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THE BAIN EVENT EXCLUSIVE EUROPE MOLDE v RANGERS Martin Bain takes Natasha Woods on a tour of Ibrox and outlines his hopes for the club on and off the pitch

THERE is a choir in the foyer at Ibrox and the sound of a capella voices drifts up the famous marble staircase.

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The song, while not one of those officially approved in the club's wee blue book, is a beautiful hymn and the young Kenyans, on a tour of the stadium, are warmly applauded for their impromptu show.

Martin Bain, whose office is on the other side of the pitch in the Govan stand, misses out on the performance, but songs have been on the mind of the club's chief executive. This Thursday Rangers begin their Uefa Cup campaign with a match against Molde in Norway. All eyes may be on the pitch, but all ears will be on a small band of some 1200 travelling fans.

Uefa, who fined and censured the club last season because of the sectarian singing during their Champions League tie against Villarreal, will be listening. Effectively, Rangers are on probation and any recidivism during what they hope will be an extended run in Europe will likely trigger financially costly sanctions which will dwarf the GBP13,300 they were fined in June.

That is the reality which is being hammered home to Rangers fans through posters, literature, and specially commissioned DVDs and CDs. In the current climate, it is impossible to ignore the consequences of failing to heed such messages, which ever half of the Old Firm you support.

Hence, last week, Brian Quinn, the Celtic chairman, urged fans to refrain from singing "songs and chants that are offensive to the great majority" on the eve of the club's Champions League campaign, warning them of the swingeing penalties the club could face.

For his part, Bain reckons Rangers are spending around GBP200,000 annually on anti-sectarian initiatives.

"That is not a number I've just made up. I can break it down into appointing consultants, legal fees, printing literature, management time. It is a lot of expenditure and you only spend that much if you sincerely mean it. And we do, because we know our supporters want it."

That Rangers - the club and the various supporters' groups - are making progress is in no doubt.

Only last month Uefa started distributing a Unite Against Racism document to every professional club across Europe, citing examples of the good practice put in place at Ibrox, such as the Pride Over Prejudice initiative.

A copy of the Uefa document sits on Bain's desk. He is pleased to see such recognition. But that it took very public censure from a governing body to highlight what work the club was already doing in an effort rid itself of what chairman David Murray dubbed the "FTP brigade" remains a frustration.

"The club has been working extremely hard in the last couple of years to eradicate what we've always felt was a minority. Where we have been slightly remiss is not communicating that enough. We've been doing a lot, but it was probably the world's best kept secret until Uefa came along and we were able to tell them what we were doing. I think they [Uefa] were taken aback and that resulted in the fact we could have come off an awful lot worse than we actually did, " said Bain.

"I wouldn't go as far as saying what happened after Villarreal was a good thing, but yes, in a sense, it did bring the problem to the fore.

Of course, it is not just a Rangers problem and we can only do so much. We need the help of the Scottish Executive because it's a wider issue, but I do think what we've done so far is commendable.

"Rangers has put its hand up and accepted that, as an institution in Scotland, we have a social responsibility, but I also think the media has a part to play as well. I believe the whole Uefa thing, in terms of what happened to Rangers at Villarreal, came about a lot because they were reading press cuttings emanating from certain areas of Scotland, which is fine, because we were guilty, but I would really love to see the nation's press get behind us and promote the positives of what we are trying to do, " he added.

ANOTHER group of visitors - this time from Kilmarnock rather than Kenya - are in the Trophy Room at Ibrox as Bain enters; the chief executive conducting his own guided tour for my benefit to show how tradition and modern facilities have been successfully married within the stadium.

He greets the fans and they respond warmly. On the whole, he explains, his interaction with supporters has left him in no doubt they want what he wants - an environment within Ibrox and beyond where they can be proud of their club for celebrating the right values, not the wrong ones.

What has pleased him most is that it is supporters who are now the prime movers in helping the club shed unsavoury baggage, such as the singing of The Billy Boys.

"The supporters of this club have had their reputations tarnished, and to my mind, completely unfairly. Because the majority want us to move forward and they should be complimented over their behaviour, " he said.

"The way they have reacted to the club's pleas have been nothing short of fantastic. And the most pleasing aspect is the fans have started to self-police. They want to eradicate this small minority."

Bain's own unofficial tour takes in the home dressing room; all wood panelling, patinated by history, above which hang photographs of the Queen, one positioned over the entrance, the other on the far wall.

Incongruously, besides the players' baths, sits an ugly bubble of blue and white plastic - a flotation tank installed during Dick Advocaat's reign and still unused.

Somehow, at the heart of this stadium, this dichotomy of old and new seems to sum up the difficult balance Bain and the Rangers hierarchy are trying to strike.

"This club has never denied its heritage is linked to Protestantism.

We understand that is part of our cultural background and we are respectful of our history, " said the chief executive, choosing his words carefully.

"However life moves on and this club has moved on. We have a multidenominational squad and employees, and the game has moved on. If we have to leave some fans behind because they are entrenched in their ways, then we will do that.

"If we make as much progress over the next six months as we have in the last six, I think everybody deserves commending because this problem has existed for a long time and only now are we beginning to make progress. Perhaps it has fallen on deaf ears before."

The African choir have long departed as Bain leads the way up to the Club Deck, where the corporate world is catered for in rooms that are akin to the trendy bars you might find in Glasgow's west end. It is an environment designed for what Sunderland's new manager, Roy Keane, once famously dubbed the "prawn sandwich brigade".

Bain is justifiably proud of the facilities, and of things such as Ibrox's smart card electronic ticketing system, but frustrations remain. Opposite, in the Govan Stand, is the new Bar 72, named in honour of the club's triumphant European Cup-Winners' Cup side.

Around 600 high-end season ticket holders - paying GBP950 for the privilege - have access to the bar on match days.

Bain would like a similar facility installed in the Copland Stand, but what he would like more than anything is for every Rangers fan - indeed every football fan - to be treated equally when it comes to the sale of alcohol.

Instead, there is economic segregation. Currently, Scottish licensing laws effectively mean that if you've got the money for a corporate deal, or a top-end season ticket, you can drink in your own private bar in the stadium. But if youdon't, youcan't.

"I can understand the Scottish Executive's nervousness, but we have a five-star rating from Uefa, a fine safety record and we wanted to run a pilot scheme to see if this was viable going forward. What is the harm in coming into a controlled environment, which is better stewarded and policed than any pub around here, and allowing a football fan to have a beer?"

He believes football has moved on from the days when alcohol and fans equalled crowd trouble.

Maybe he is right. But then he has faith Rangers fans will make sensible choices. And not just about what they drink, but also about what songs they sing.

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