Rangers (of Berwick) played against Rangers (of Glasgow) today. The match was shown live on ESPN. I did not see the game nor hear the commentary.
However many other people did.
There has been sectarian singing in the first half and we’re going to contact the police and the authorities here to find out what can be done, if anything, about that.
Amongst his tweets he wrote:-
If those who think what was sung in the first half is acceptable, they should look at 99% of the users on Twitter who disagree with them.
Rangers issued a statement during the game which can be read here, and which said:-
RANGERS Football Club has issued the following statement in light of events at this afternoon’s game at Shielfield Park.
A spokesman said: “The Club is disappointed by certain outbursts of inappropriate singing by a section of the support at Berwick.
“Our fans have been excellent this season both home and away and we do not want to see this tarnished.”
Cynics might suggest that it was the condemnation by ESPN which made an official statement essential. Cynics might also say that there have been reports of “inappropriate” singing (for want of more controversial word) at many Rangers matches this season, and indeed arrests at a number of games.
Equally there would be those who would say that other football teams also have fans who sing or chant things which are “inappropriate” and why does it always seem to be Rangers which is “picked upon”.
However, I would hate to be classed as a cynic.
It is good to see the club taking such a stance so quickly, and that should be commended.
One might say that the statement could have been stronger, and clearly it could. However there are Rangers fans who do not believe they are doing anything wrong by regaling the viewing and listening audiences with songs which they have already been told not to sing.
This was exemplified, I was told on very good authority, by one of Craig Whyte’s first meetings in the Rangers Board room after his takeover, when he asked, apparently in all seriousness, “Why can’t we sing all of our old songs anymore?”
A number of people in the room that day had been very active in the campaign lead by Martin Bain to stop the “inappropriate” singing by Rangers fans. They were astonished at what the new Chairman was saying, and realised that progress which had taken many years could be lost very quickly.
Whilst it would be wrong to accuse Mr Green of pandering to the element of his support which likes singing “all of our old songs”, I think it is fair to point out that a key strategy in his takeover has been to appeal to the core support, as shown by the various statements designed to emphasise the “Rangers v the world” conflict.
Let’s be clear. I am NOT suggesting that Mr Green is actively, or even subconsciously, promoting such behaviour. But some of the Rangers fans might see the “No one likes us – we don’t care” stance as giving them carte blanche to dig out the old songbooks.
A couple of final points.
First of all, the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 applies to “regulated football matches”. Even though the Berwick Rangers v Rangers game took place in England, the offences under Part 1 of the Act, being that dealing with Offensive Behaviour, can be committed outwith Scotland, and prosecuted in Scotland. Strathclyde Police might well be poring over the video footage of the match to see who can be identified as amongst the “choir unpalatable”.
Secondly, this event cannot help any campaign to have Rangers, or indeed any Scottish team, permitted to enter the English leagues. On a weekend when West Ham have commented on their own issues with chanting, I suspect that there would be little appetite amongst the English authorities to import more problems, or what are perceived as more problems.
Thirdly, I suspect that, as I predicted in a blog post about the new Act in March 2012, tomorrow’s Celtic match might have a large number of keen-eared listeners who are poised with computer keyboard or phone to report anything they hear which offends them.
Thus the police find themselves caught up in the “whataboutery” which may well act, as is often the case, to cloud the issues. After all, if both sides are guilty, how can one be condemned?
Posted by Paul McConville