Fury as Rangers celebrations put Covid easing at risk
Fans celebrate but in breach of regulations (pic: SNS Group)
Fans of Rangers drew widespread condemnation after defying the lockdown restrictions to celebrate their team being crowned Scottish Premiership champions for the first time in 10 years.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon congratulated the club but described scenes of mass gatherings in central Glasgow and Govan as “disgraceful” and said the supporters’ behaviour could set back plans to ease the restrictions.
Others took to social media to accuse the fans of being selfish and disrespectful and making them feel foolish for abiding by the stay at home rules.
Some said the First Minister had “lost consent” for the restrictions and were disgusted that people were being fined for walking their dog while this misbehaviour was being tolerated.
Police Scotland said there were a number of arrests and that they issued fixed penalties, but they were also criticised for doing little more than “marshalling” the crowd.
Rangers supporters had descended on Ibrox on Saturday following Rangers’ victory over St Mirren but ignored calls from the Scottish government and police to return home.
The celebrations continued on Sunday after Celtic failed to secure the victory needed to prolong what has been seen as an inevitable outcome to the season.
Celtic’s goalless draw at Tannadice sealed Rangers’ 55th title – a world record.
Rangers players have twice been reprimanded for breaching the Covid guidelines and Ms Sturgeon has previously criticised football fans for gathering in large numbers.
After Celtic fans took part in a protest outside the club’s stadium in November, she said: “We have advice against gatherings and every day I stand up here and say avoid crowded places.”
The latest incident comes ahead of possible easing on gatherings, in particular allowing a limited number of fans back into stadiums.
However, there is also lingering doubt over allowing this to happen in time for the Euro 2020 competition which has put Hampden’s role as a host venue in doubt.
Daily Business comment: It was entirely predictable that supporters would spill out on to the streets – a first Premiership title in ten years, denying their great rivals winning 10 in a row, and the first trophy for manager Steven Gerrard. Not only that, but there was an understandable desire to celebrate after months of lockdown and the frustration of supporters being unable to attend matches.
However, the lack of any responsibility or respect for others at a time of pandemic was reckless. Anger expressed by the First Minister was widely shared with some claiming that the scenes shamed Scotland. Anger was also pointed at the First Minister and the police whose lockdown monitoring was shown to be woefully inadequate.
Handing out fixed penalties is pointless and will be regarded as a price worth paying, though anyone who should suffer from the virus as a result of their behaviour may be left to think again. A more suitable penalty would be to force Ibrox to remain closed for an extended period when the restrictions on attendance at matches is lifted.
In the meantime, there is a possibility that these scenes will jeopardise the easing of lockdown and the attendance of fans at the Euro 2020 matches due to be held at Hampden. Should that be the case then those who took to the streets at the weekend will only have themselves to blame.