Glasgow Rangers Fans Must Take Action—UEFA Cup Aftermath the Shame of the Few?
This is not about the match, I will make this clear now, this is about the other side of the UEFA Cup Final, one that should not be brushed under the carpet. No matter the idea that it is about the game and only the game of 90 minutes.
For on that night it did not feel this way for me.
I went down to Manchester for the UEFA Cup final along with 11 others, comprising of friends, neighbours and family all of whom are Rangers fans. I am a Celtic fan and a Scot, I got talked into going as we have other cousins studying in Manchester who I don't get to see often enough.
150,000 fans in Manchester oh dear god in Govan.
It was fun and carnival like in the morning, sun shining and birds tweeting, all that kind of stuff. But as early as 3pm/4pm it started to take on an edge that I was not to comfortable with, and this was long before the screen went black shall we say.
It really was unfortunate for Manchester in some fashion that Rangers fans were so close in distance, hence the huge amount of fans that travelled down, Glasgow is only a five hour drive away.
The city of Manchester however made 25 million profit due to this fact, so it cannot have it both ways, but yesterday I couldn't help but think things are about to boil over and that was before the game had even started.
I felt unsafe and along with my friends and cousins around 9/10pm time we wished we were anywhere but Manchester. In fact we were lucky to get back into our hotel at night, as they shut everyone out of the hotels after the trouble broke out, no matter what state you were in.
You could not say it was only a minority that left Manchester city centre knee deep in waste, piss and vomit. It is not just the minority that sing songs linking Jock Stein to a child abuse cover up.
The idea of a minority, is close to the "few bad apples" line that is often dished out by organisations to abstain from taking any responsibility.
Minority, say 10% of Rangers fans, even then that is 15,000 people, and the club and all its fans are accountable, and the true Rangers fans tonight are feeling it and are angry at those who let their club down but they must take action.
There is no point is pretending that Rangers are just unfortunate. There is a long history of such behaviour, Rangers are the only team to be banned from European football for the fact their fans rioted after they won the Cup Winners Cup in 1972.
Rangers have a repeated get-out for these episodes: the script always says this is "just a small minority" of fans. Moreover, as incident upon incident passes with the club's supporters - at Villarreal in 2006, and Pamplona in 2007 and now in Manchester in 2008 - it is always "heavy handed policing" and not the Rangers fans themselves who are said to be the blame.
Well, this is no small minority of Rangers supporters, and nor are the greater Manchester Police renowned for their truncheon wielding brutality. Instead, this is a football club with a poison somewhere at its core.
English Journalists that I talked with yesterday in the town centre spoke of the disgust in hearing thousands proudly singing "up to our knees in Fenian blood."
In Glasgow this is the norm, but it is depressing, in Manchester it brought home the stupidity of such things in the modern world.
Both Old Firm clubs must do more, Celtic and Rangers must realise the fantasy and money maker that is bigotry in the West of Scotland needs leadership from the Old Firm the kind not yet seen by either party.
Until a remedy is found, the once-proud name of Glasgow Rangers FC will always trigger thoughts of yobbishness and bigotry. The club, to be blunt, is paying a heavy price for its century-long antipathy towards signing Catholic players, a policy which planted this bitter environment.
However that is another matter, Rangers fans are accountable and it cannot be shrugged aside and it now makes many fearful of having Glasgow Rangers come to play in their home town, no exaggeration needed, the sentence is testament due now to the actions and behaviour of the Rangers fans last night.
My Rangers supporting friends and cousins, all five cousins are season ticket holders at Ibrox, feel sick to their stomachs and embarrassed as well as angry, not with their team but its followers who they believe are not in the minority.
There will be an enquiry and this should be embraced by all that were there last night and all fans of Rangers football club.
To Rangers fans I say to you this, for not taking notice and not demanding better of your fellow fan this is as foolish an act as it is for those who took part in the violence that marred what could have been a great night.
I am thinking out loud but I mean it when I say last night was disgusting. Seeing dogs being released on grown men shouting "god save the queen" as they kick, punch and throw bottles towards an outnumbered police squad is not an image of Bristish football that sits well with me.
I hope lessons are learned, no matter the reason there was no excuse for what happened.
Of note, to UEFA why not use parks rather than city centres to hold the extra fans to watch on big screens. The fashion is to have something in the middle of town so the city can make its money and the atmosphere is felt throughout.
However, last night you saw the other side of that coin where it started with good intentions but soon became clear things had gone horribly wrong.
The match passed in 90 minutes but the shame one team has brought on the Scottish game and British football will long remain a thought over the coming summer and European competitions the years after, for not in 30 years have we seen behaviour like this in British soil.
Rangers fans take action, demand better of your club, write to them, articulate you want change, for this poison is at your core of your club make no mistake about it.
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