I don’t write about football, but the reaction to this weekend’s Scottish Cup Final has irritated me. At the end of the day, it’s about class.
Disclaimer: I’m a (reluctant) Rangers supporter. I was brought up idolising the likes of Lorenzo Amoruso, Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne and Ally McCoist. At my grannie’s house, there is a drawing pad with a crudely designed “unofficial guide to Rangers” that I painstakingly put together during the summers I spent there in my childhood. But as I grew up, I began to get more interested in other things like music, fashion and boys. The connotations that go along with Rangers also troubled me more as I got older.
In 2014 I met my partner who is a massive Hibs supporter. Rangers, during their time in the championship, painted Hibs as the new Celtic and every time Hibs played Rangers there was always a noticeable tension. I went to a Rangers v Kilmarnock match a few months ago and I was somewhat troubled by the singing of ‘Rule Britannia’ early on in the match. It seems to be a pattern as on Saturday, early on in the Scottish Cup final, there they were loudly and proudly singing ‘Rule Britannia’.
Rangers were expected to win Saturday’s Scottish Cup Final. That was the story the media wanted to tell. Rangers were supposed to win the Scottish Cup as a perfect ending to the story of their triumphant return to top tier Scottish football. But Hibs triumphantly put a twist in that tale, clinching the Scottish cup after David Gray’s magnificent injury time goal. There was Sunshine on Hampden on Saturday evening as thousands of Hibs fans took to the pitch in celebration of the amazing achievement. Listening to Saturday’s commentators on BBC Sportscene, you’d be forgiven for thinking civilisation as we know it was about to come crashing down and the end of the world was upon us. Watching on my television, all I could see was pure jubilation from the Hibs fans. On the Rangers end, however, what I heard was a rousing rendition of “Billy Boys” which is a song that makes reference to being “up to our knees in fenian blood” that was smothered in anger and frustration. If anyone was being provoked yesterday, it was Hibs fans.
What reasoning would the fans of a team have, after winning the Scottish Cup for the first time in 114 years, to assault players and fans from the opposing team? Rangers Football Club have a fleeting relationship with the truth and with facts. Here, they make spurious claims about the incidents yesterday and completely shirk any kind of responsibility for their fans’ parts in the violence at the game. Nick Ames from The Guardian seems to have the most objective reporting so far. The vast majority of Hibs fans were on the pitch yesterday to celebrate their team winning the Scottish Cup. They were not there to provoke Rangers fans or cause any bother and the minority who did, didn’t seem to cause as much bother as Rangers, the media and the Sunday Mail want you to think. Lee Wallace, one of the Rangers players who was assaulted yesterday appeared to be well enough to make it to a party at Ibrox last night.
Evidence has also emerged that Rangers fans were just as embroiled in scuffling as Hibs fans. The question is — why did Rangers fans go on to the pitch? Hibs fans certainly didn’t do it just to goad and taunt Rangers fans.
We’re supposed to believe that Rangers are victims in all of this and we’re supposed to somehow feel sorry for them. This is one fan who feels nothing but pity for my fellow fans and their inability to accept defeat. Yesterday was supposed to a momentous day but the established Scottish media had other plans.
Tam Cowan, football journalist and ardent Motherwell fan used his “Off the Ball” show on Radio Scotland after the match yesterday to create a moral panic about the scenes at Hampden. He also suggested that yesterday’s match would be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Indeed. And the press would make that so.
Some people suggest that socialism and supporting Rangers are incompatible. Whilst I’m inclined to disagree, I begin to see the point when I see the way Rangers fans are let off time and time again — from singing about being up to their knees in catholic blood to inflicting millions of pounds of damage to the City of Manchester when Rangers fans started rioting because of a faulty screen in an area of Manchester they had been warned not to go to. But we were met by silence from the Rangers hierarchy then.
Saturday’s pitch invasion has been one of the biggest cases of completely manufactured outrage in recent times. Commentators compared the scenes to rioting. But if you watch the first few seconds of the pitch invasion, you can see groups of fans congregating together on the pitch. Rangers claimed that the pitch invasion was motivated by Hibs desire to goad and taunt Rangers fans when actual footage of the day shows that simply wasn’t the case.
Of course, we all know what happens when the media overreact and get the facts wrong — the families of the victims involved in the Hillsborough disaster have recently won their fight to get their loved ones deaths recognised as unlawful. Whilst Saturday was nothing like Hillsborough and to compare the two would be an insult to people who died that day, but it is a case of when football fans show some kind of “deviant” behaviour — they must be stopped.
Largely, there is a class element behind the reaction to what happened on Saturday. Football fans are largely working class men. In the last thirty years, in Scotland especially, there has been more and more restrictions placed on what football fans can do at the football. They can no longer sing offensive songs or drink alcohol. The experience of going to a football match is incredibly controlled. It appears when football fans have the cheek to show their elation at winning a prestigious trophy after 114 years, the media and agents of the state want to put them back in their box, so why not embellish a claim of “rioting” to show football fans as a braying mob to put even more punitive restrictions on them? The last thing the media establishment want is football fans actually enjoying themselves.
Another thing that hasn’t been addressed is the abject failure of police and security staff to stop the pitch invasion. They appeared to be unprepared for that eventuality. That being said, the Police were quick to take action and got everyone back in their seats to watch the presentation ceremony. There has been an investigation team set up to look into the disorder. They will likely discover little more than around 5–10 guys looking for a fight.
The bottom line is that Hibs won the Scottish Cup in the only way Hibs could. It was a magnificent achievement and the team should be remembered for their historic victory — not for ten guys looking for a fight after the match. The media overreaction and Rangers somewhat more ludicrous reaction comes down to putting working class people from Leith back into their box and somewhat more sinister sectarian undertones from Rangers. Whilst cases of violence should be investigated — we must remember what can happen after the media and reactionary forces even pass comment on football violence. Let’s look at this more sensibly and congratulate Hibs for their victory — they and their fans certainly deserved it.