The current back and forth between Rangers and UEFA has sent shock-waves through the club and support. A partial stadium closure for tonight's match and no away supporters at our next European tie damages the club and hurts the fans, most of whom ‘Follow with Pride’ as the club slogan states. But what this has done for Rangers, its directors and fans is open up a dialogue on sectarian singing among the support once again.
There have been many opinions on who is right and wrong in this debate, whether the club is being unfairly targeted or that those singing 'The Billy Boys' or 'Super Rangers' deserve to be booted out the stadium for tonight’s game. What we have now reached is a crossroads for the football club. Continue singing these songs and it won’t just be a few empty seats on a European night – it’ll be a full stadium closure. Like it or loathe it, UEFA is treating sectarian singing in the same way it treats racism and that is the reality of the situation.
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When I first began going to Ibrox, there was still the odd airing of the Billy Boys but as I got older, from 2004 probably through until about 2014, it was very rarely heard on the terraces. The reasons for its return can be debated but for the sake of the club we have to eradicate it once again. The club have been flamed in some quarters for their reaction to this latest round of sanctions but they simply had to make a stand – this songbook is now becoming detrimental to the club and we have to stop it now. In this day and age, for some fans still to be singing the words ‘fen*an’ and ‘f*** the pope’ is severely outdated and, in my opinion, belongs in the dark ages.
Steven Gerrard was right when he said last week that Rangers has one of the best fan-bases in the world. We have fans who have been through it all, travelled to every ground in Scotland and gone all across the planet to support the team. This whole episode is not a dig at the majority of the support or a dig at our fans from the club. If it wasn’t for the supporters, the very existence of Rangers could be very different and the thousands of pounds fans spend every year going to watch the club should not be forgotten.
Again, any criticism of these songs is not to say we don’t have a passionate and loyal support – it’s just a warning that if we don’t wise up and realise that it’s not hurting the club, there will be much more pain on the way. Now is not a time for 'whataboutery' and pointing at others – that isn’t our way and belongs to certain other clubs who prefer to play the victim.
For Rangers as a club and as a fan-base, it’s time we faced up to the issue and avoided any more self harm. The reality is in the long term, this will only damage our chances of success and if it means ditching a few dirges from the back catalogue in the terraces it will be a far more productive way to support the club we all love.
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