Rangers deserve level playing field, not lies and hostility from politicians and media

The images of Rangers fans celebrating in George Square on Saturday have been condemned by politicians and media commentators. Here, Gers fan and writer Graeme Hanna responds to the critics

“In some people’s eyes, anything to do with Rangers is wrong.”

Not my words, but those of Graeme Souness speaking during his Ibrox era 30 years ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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In defiance, with a siege mentality, is not how I want to remember the weekend that saw Rangers lift their 55th league title and a joyous occasion for thousands of people, but the sustained outpouring of negativity and vitriol from Scottish mainstream media outlets ensures that certain issues have to be addressed and defended.

Rangers fans celebrate winning the Scottish Premiership title at George Square, Glasgow, on May 15, 2021.

Firstly, the vast majority of Rangers fans and all right thinking people strongly condemn the mindless scenes of violence and reckless behaviour from a small minority that marred the joyful experience and positivity of thousands of Rangers fans at George Square on Saturday afternoon.

Did it ruin my day? Absolutely not. Did I not like some of what I saw and heard? Most definitely.

In Glasgow on Sunday, there was a mass rally showing solidarity for Palestine. There was also the protest in Kenmure Street last week, against a Home Office enforcement, which political representatives encouraged people to attend. Why the disparity in coverage depending on the motive for the gatherings? Covid doesn’t discriminate.

Rangers fans celebrate in George Square in Glasgow on May 15, 2021, after Rangers lift the Scottish Premiership trophy for the first time in 10 years.

Yes, Rangers fans did defy requests and instructions not to gather, but given the likelihood of this happening, why not mitigate risks and lead a procession to Bellahouston Park, for example.

Saturday’s celebrations were 10 years in the making and a certainty since March. A proactive approach could have seen George Square untouched and provisions made elsewhere but that would not have made for political capital.

Football fans celebrating titles in Amsterdam, Milan and Lisbon recently, had similar gatherings. This fan culture is not exclusive to Glasgow. Certain journalists appear to have their head down or are deliberately obtuse.

I deplore whataboutery but I must indulge. If Celtic had achieved their 10, what a party that would have been and rightly so. If Scotland beat England and go far in the Euros, will there be similar scenes to Saturday? Would there be the same reaction?

The response from the SNP government has been riddled with hypocrisy and disrespect to office, particularly from Justice Minister Humza Yousaf, who waded in to claims of Rangers players (half the regular team is Catholic) chanting ‘F*** the Pope’ to Sweet Caroline. Absurd.

Growing up in Belfast and still today, we live with the scars of sectarianism, division, zero sum politics and othering. Glasgow, my home from home, a city that I love is heading in that direction to an extent.

The SNP is alienating half the country. Football tribalism and outward Unionist expression from Rangers fans is conflated with this reality, as it is undesirable to them. A piece published by the Edinburgh Evening News on Monday encapsulated this.

I’m not naive. The Rangers fanbase has its issues, much like the society it is part of. There’s a discussion to be had around sectarianism and prejudice, but not in the face of lies, hostility and deceit.

Passionate football tribalism and rivalry is all too often a convenient scapegoat in Scotland for society’s ills and political under-achievement.

Rangers are a modern 21st century club as much as detractors want to believe otherwise. The club’s ‘Everyone, Anyone’ equality campaign has won plaudits for its inclusivity amongst the fanbase, and further hard work and inclusion will see more progress, especially with the core support.

As for Saturday, the clean-up has happened but much of the proverbial can will be kicked down the street. Until it is dealt with fairly, Rangers fans will continue to seek the level playing field without fear or favour.