“We are Rangers, Super Rangers, no one likes us, we don’t care”. I won’t type the next line for reasons those familiar with the song will understand, but the opening line refused to leave my mind last weekend as 15,000 of my fellow Rangers fans decided to break the Scottish Government’s lockdown rules by descending on George Square to celebrate the ‘Invincibles’ on trophy day.

No one likes us. Never a truer word spoken. When Rangers clinched their first league title in a decade, a couple of months ago, I wrote in this newspaper’s daily sister title about the shame I felt as a fan; how disappointed I was that the club had failed to do what it could to prevent fans gathering outside Ibrox to mark the triumph.

Many Old Firm fans wrote to me to inform me that I was correct in my assessment of the other side, but wide of the mark in my assessment of theirs. So far, so predictable.

Last weekend was somewhat different. The club, legitimately, did much more to try to prevent the scenes which unfolded. In advance, they wrote to the Scottish Government to suggest a socially distanced, four-day event allowing a total of 40,000 spectators to enjoy the celebration with the players inside Ibrox. Whether it would have prevented the march to George Square; whether the clientele inside Ibrox would have been the same as the individuals mobilised by the Union Bears supporters group to gather in Govan, is moot. But at least the club tried.

Let me also give some credence to some of the other mitigations I commonly hear from my fellow Rangers fans. When crowds gather to protest against the UK immigration policy, the Scottish Government portrays them as saintly. The same goes for people on anti-Israel marches. And remember the Celtic fans, who broke lockdown rules when the pandemic was at a significantly more dangerous stage, to call for Neil Lennon to be sacked. The same Celtic fans who regularly glorify IRA murder and hang effigies from their stands to mock the suicide of Kris Boyd’s brother.

All of these protestations have a decent helping of truth attached to them. I fully understand why Rangers, as a fan base and as a club, feel persecuted. I feel it myself, regularly. I, too, harbour a deep suspicion about which way the Scottish football authorities lean. I, too, wince at the joy I hear when a radio commentator calls a Celtic goal. I, too, roll my eyes at the moral superiority which many self-described impartials heap onto Celtic. I, too, feel less attached to a Scotland team which doesn’t field a Rangers player.


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However, and here is the key point for Rangers, none of that matters. Pointing at someone else and saying “look over there” will not fix their problems. And, let me be absolutely clear, the root cause of the problem is the club itself. Rangers Football Club is guilty of a dog-whistle enabling of this sort of behaviour by a very significant proportion of its supporters.

It’s this dog whistle which says: we don’t like the Scottish Government, or the SNP, or independence. It’s this dog-whistle that says Northern Ireland and Scotland are British. It’s the dog whistle that promotes orange-coloured kits amongst its merchandise despite literally any other colour being at its disposal. It’s this dog whistle that offers Ibrox as a vaccination centre to ‘Her Majesty's Government’ rather than to the ‘UK Government’. It’s this dog-whistle that increasingly says we shouldn’t support causes associated with the left. It’s this dog-whistle that leads to Israeli flags being occasionally seen amongst the Union flags, flown by people who couldn’t point to Israel on a map.

READ MORE: George Square: Rangers break silence on Glasgow title celebrations

Rangers treat last week’s rioters as the target audience. This needs to be turned on its head. They are not the target audience. They are the enemy within, and they need to be purged not by words, but by deeds.

In this global game, Rangers could be a global brand, attracting investment, support and indeed love from all over the world, exploiting the romance and tragedy of the club, using Steven Gerrard’s status as a global footballing icon. We know that Scottish brands can achieve this; Rangers is no different.

But far from growing its global base, if Rangers fails to change its outlook in the most fundamental way, it will go in the opposite direction. It’s support will shrink. Decent fans will stop taking their children. They will stop going themselves. It will be left to the sort of people who destroyed George Square a week ago.

How sad, that would be.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.