That will be the “building bridges” phase of Rangers’ return to football civilisationover then, eh?
So much for the promised reintegration and reconciliation.
They’re back on the front foot, on the offensive, playing to the gallery the only way they know how – and it’s a pretty unedifying sight.
The question is, though, how naive do you have to be to buy this week’s smoke-and-mirrors operation?
The answer, it appears from the reaction, is “Just the right amount…”
On the surface, the sentiment of making sure their own supporters come first is laudable.
But this isn’t really about that. Nor is it really about the Old Firm game.
It’s about money and how they can get their hands on more of it now.
In a week where they’ve been totally embarrassed by a false-flag pursuit of Martin Skrtel, a player they could never afford but courted anyway, then claimed they hadn’t to save face, it’s clear they need cash and in a hurry.
By cutting celtic’s allocation from 8,000 to 800, they lose out on 7200 x £50, twice a season, a decent lift when the up-front fans’ dough has long gone.
However, if they think they can sell 5000 more season tickets in that stand by riding the Steven Gerrard tsunami, bringing in a couple of million quid now, it makes financial sense for them in the short term, especially if they don’t have any other sources of instant funding to get their new boss what he wants.
What about the long-term consequences though?
Three things worth contemplating about their decision. Firstly, we’re constantly being told their derby is the single biggest selling point we have when it comes to global perception and TV deals. So what does destroying the fabric of it do to it as a Scottish football asset?
My colleagues in the Daily Record were debating it on Friday and one made the point that El Clasico survives just fine without away fans.
Of course it does because it’s one of the best games in the world. They could play it in a swamp and it would still be one of the best games in the world because they have 22 of the best players in the world.
Rangers and celtic have none of the best players in the world. The game’s notoriety, its infamy, its legend, is built entirely on its blood-curdling mayhem. Take that away and what are you left with?
Part two of it is the hypocrisy. It’s barely five weeks since Rangers were spluttering with more Statement-based indignation at Hibs cutting their allocation at Easter Road.
“First and foremost Rangers hopes the safety of our fans, who will now be in only one section of the South Stand rather than filling it completely, will not be compromised by this decision, which beggars belief.”
So what about the safety of celtic fans in that little Trivial Pursuit-sized wedge of Ibrox between the Broomloan and the Sandy Jardine stands?
It’s an unpleasant enough experience in there as a Falkirk fan or one of any other diddy club, without the 10x magnification of hostilities their rivals bring out.
Can’t imagine the police will be thrilled at the idea of escorting 800 sandwiched-in celtic supporters at the start and end of a 5-0 pumping.
And the third thing is the tit for tat. They’ll say they don’t care but what if they’re bang in contention and suddenly have to go celtic Park to win the league? You think Rangers fans will think it’s a great decision then?
It’s disappointing celtic responded in kind but they were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t – and the “didn’t” bit would have come from their own fans, a PR hit they maybe rightly weren’t prepared to take. They can live the rest of us seeing it as petty and small-minded.
In amongst all that nonsense, you’ve also got the Gary Hughes debacle with the SFA.
The Record broke the story in midweek that 12 years ago, in a trade publication when the self-confessed celtic-supporter and now-SFA board member was in the publishing business, he referred to Rangers fans as “the great unwashed”.
The club’s indignation was Statement manna from heaven, demanding suspensions and enquiries into the man they’ve always suspected deep down was a Peter Lawwell place-man, despite the need for his independence as a non-executive director, there to hold all the vested interests of the others in check.
Another two things here – one, spare me the faux outrage over the language used.
For two clubs who sit around in glass houses lobbing boulders, in the grand Old Firm lexicon, calling rival fans “the great unwashed” is as close to clean football banter as the pair of them ever get in their vile world of sectarian poison.
Two, though, is where they have him over a barrel and the SFA will ultimately be left with no choice. It’s not that Hughes isn’t allowed a past – and God knows this is far enough back in it – or to support a team but they’ll be trotting this out every time there’s a decision goes a way they don’t like and claiming it’s tainted by the presence of “an enemy of the club”.
If his independence is compromised then so is his role.
None of this is winning Rangers any friends, nor do they or their PR operation care.
The diplomacy of two years ago, of Stewart Robertson and Paul Murray talking fence-mending and contrition as their journey neared completion is gone, replaced by Trump-esque bluster and confrontation.
You’d think they’d learn at some point that the only statement they really need to make is to build a winning team. Anything else is just noise.