Disclaimer: I am not a season ticket holder at Ibrox, I don’t get to watch every game and I don’t even currently live in Scotland. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills…nah, just kidding. What I do have is a lifelong affinity with the Gers, a bond forged by a Rangers-mad family and strengthened from a childhood brought up in the south side of Glasgow. I love my team and although I don’t get to support them as much as others might, I’m still entitled to an opinion on what the Rangers mean to me. This is my opinion.
First, let’s face facts. Sectarianism is still present within some of our support and although this is a very small minority, it disappoints me that this hasn’t gone away even in these enlightened times. How stupid do you have to be, how many fines do we have to get before you realise that you can’t sing sectarian stuff? Don’t get me wrong – Protestantism or Unionism has nothing to do with sectarianism at all and there are many, many Rangers fans who are protestant and don’t hold sectarian views. What I object to is people using those things as a smokescreen for their own bigoted opinions.
I can actually understand why this hasn’t yet been eradicated from Rangers: I was very lucky in that my family wasn’t at all sectarian but one of the guys on our street certainly was and took great delight in teaching me songs like the Billy Boys and The Sash and of course I was proud to sing these ‘football’ songs. Why wouldn’t I be? To me, they were just words and part of football banter as no one ever told me otherwise. Did I seriously want to be ‘up to my knees in fenian blood?’ No, of course not. When I grew up I came to realise that these songs were not acceptable and simply stopped singing them but for others it was more difficult. When your dad, your brother, your friends all sing the songs and that ‘bubble’ carries on into adulthood then what chance do you have?
But then I think to myself this isn’t really an excuse at all. We all have a choice and in this day and age people need to take responsibility for what they say and do. Those ‘supporters’ need to realise that they are doing Rangers no favours at all and personally I’m sick and tired of reading about another allegation of sectarian singing in the papers.
To me, Rangers isn’t about Protestantism or Unionism. I’m an atheist and in favour of Scottish independence so while I accept that these things matter to some fans and completely respect it, this is not what supporting Rangers means to me personally, and many others I’m sure.
When I think of Rangers, I think of the good guys, guys like Walter Smith, Ally McCoist and Brian Laudrup. I think of characters like Paul Gascoigne, Andy Goram and Graeme Souness. People who fell in love with the club and in doing so became part of its history. I think of that grand marble staircase at Ibrox, with some new star signing or other in the foreground. I think of big European nights against some of the best clubs from the continent. I think of respect, dignity and hard-work. I think of my friends and family and I feel protective of this club, what it represents and what it means to so many.
Although being knocked down to the Scottish Third Division was not ideal, I feel this is such a golden opportunity for us to rebuild, not just our club but our reputation. We can use our temporary absence from the top flight to take a zero-tolerance approach to sectarianism and just kill it completely. It might cost us some support in the short-term sure but in the long run we would have a club that the majority of our support so thoroughly deserve.
Let’s make it happen.