Sectarian and racist singing by Rangers fans has again got their club into hot water as the European footballing authorities act, while here in Scotland the issue continues to be ignored.
But how do Rangers fans feel about the position their club is now in?
This is not a scientific study. I haven’t conducted any opinion polls or commissioned research. It is simply an article based on what I read and what I hear as a football fan living in Scotland.
I think there are three main types of Rangers fan who can be crudely described as Decent, Reformed and Unreconstructed.
I don’t know what proportion of the fan base makes up each group, although it would appear that there are more of the third group among those who regularly attend games.
The Decent Rangers fans are those who, quite simply, support a football team. Their loyalty comes through family influence or friends’ support and their sole interest is in what happens on the field of play. They don’t like the sectarian signing and try to ignore it.
The Reformed Rangers fans are largely middle aged. They sang the sectarian songs in their youth, whether through belief in the sentiments or to fit in with the crowd. Now they either realise that these songs are wrong or recognise that they bring trouble to the club, so they sit silently.
The Unreconstructed Rangers fans are the hard core. With allegiance to the Orange Order or other similar groups, they believe that Rangers is a Protestant club and should always remain so. They are defiant when it comes to sectarian songs, arguing that they are part of the club’s tradition and that true fans will not bow down to outside pressure.
The reaction of the three categories of supporters over the years perhaps explains why sectarian singing is still heard at Rangers games.
The Decent fans say little. OK, it can be difficult to challenge fellow fans at a game but their silence has allowed the club to continue to pander to the bigots. They know that the Decent fans will continue to back the club.
The Reformed fans are largely silent too. But that might be changing as those who have come to believe that the interests of the club must come first appear to be becoming more vocal. The argument that the fans must bow to the will of UEFA or the club will suffer might just be gaining ground.
But for the Unreconstructed Rangers fans there can be no surrender. To anyone. They believe in some twisted right to sing whatever they want about whoever they want, regardless of the consequences. They fundamentally believe that their songs are a fit and proper celebration of their Protestant superiority and that any attempt to silence them must be part of some grand Catholic/ Irish/ Celtic conspiracy.
If we accept that the singing must stop, then the question becomes one of whether the fans who believe that this is the way forward can influence this latter group.
Frankly I doubt it. The very nature of fanaticism means that reasoned argument is unlikely to be successful. If you have the stomach, have a look on Follow Follow, the website that is home to the Unreconstructed. Anyone who argues that there should be restraint is shot down in an abusive manner and usually tagged as a traitor or a secret Celtic fan.
I’ve written previously about the position that Rangers as a club finds itself in, reliant as it is on the Unreconstructed fans’ money at a time when this commodity is scarce.
But this can be seen as an opportunity for those who want to see change. Could they persuade the club that taking action against the singing of the Unreconstructed would encourage more Decent and Reformed fans to come to games?
Would those who run Rangers be willing to take the chance? Or would this be a step too far for the club? Could they be forced to alienate the bigots by acting seriously on sectarianism and thereby making their club more attractive to others?
I don’t know whether this approach has mileage. But I do recognise that a growing number of Rangers supporters are finally coming to realise that the status quo is not a long term option, as it will only bring more sanctions on the club.
So can the Decent Rangers fans take their club back from the Unreconstructed?