Column: Rangers' fans party on amid a lack of foresight or leadership

The fireworks exploded overhead early evening - heard, but unseen.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 5:14 pm
Rangers fans gather in George Square to celebrate the club winning the Scottish Premiership for the first time in 10 years, (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

This wasn’t just a few whizzbangs in the back garden, but a full throttle show of the biggest bombs you could buy online.

Friends in Cardenden, Kinglassie, Glenrothes, Dunfermline and Edinburgh all reported similar sounds piercing the night skies as Rangers’ fans celebrated winning the league.

The fireworks at least drowned out the howls of fury and righteous indignation on social media.

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It’s easy to jump on the post-party, fan-bashing bandwagon.

They’re easy targets - loud, bevvied, wrapped in flags and scarves, lighting flares, and breaking every lockdown rule imaginable – and the scenes in a packed George Square were simply unacceptable in the current climate.

But, if we’re looking for scapegoats then we need to look much higher up the chain as well.

Every dog in the street knew this had the potential to be the monster of all public gatherings, regardless of lockdown rules.

No-one can condone their actions, but sports fans will get the ‘win big, party hard' mantra – that’s what it means to be a supporter; a diehard whose life revolves around kick-off.

And it wasn’t just any old title win, but one that wrecked Celtic’s ten in a row. These things matter to Old Firm fans even if the rest of us are bored rigid by the gruesome twosome.

So, let’s start at the top.

Rangers FC did nothing to show leadership and defuse the party before it got started.

Where were the messages from the senior players, captain, manager and father figures urging fans to stay home ?Their voices carry huge sway, and would have made a significant difference. They should have been clear, consistent and strong.

Imagine if just one of them - let’s pick Steven Gerard at random - had spoken.

He could have done worse than echo 1971 words of Jimmy Reid to striking shipbuilders: “'There will be no hooliganism. There will be no vandalism. There will be no bevvying, because the world is watching us.”

And it was – at least, across Scotland and on social media.

But if Rangers are to be called out, so too must our political leaders and health spokesmen whose leadership was all found sadly lacking.

Only afterwards, when thousands had swarmed into George Square, did they react with words that no-one heard or heeded.

A “real risk of infections” warned one Scottish Government health figure, and a veiled hint that the imminent easing of lockdown might be re-thought. Hmmm … punishing the country for the conduct of some isn’t smart government.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister, said the scenes were “infuriating and disgraceful” – more words – but she ought to have hauled Scottish football into Bute House and read them the riot act. The sport has been here before after all.

Had those at the top shown true leadership, I suspect many would fans would have heeded their warnings, and that would have meant a situation that was much easier to manage on the ground.

If only we had a figure with the influence of Jimmy Reid in 2021.

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