FOOTBALL CLUBS: WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

Image result for Ibrox Disaster images

Rangers’ Colin Stein scores the equaliser in that fateful match against Celtic in 1971.

NOTEBOOK by Bill Heaney

Football clubs tend to forget themselves when dealing with the public via newspapers and other media.

They are inclined to treat us as if we are all daft.

Take Rangers who decided to talk about the lack of provision for disabled people at Rugby Park after the roof collapsed on Sunday.

And then arrogantly chose to ignore questions about the kernel of that matter, which was the atrocious behaviour of their fans after they scored a last minute winner against Kilmarnock.

Only one fan was injured, but it could have been many, many more.

I was at Ibrox Park when a similar scenario occurred. The home team scored a last minute equaliser which caused their fans who had been leaving disgusted after Celtic looked like winning the match decided to return to the terracing to cheer their heroes.

The result that day was a disaster, the Ibrox Disaster.

Rangers’ official website says the game in 1971 was heading for a 0-0 draw when Jimmy Johnstone broke the deadlock to give Celtic the lead in the 89th minute.

Then, with just seconds left on the clock, Colin Stein snatched a dramatic equaliser for Rangers.

The blue section of the 80,000 all-ticket crowd went wild with delight. The green was thrown into despair.

Two goals in a minute. What a finish! Yet, unseen amid this sea of emotions, a disaster was beginning to unfold at the Rangers end of the ground over on the East terrace at Staircase 13.

As the fans swayed away from the heaving mass, some stumbled halfway down the steep steps. Those around didn’t see them fall and continued their descent.

Suddenly a tidal wave of fans was engulfed in a terrifying crush. Steel barriers crumpled under the impact.

When the carnage cleared, 66 people had lost their lives and more than 140 lay injured.

There was much weeping, gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands – and rightly so – thereafter.

Rangers admit: “The blue section of the 80,000 all-ticket crowd went wild with delight.”

Your team scoring a last minute equaliser against Celtic in a New Year match might be a reasonable reason for “going wild with delight”.

But scoring a last minute winner against Kilmarnock before a seriously thinned out crowd on a plastic pitch is hardly the stuff dreams are made of. This was an over-reaction and then some.

Turn the clock back then to 1971. The Ibrox Disaster was supposed to be a catalyst for an end to bigotry and sectarianism.

Rangers and Celtic management, players and fans went along to St Andrew’s Catholic Cathedral in Clyde Street to pray for supporters who had died at the match and for reconciliation and friendship amongst those who survived.

What has the outcome been? The supporters are still at each other’s throats, involving themselves in violence and spouting virulent bile at one another.

There have even been deaths of people attending these matches.

Celtic’s management and fans have a sin to answer for in the way they seldom admit to anything untoward happening which involves their fans or management.

It wisnae us. It was the other crowd is the frequent refrain from both clubs.

However, hanging images of Rangers fans in nooses over the grandstands from the Celtic end demands more than a few a few grudging words of apology from a spin doctor wearing a grey suit and a green and white tie.

And the recent revelations about the sexual abuse of young players by officials of the Boys’ Club have dismayed even their own supporters.

Few people ever thought the day would come when Celtic would deny the Boys’ Club.

Many of them would like to see some of the millions of pounds now made by the club paid out to the victims in compensation by the club.

Simply the Best and We are the People pour down from the stands whenever these two clubs meet.

It is unacceptable in the 21st century. Something must be done by the Government, the fans and the clubs themselves. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing.

The truth of this matter is that neither Celtic nor Rangers is going away you know.

Indeed, that recent outpouring of hatred at a Rangers’ fans event in Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre is but a taste of things to come.

What on earth is going to happen as we move towards Brexit and the possibility of an independent Scotland and maybe even an independent Ireland?

What flag will you be saluting then, if any at all, the Union flag, the Scottish Saltire or the Irish tricolour?

Or will we gather by the river and unite under one flag, a flag that denotes peace and prosperity for ourselves and our children?

Independence should mean unity and equality in and outside our sports grounds.

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