Desmond Kane

Would Scotland miss Rangers?

Desmond Kane

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Rangers 'fans' at the 2008 UEFA Cup final in Manchester

Of all the quotes that can be regurgitated relating to the darker side of Rangers and a helping of the imbeciles that have clamped themselves to the Glasgow club seemingly since time began, Ian Archer's musings remain perhaps the most pertinent. It was penned over 30 years ago. "This has to be said about Rangers, as a Scottish football club they are a permanent embarrassment and an occasional disgrace. This country would be a better place if Rangers did not exist," wrote Archer, who latterly worked on the now departed television programme Scotsport, in a Glasgow newspaper.

What was exceptional about Archer's heartfelt words is that they were scribbled down during some of the finer moments in Rangers' history, specifically alluding to a night when they snagged the old European Cup Winners' Cup in Barcelona in 1972 with a 3-2 victory over Dynamo Moscow. As a piece of newspaper prose, it was ahead of its time.

Inspired by beers and cheap wine while being firmly planted in Spain, a Roman Catholic country at odds with the anti-Catholic signing policy once employed by Rangers and endorsed by its supporters, a furious rump of followers battled with riot police in the Camp Nou amid their team's rise to clasp the only European trophy in the club's history.

It will be argued that the heavy-handedness of local police made the riots in Barcelona eminently preventable, but then Rangers seem to have spent large swathes of their past defending the extremist behaviour of those who masquerade as football fans. The blame always seems to fall on others.

In a taxing period when a case with HMRC threatens to capsize the club with over £50 million of debt, it is perhaps Karma as much as unpaid taxes and gross financial mismanagement that has left Rangers facing the trap door. Rangers may well be left to pay the price for the sins of the father, with or without his sash, and their inability to drive out the rancid element that has tailed them.

They range from their highly inflammatory position in shying away from signing Catholics, the racist and sectarian songs sung by some followers of the club, the orange shirts wheeled out a decade ago as a "Dutch tribute " marketing ploy and the wretched riots in Manchester when a big screen television went on the blink. These are just some of the episodes that have tarnished not only the Rangers brand, but the image of Scotland as a tolerant country.

Scottish football may be left impoverished by a league without Rangers, but will society? Should society feel a certain sadness towards the plight of Rangers?

While the Scottish Premier League, satellite television and perhaps even twitchy Celtic directors would lament the loss of the income that Rangers generate, a progressive Scotland may feel differently.

At a time when Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond is trying to drive forward the idea of an independent, progressive, multicultural, multi-faith Scotland - a rainbow nation of Scots - the country's national sport is perhaps the last public haunt for the miserably uneducated. This was seen and heard when Hearts and Celtic exchanged lamentable ditties on Wednesday evening that continues to illustrate the deep-seated anti-Catholic sentiment that exists in pockets of Scotland. The strained old IRA choruses were heard from the visiting end amid the pestilence. Tramps behave better.

Celtic supporters are plagued by their own unsavoury band, but have always been uncomfortable with the Old Firm tagline that they continue to share with Rangers. The racists who mingle among the football fans in using the club to further their warped ideology will remain intact, even if Ibrox does not after the tax hearing has been played out. This would be a tragedy for a club with so much potential.

For the decent Rangers fans, progressive people, who follow their club only as a football team, there is a genuine sympathy at how departed owner Sir David Murray allowed the club to fall into such a state, but there are too many who have been allowed to hijack the good name of Rangers to further their own ideals away from a sporting context. For them, there will be no sympathy.

Rangers may well survive in some form if they fall into administration, which would be heartening for the national sport, but would clubs outwith Glasgow such as Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibernian, Dundee United or Dundee be sorry to see them go?

To the ones who sing songs about child abuse and the Irish Potato Famine, it is difficult to argue that the air would not be cleaner if their club stops. "And because some people are so sick, I have to put six words at the end of this column," wrote Archer. "I am not a Roman Catholic."

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