There was a certain amount of gloating online after the collapse of the Rangers International football club’s campaign to make it to the SPFL. The German’s have a word for it: ‘schadenfreude’ which translates roughly as taking pleasure or satisfaction at someone else’s misfortune. This gloating was not just coming from Celtic fans as might be expected but from fans of clubs all over the country. It’s normal for the supporters of smaller clubs in all lands to dislike the perceived power, financial clout and occasional arrogance of the big clubs but the degree of dislike Rangers engender is on a different level. Part of this is football related as the smaller clubs like to see the tall Poppies cut down. Part of it is political as Rangers and many of their fans represent a strand of right wing unionism increasingly out of step with modern Scotland. Part of it is historical as some felt their discrimination in the signing of players was to say the least distasteful, as was the vile songbook aired by a sizable number of Rangers fans over the past hundred years. One newspaper report from 1924 spoke of the behaviour of Rangers fans visiting Celtic park with the following words…
‘’Nothing so designedly provoking, so maliciously insulting, or so bestially ignorant has ever been witnessed even in the wildest exhibitions of Glasgow Orange bigotry. Blatantly filthy language of the lowest criminal type assaulted and shocked the ears of decent onlookers. The Scandal was renewed with increased violence on London Road after the match. Is it possible that the blue mob can do just about anything and get away with it? ‘’
Of course we may smile at the terminology and even bias of press reports from 90 years ago but those of you who have followed Scottish football over the years will realise that such behaviour is no laughing matter and has rumbled on amongst a sizable sub culture at Ibrox to this day. We saw only this week video footage of Rangers supporters chanting ‘We f*cking hate Roman Catholics’ on the Glasgow underground. The decent Rangers fans, and they do exist, seem powerless to influence the more lumpen types who engage their mouths before their brains. For many this historical and current poisonous factor is why they smirk at Rangers current troubles. The club and the fans are viewed as indivisible.
For me though the biggest reason that many of the supporters of Scottish clubs other than Celtic celebrated the new club’s failure today was the astonishing events of the last few years. It was once arrogantly boasted that the three great pillars of Scottish society were the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Legal system and Glasgow Rangers FC. This nonsensical myth was blown apart forever by the banking crisis of 2008 which saw the lenders calling in their debts and those who had borrowed beyond their means were in serious trouble. We all know the bubble of debt which puffed up Rangers in those years and the mess it made when it popped. For many Rangers supporters the bitter truth that the club had lived beyond its means and, in the eyes of many, cheated by paying players under the table via the now notorious Employee Benefit Trusts, was hard to take. As they stumbled from administration to liquidation in 2012 following the HMRC’s refusal of their Creditors Voluntary Agreement, it must have been a stunning blow to realise that the once mighty Rangers had gone the way of Woolworths and Comet and gone out of business. As their players walked away and the liquidators sold the assets dirt cheap to Charles Green, the football authorities in Scotland were in a quandary. Their subsequent actions opened they eyes of many to the proposed special treatment the newly formed ‘Phoenix Club’ at Ibrox was being offered. Pressure was brought to bear on the SPL clubs to admit the newco into the top league. When this was rightly rejected by all but Kilmarnock (who abstained from the vote) they passed the problem to the SFL and they, likewise refused to allow a new club into the first division despite dire threats of forming an SPL 2 and not inviting those who voted against Rangers to join. This bullying, aided by the usual suspects of the Scottish sporting press, turned the stomach of many clubs and supporters who questioned the integrity and morality of allowing a club to rip off creditors large and small for tens of millions of pounds and then simply reform and waltz into the first division. Celtic had kept a tactical silence throughout this period and this was probably wise given the potential for conflict in Glasgow. It was left to people like Turnbull Hutton of Raith Rovers to speak for the majority in Scottish football and say in no uncertain manner that a new club should start at the bottom.
All of this ill will floating around has made Scotland generally more intolerant of Rangers and the more uncouth excesses of their support. The excitement of Motherwell fans today as their club defeated Rangers to consign them to Division one for another season was palpable. Celtic fans no doubt face hostility in places such as Fir Park but today demonstrated that the old ‘Hun without the bus fare’ tag is wide of the mark. Few supporters around Scotland have much time for Rangers and in fairness Celtic are hardly popular either. But I just sense a sea change this last few years, a hardening of attitudes towards Rangers and much of it was to do with the perception that the football authorities had ripped up the rule book and were prepared to give special treatment to one club and that sticks in the craw of the average, honest Scot.
So they will fight it out again with Hibs, St Mirren, Q.O.S and Falkirk in Division one next season and few will be sympathetic to their plight outside the more sycophantic elements of the media. Theories aired in the media suggesting that Scottish football would die without a strong Rangers have proved to be nothing more than scaremongering by their apologists. Indeed, since Rangers entered administration in 2011-12 season major trophies have been won by Celtic, Hearts, St Johnstone, Kilmarnock, Inverness, Aberdeen and St Mirren. Attendances are up at many clubs and fewer clubs are in debt. The spread of trophies has given a great lift to the teams who won them as well as reinvigorating the game here. The rise of the national team is helping this too. There is optimism in Scottish football that a brighter future can be gained if we continue to nurture young players and give them a chance. Clubs win trophies on merit and can be proud of their achievements. Football is, as it should be, a meritocracy where the cream rises to the top. Rangers and their supporters should accept that they are currently a first Division club and that this is through no one’s fault but their own. No one ‘kicked them while they were down’ the rot was internal and the arrogance and greed which festered there brought the whole edifice crashing down.
It would also do them some good to learn the meaning of the word ‘humility’ but I won’t hold my breath on that one.