Backward steps: a handwringer writes

24 February 2013 02:46
The Berwick game saw Rangers take a large backward step in the behaviour of our fans with relation to sectarian singing.

It was a huge disappointment to those who have been working hard to try to portray a positive image of the fans and I know from speaking to people at the club that it was also hugely demoralising for them. At some point the fans that sing these songs are going to have to realise that not only are they going against the wishes of the club, the majority of their fellow supporters and the law (no matter how stupid that law is) but they are also giving the club’s critics exactly what they want.

I sat and watched the game yesterday and from the first minute it was clear something odd was going on. Fans, who have managed for years to keep our songbook largely clear of the type of thing which saw UEFA take action against the club, seemed to have undergone a group lobotomy. It was still a minority of the Rangers support in the ground but they were a loud minority, hogging the ESPN microphones to the extent that ESPN mentioned the singing several times during the game. Whilst the majority of Rangers fans have condemned the singing, the loud minority have stuck up for themselves on social media, branding those who oppose them as handwringers, grasses and other ridiculous names.

Firstly let’s deal with this idea that the people who criticised these fans are “grasses” or “handwringers”. Firstly, nobody needed to “grass them up”. They were stupid enough to sing their songs in front of a live TV audience. There is only one group doing damage to our club and that is the people who continue to sing these songs. They are not helping the club, they are not “upholding traditions”. The club have told them time and time again to stop singing these songs. I’ve seen people claiming that Rangers haven’t made it clear what is allowed and what isn’t. Utter nonsense - stop singing about the Pope and “fenians”. Is that clear enough?

Do the media treat our fans differently to other clubs’ fans with regard to offensive singing? Yes. Do ESPN highlight the singing of IRA songs by the Celtic support the same way they did yesterday? No. Does that make them hypocrites? Yes. Do people like Graham Spiers have a completely dishonest approach to this issue by only focussing their ire on Rangers? Yes. Is it ridiculous that the singing of songs can be met with more outrage than a full scale riot in Dundee involving Celtic fans? Yes. Are the laws on offensive singing in Scotland an absolute shambles? Yes. Are we on the receiving end of a ridiculous double standard with relation to fan behaviour? Yes.

So what?

Unless the guys that still want to sing these songs are going to do something about the above then stop singing them. As things stand you’ve lost the fight and no amount of dragging the club’s name through the mud is going to change that.

If you want to sing about “fenians” because you are of the opinion that the word is linked to Irish Republican terrorism and not Catholicism then nip down to your local police station and sing Super Rangers or The Billy Boys until you get arrested. Then take your case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights and get the law changed. If you genuinely believe that you should be allowed to sing about “fenians” at a football match then do something about it that will give you that right and won’t harm the club. Oh, and even if you win your case, have a think during the years it takes you about whether or not it is a good idea for the club to be associated with singing which can so easily be portrayed as anti- catholic, whether it is or not.

If you genuinely want to make a point about child abuse in the Catholic Church then join one of the many groups campaigning on the issue. Give them your time and energy and bring those responsible for these crimes to justice. That would certainly achieve more than singing No Pope of Rome in Berwick on a cold Saturday afternoon.

Rangers as a club have moved with the times. We successfully ditched the temporary sectarian signing policy which was a mirror of wider society. We have evolved and grown along with Scottish society and we are doing the same now. The FTP brigade has had enough time to sort themselves out. If they still don’t want to move into this century with the rest of us then the club will need to get even tougher with them. Yes, singing The Billy Boys used to be acceptable. The Black and White Minstrel Show used to be acceptable to air on prime time BBC TV. Things change.

The Union Bears and The Blue Order bring colour and noise to Ibrox and away stadia. They have been fantastic this season partly because of that but also because of the new songs they have brought in. These songs were also sung loud and proud yesterday and created just as much noise and atmosphere as the sectarian stuff did.

It’s time for our supporters to use their heads rather than their mouths. In a week where all the pressure has been on Celtic and their on-going problem with the IRA-supporting Green Brigade, which they created themselves, we have once again shot ourselves in the foot. We did the same after Celtic fans rioted in Dundee and we followed it up by singing The Billy Boys at Hampden. We bail them out of trouble every single time. There is no question we are being made by the media and politicians to hold ourselves to higher standards than others are. So what? We always have on the pitch so why not off it? Is it unfair? Yes. Deal with it. Until we make sure our behaviour is so good that only the most ridiculous media commentator can criticise it then there is no point moaning about what others do.

If all the above is just waffle to you and you are still crying “handwringer” at me as you read it then let’s try to make it even more simple. Are you a Rangers fan or just in it for yourself? Do you want what is best for the club or yourself? If you support Rangers and want your club to thrive then stop being selfish and cut out the songs you know will harm it.

Finally, if you sang sectarian songs at the game yesterday, or supported those who did, then let me leave you with this. Presumably you enjoyed yourself? I’ve seen a handful on Twitter saying they did. Do you know who else enjoyed your performance? Graham, Hugh , Phil, Peter and every single person who wants to see Rangers damaged. They thought you were great. Take a bow.