclaim. It is just not the done thing to rebuke or criticise The Rangers. And, what if you do?
Take the reaction of The Rangers to the condemnations of last Saturday. Before looking at what was said by the club, should we join in the praise for its speedy response or should we, perhaps, examine its statement first? The latter may give us a better opportunity to judge how we should react.
“The club is disappointed at some outbursts of inappropriate singing by a section of the support at Berwick. Our fans have been excellent this season both home and away and we do not want to see this tarnished”.
The first word to jump out at me is “disappointed”. I am a mere supporter and not a club official but I am “ashamed” when Celtic fans tarnish the club, not simply “disappointed”. The next word to catch my attention is “outbursts”. My understanding is that for forty five minutes it was pretty well constant not sporadic as this word would imply. “inappropriate singing“ is the next description of events. No! The singing was sectarian, racist and extremely offensive to “many sections“ of viewers. (We could question the use of “singing” but we will leave that to the X factor). “a section of the support” comes next. Reports maintain that the songs in question were heard practically all around the ground and were obviously so whole hearted as to be clearly heard on the broadcast. Then we are asked to accept that “Our fans have been excellent this season both home and away”. As in the same excellence that Kenny MacAskill and David Longmuir witnessed at the League Cup final one might ask? Or the wee glitch at the game against Queens Park? Perhaps we should believe it is simply a Hampden phenomena. Given the lack of reaction from the corridors of that edifice, that might be a consideration. “and we do not want to see this tarnished” is not exactly the strength of response to see this lofty and commendable ambition realised. It smacks more of face saving than apology and threat.
Now that you have seen the words, dear reader, would you join with me in the praise? No? I well understand as this is as lily-livered a protest as one could make, unless that is, one does not wish to alienate the perpetrators. Where were the demands for investigation into the events, the exposure of and action against the offenders? In my opinion and in view of the words used, I would maintain nowhere to be seen nor heard. But then, how can a club condemn those whom it regularly wants to or needs to pamper.
The football authorities have also been once again complicit in allowing this to go unpunished. The media, no doubt intimating what should happen, claim that the SFA and SPL do not have rules to cover these transgressions and are unlikely to take any action. However, at least in an apparent attempt to legitimise the “cover up”, Vincent Lunny has asked for an explanation from The Rangers. So expect another “him speak with forked tongue” reply from Mr. Green or, if on another Phileas Fogg world tour, his intellectually, if not otherwise, challenged pr guru, Mr. Traynor. I guess that will justify another full drawer in the cabinet of unresolved cases at the Hampden Headquarters. Of course, no one should expect severe criticism from the impartial Scottish media who excused it all with highlighted reports of only two arrests and comforting quotes for all of Scotland when The Rangers come calling.
“Rangers’ away trips this season have been good-natured and uneventful, although The Billy Boys was briefly sung at Hampden against Queen’s Park, after a late winning goal and when some fans were attempting to bring the song back with acceptable lyrics. There was more sustained singing at this game, with No Pope Of Rome even heard at one point, a song that has long been abandoned by Rangers fans.” (Herald Scotland).
“a song that has long been abandoned by Rangers fans”, so it must be presumed those Timmy infiltrators were at it again. An idea not too far fetched given Gordon Dalziel’s contention that the choirs involved did not consist of “real Rangers fans”.
I have neither the time nor the inclination at this time to undertake a similar dissection of Mr. McCoist’s various comments which fluctuated as frequently as a barometer in a winter heat-wave. Whatever mood he encountered dictated how he reacted. He twisted and squirmed from “Bear” hugs to rebuke with the frequency of a diarrhoea attack along with the reliability of the local bus service, not usually a good combination when on the run. The resultant stink of acquiescence pervaded every public announcement from the manager’s mouth. Once again the cotton wool of media approbation was in evidence providing protection for his unparalleled equivocation.
In the interest of balance, it must be pointed out that the head of The Rangers supporters John McMillan roundly condemned the singing and called for lifetime bans for those found guilty of it as did many fans of The Rangers. Going by Gordon Dalziel’s beliefs that will mean a lot of non Rangers supporters being punished – REALLY! At last some are on the same wavelength as Celtic FC and Celtic fans. However, it took McMillan’s unequivocal statement to draw any kind of similar comment from the Ibrox “heid yins“. Instead, Ally was spouting about song sheets and other “toilet” paper weight solutions. Given he claimed not to have heard the singing, it will be interesting to see what desert island selections he chooses to include in his suggested alternative repertoire. No doubt the Hampden hard-men will see fit to impose this perfect solution and with the help of another dose of legal gibberish from Salmond and co. to enter it into the already over exercised statute books. Thus the serious problems of sectarianism, bigotry, racism and other similar unquantifiable Scottish football offences will come to the end of the road with one foul sheet.