23 February 2013
ESPN today issued an apology live on-air after fans of the new Rangers Football Club could be heard singing racist and sectarian songs during the broadcaster’s coverage of an away tie with Berwick Rangers.
ESPN anchor Ray Stubbs told viewers: “We want to talk about the football but there has been some sectarian singing during the first half and we’re going to contact the police and authorities here to find out what can be done about that.”
Fans could be heard singing the sectarian No Pope of Rome among other chants, which prompted club media spokesman Andrew Dickson to make a plea to fans on Twitter to ‘sing Rangers songs’ during the second half.
After the game, The Rangers manager Ally McCoist said the club apologised if fans were “a little bit out of order”, commenting: “Our support have been nothing short of sensational home and away this year and if they were a little bit out of order at today’s game then obviously we apologise for that. We don’t need it within the club, we don’t need it within Scottish football, that’s for sure.”
Complaints began to circulate on the social networking site during the game and John DC Gow, ESPN blogger and co-founder of The Rangers Standard, tweeted: “Never mind that it’s wrong, or just plain weird. Why would Rangers fans harm the club by singing about the Pope, Fenians and the UVF?”
Rangers have a reputation for troublesome fan behaviour and have been on the receiving end of UEFA punishment. In 2011, Rangers FC – which was liquidated in 2012 after a financial meltdown and reformed by Charles Green’s Sevco company – were fined over £35,000 and fans banned from attending a European match with PSV Eindhoven over the chanting problem.
Songs such as The Billy Boys and The Famine Song – which was branded racist by appeal court judges during a court case in 2009 – have been favourites of the section of the support who continue to indulge in the sickening behaviour. The Billy Boys commemorates Billy Fullerton, who led a notorious razor gang in Glasgow in the 1930s and founded a branch of the Ku Klux Klan, and proclaims “we’re up to our knees in Fenian blood, surrender or you’ll die”. Fullerton was also a member of the Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. The infamous Famine Song tells people of Irish ethnicity in Scotland “the Famine is over, why don’t you go home?”
The Scottish domestic football authorities have faced criticism from football fans for not taking tougher action on the problem, while Scottish media has been accused of turning a blind eye to it. In December, during a tie with Queen’s Park, the problem was highlighted again when the Billy Boys could be heard during the live broadcast of the game, and Scotzine reported only one mainstream newspaper made mention of it in match reports.
After today’s game a club spokesman said: “The Club is disappointed by certain outbursts of inappropriate singing by a section of the support at Berwick. Our fans have been excellent this season both home and away and we do not want to see this tarnished.”