IN its haste to announce UEFA’s sanction against Rangers yesterday afternoon one website reported that the Ibrox side were being penalised for their ‘signing’ as opposed to ‘singing’. Maybe UEFA were late to the party after all.

But if Catholic players putting on a Rangers jersey has become something so entirely unremarkable as to pass without comment then the tentacles of that old policy are far harder to control. Coming into line with the real world is one thing but overhauling a shift in entrenched culture would appear a far tougher ask.

If ever there was an indication of the curious dichotomy that goes on within the Ibrox club it might lie in the sight of Jermaine Defoe and Joe Aribo blessing themselves while a ditty of “F*** the Pope and The Vatican” echoes round about them.


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The club’s recent inclusivity campaign of ‘Everyone Anyone’ is to be lauded. Whatever the criticisms of the historic decisions of Rangers, a tangible quest to distance themselves from a perceived identity can only be encouraged. Similarly, the tone of yesterday’s statement that announced the news of the removal of 3000 home fans for a crucial Europa League play-off was unequivocally strong in its condemnation of those responsible.

Dave King, the Rangers chairman, apologised to Steve Clarke after he was abused at Ibrox last season when Kilmarnock manager. Embarrassed at the nature of what was directed at the now Scotland manager King, to his credit, was eager to make his feelings public on the matter.

Yet, on the one hand the club cannot urge the support to shed its skin in such matters while also playing up to that element by taking a decision to turn out in lurid orange shirts. The most recent league games at Ibrox between Rangers and Celtic have been odious; all four stands within the stadium have had the full party songbook cranked up loud and clear. You can bet your mortgage on more of the same next weekend.

Which is where UEFA have shown the way. Scotland has wrung hands and clutched pearls when it has come to discussions of sectarianism. The governing body has passed the buck and effectively sat on its hands particularly in recent seasons when it has become more prevalent.

Arguments over strict liability have become as stale as an old piece of gum such are the repeated nature of its chewed over pros and cons. But if there is a standard of behaviour in Europe then why should it not apply in Scotland?


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It seems absurd to contemplate that it was only in the late 1980s that former Rangers striker Mark Walters had bananas thrown at him when he first experienced an Old Firm game. Speaking on the 20th anniversary of that day, Walters remarked the only reason why culture had changed was, depressingly, not because people had understood the gravitas and ridiculousness of their views but rather the prevalence of CCTV had made people afraid of being caught.

His own philosophy on the matter was that if enlightenment cannot come then enforcement should.

It will be interesting to see now where things go with the Rangers support on Thursday night. UEFA will have no qualms in hammering the club with a stadium closure should there be any reporting from the observing delegate of the Famine Song or anything else that is viewed to be sectarian or racist in nature.

Rangers have given themselves more than a fighting chance of making it into the group stages of the Europa League for the season successive season. The balance of their second-leg play-off tie against Legia Warsaw is tipped in their favour after what has been an impressive qualification campaign. The chances are that the very real threat of being shut out their own stadium will be sufficient to bring forth a different songbook.

So if change can be forced upon people then is this not something that could and should be replicated in a domestic sense?

As a club Rangers have asked for a change in the behaviour of their support. They have requested a cessation of songs that have become cringeworthy to most observers.


READ MORE: Steven Gerrard: Ibrox can still be a bearpit without the sectarian bile

At some point there is a stage when as a club you have to accept that you can request, instruct, demand but ultimately there are few places to go if your words fall on deaf ears.

Seismic changes in culture are difficult but they are possible; it is little over a decade ago that a smoking ban was implemented in the UK in pubs and restaurants. Lighting up now in shared space would be unthinkable.

Ditto driving a car without wearing a seatbelt or getting behind the wheel after a quick couple of pints.

Time can make things that were once routine seem preposterous. Scotland’s footballing bodies at some stage are going to have to take a look at how to make that happen.