|TOP|The decision by Uefa to find Rangers supporters not guilty of sectarian chanting has been met with shock as the problem of bigotry in Scotland’s football clubs comes to the fore once again.
Scottish Premier League team Rangers were found not guilty of discriminatory chants during the Champions League matches with Villareal and fined just under £9,000 after a fan smashed a window of the Spanish side’s bus as it returned home for the second leg.
Rangers has long been associated with sectarianism and bigotry. In defence of its inaction against Rangers, Uefa said that the notorious “Billy Boys” chants had been sung for such a long time “without either the Scottish football or government authorities being able to intervene”.
It continued: “The result is that this song is now somehow tolerated.”
In the statement, Uefa also appeared to distance itself from the problem of Catholic-Protestant tensions at a number of football clubs, regarding it rather as a localised problem.
“In examining the alleged discriminatory chants, the control & disciplinary body admitted that the nature of the song concerned - "Billy Boys" - related to a social problem in Scotland," said the statement.
"The body also believed that the disciplinary decision in this case had to be taken in the context of Scotland's social and historical background.
|AD|"Given this social and historical context, the control & disciplinary body said it considered that Uefa cannot demand an end to behaviour which has been tolerated for years.
"In view of the above, the control & disciplinary body ruled that, despite the behaviour of its supporters, Rangers FC had not infringed Article 5 of the Uefa disciplinary regulations and cannot be punished according to Article 6."
But Uefa’s decision to find Ibrox not guilty of discriminatory singing has been met with shock and anger, not least because of Article 5 of the Uefa disciplinary regulations which states that Uefa will not tolerate conduct that is “racist, discriminatory, politically extremist or insulting”.
The Scottish Herald’s David Spiers commented: “Just about everyone I spoke to yesterday, including Rangers fans, found UEFA's decision to find the Ibrox supporters not guilty of sectarian chanting to be amazing. The one recurring theme in speaking to various parties last night was that everyone was generally flabbergasted.”
He added: “The notion that UEFA could not find any evidence of thousands of people at Ibrox singing "F*** the Pope" is, even to (Ibrox Chairman) David Murray, a preposterous one.”
Amazement also rung in from Nil By Mouth, Scotland’s leading anti-sectarian organisation, which said described Uefa’s decision as “bizarre and outrageous”.
A spokesman for the organisation said: “This is a shaming judgement for the whole of Scotland," he said.
"The overwhelming majority of people in Scotland, including the chairman of Rangers, think it is completely unacceptable to sing songs about being 'up to our knees in Fenian blood'."
Shock as UEFA Clears Rangers of Sectarian Chanting
Murmurs of criticism and shock continue to ripple following the decision by Uefa said it could not find any evidence of sectarian chanting by Rangers supporters.
Published 15 April 2006 | Maria Mackay