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Fans unhappy in cramped blue heaven

NOT all debenture holders for the new club deck stand at Ibrox Stadium are happy with the climb to the bridge.

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Some were left huffing and puffing after negotiating more than 100 stairs when the stand was officially opened for last Saturday's match between Rangers and Dundee United.

The climb to the higher echelon was further soured with claims that seats in the front of the stand precluded a view of the nearside touchline and that the width of the seats themselves provided some discomfort for those sporting a frame approaching heavyweight proportions.

Debenture holders have spent from #1000 to #1650 for a seat in perpetuity on the new top deck which towers above the old main stand. Already, some have indicated that they would prefer to return to a lower level leaving their investment in jeopardy.

They were due to view the new facilities at an open day earlier this month, but this was cancelled because of concern by Rangers over the operation of safety systems.

The club said at that time that, after tests on the fire alarm and safety systems, it was not happy that they were working as well as it would like. However, Rangers emphasised that there were no structural problems with the seating.

Almost #18m has been spent on the new deck which is designed to seat 6700 in the highest vantage point of any football ground in the country. Income from the sale of debentures has so far reached #8.5m, with 1700 not yet taken up, and grants amounting to #2m have been received by Rangers from the Football Trust.

The club expects further substantial income from a range of up-market, corporate entertainment suites which can cost as much as #3750 plus VAT a seat a season. This area is furnished to the standard of a five-star hotel. Corporate clients also benefit from their own entrance, toilet, and corridor areas -- and lifts.

One of the concerns of local authority sub-committees on safety at sports grounds in the wake of the Taylor Report has been that spectators should have an unobstructed view of the pitch to prevent them standing up in seated areas or swaying from side to side.

However, a group of Rangers fans who approached the Glasgow Herald, said their view of the playing area on Saturday from seats in the fifth row from the front of the stand was obstructed and they were unable to see the nearside touchline and corner flags.

Their spokesman said: ''It was a big disappointment. I thought I had one of the best seats in the house but I lost some five yards from the touchline out. It would have been impossible to follow play in this area without either standing up or leaning forward.

''I have a season ticket for the old main stand but decided to take out a #1500 debenture following all the publicity about the superior facilities in the new club deck. The first let down was having to climb more than 100 stairs particularly as I have a heart problem.

''Apart from the viewing difficulty, the width of the seats did not impress me. People were packed in, and tall men with a large frame were in a bit of bother. At half-time hundreds were milling about the concourse and it was a bottleneck getting to the toilets.

''The brochure depicted an area where fans could have anything from a steak sandwich to a cup of coffee at tables and chairs over a wee blether.''

The spokesman added: ''I contacted the Rangers office and told the girl that I wanted to return to my old seat in the old stand. She didn't seem too surprised. However, I don't know where I stand with my #1500 debenture money.''

Mr Campbell Ogilvie, Rangers director-secretary, said yesterday that there had been complaints and he assured supporters that those that were made known to the bond office would be considered individually and addressed.

He said: ''I don't have the exact number of complaints but the figure is small in relation to the number of debenture holders. There were initial problems when the Govan and Broomloan Road stands were opened but these were sorted out. It is all part and parcel of new buildings.''

Mr Ogilvie said that some of the seating in the new stand had been altered because of the repositioning of guard rails and other equipment to meet safety criteria. He was confident that the problems were relatively minor in relation to the number of seats involved.

Debenture holders also have to buy season tickets if their seats are to be retained. Mr Ogilvie said it was possible that customers who were dissatisfied might be offered alternative seats.

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