RANGERS’ controversial decision to not accept a ticket allocation for February’s William Hill Scottish Cup tie against Dundee United has the “100 per cent” backing of manager Ally McCoist and the full support of the Ibrox squad.
Rangers fans’ groups immediately called for a boycott of the Tannadice fixture after the fifth round draw was made, and within 24 hours, Ibrox chief executive Charles Green had confirmed that the club would not be taking their allocation for the first match away to Clydesdale Bank Premier League opposition since Rangers were relaunched as a new company and denied entry to the SPL.
The ticket snub left Dundee United “disappointed”, although the Tannadice board said they did not wish to get involved in a “war of words” with Rangers and declined to issue any expansive statement.
McCoist admits a lack of travelling support for the 2 February Saturday lunchtime clash – which will be broadcast live on Sky Sports – will not be ideal, but respects the opinions of the vast majority of supporters on the issue. He said: “It goes without saying that we are enjoying arguably our greatest support in terms of numbers and backing in many years so it’s not an ideal situation that we won’t have any Rangers fans in the stadium. But the club have taken this stance and it’s one that I fully support as well. There are pros and cons in all the arguments and I can see all sides of the arguments.
“I’ve spoken to a couple of the heads of our supporters’ groups for the opinion of their members and they have told me overwhelmingly that the vast majority – nearly unanimous – didn’t want to take tickets for the game. I value their opinion very highly and I respect their opinion. We all want to move on but, at the same time, I can understand the stance taken by the supporters. I back them 100 per cent.”
A number of top-flight clubs took into account the views of their own supporters when they voted to reject newco Rangers’ application for entry to the SPL in the summer. McCoist added: “When we were voted out of the league, a lot of the chairmen and club representatives told us that they were listening to their fans, which is totally understandable and acceptable. With this stance, we’ve decided to do the same. I would also say we should tread carefully down that road because it’s not to say that the fans are going to be 100 per cent right all the time. But I certainly believe they should have a voice and it should be listened to and appreciated.”
Some Rangers fans believe United chairman Stephen Thompson was an influential figure in their SPL bid being rejected, before the club was voted into the Irn-Bru Third Division. Asked if fans would favour a similar boycott of future away fixtures against other SPL opposition, McCoist said: “I genuinely don’t know. I can’t answer that question because I don’t know what the opinions of the fans are regarding other SPL clubs. What I do know is that they feel quite vociferous and vocal in their support of not taking an allocation at all for this particular game.”
Captain Lee McCulloch revealed the decision not to take tickets for the United tie also had the full support of the Ibrox dressing-room. He said: “I understand the majority of the supporters’ and the club’s stance on it. As players, we totally back that. It’s something we will cope with. It’s not a last-minute thing. I think the most important thing is that the dressing-room shows their support for what’s happened.”
Asked if the players are likely to be affected by the lack of fans, McCulloch added: “It’s never happened before but we’ve got plenty of time to get our heads around it and hopefully get the result. We’re paid to play football.”
Rangers will celebrate the club’s 140th year today and McCoist stressed the importance of marking the occasion with three points against Stirling Albion, who inflicted their only league defeat so far this season. He said: “There are a lot of top-quality Rangers boys coming back to enjoy the game. I really hope it’s a fantastic occasion. The most important thing is that we can add to it being a fantastic occasion if we do the business.”