Rangers fan group 'threatened police with a riot' ahead of title disorder, police claimed

Rangers fan group the Union Bears threatened a “riot” should officers fail to facilitate their planned march from Ibrox to George Square, police claimed.

Police officers monitor as Rangers fans celebrate in George Square in Glasgow on May 15
Police officers monitor as Rangers fans celebrate in George Square in Glasgow on May 15

Following Rangers picking up the Scottish Premiership trophy at Ibrox on May 15, violence broke out between fans celebrating the club’s title victory in Glasgow’s George Square, leading to a significant number of arrests and several police officers seriously injured.

In an official Police Scotland briefing sent to the Scottish Government on the day of the disorder – released under freedom of information law despite being labelled not for disclosure under the legislation – officers describe how the event was policed and a timeline of how the violence began.

In the briefing, the officers state: “The Rangers risk group known as the Union Bears requested police to facilitate a mass procession threatening a ‘riot’ if this request was not granted. The request was denied and engagement continued.”

However, despite refusing to facilitate the march, one officer was injured by a thrown bottle as crowds broke through a police cordon and started to walk towards the centre of Glasgow, with officers said to have “controlled the front and rear of the group”.

Around 10,000 to 15,000 fans ended up in George Square, with officers noting: “As the crowd gathered momentum incidents of violence and anti-social behaviour occurred at various locations within George Square culminating in a number of arrests and a significant number of casualties requiring medical treatment.”

A dispersal order was then made, but officers received “assaultive resistance and missiles” as they attempted to clear the square.

At the time, Nicola Sturgeon labelled those involved in the violence a “thuggish minority” and criticised the actions of fans who gathered as “selfish beyond belief”.

The Scottish Conservative’s justice spokesperson, Jamie Greene, said the scenes must never happen again and lessons should be learned.

He said: “Lessons do need to be learned here, anything less than total transparency on what was agreed upon by key parties, as well as an explanation for why decisions were made are necessary to restore trust in how big scale football events are properly policed and managed."The new revelation comes after it was reported that police had planned to allow the fans to march from the stadium into Glasgow unimpeded, despite publicly insisting they would not do so.In minutes from a meeting involving the then justice secretary Humza Yousaf, Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken, Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson, and Police Scotland chiefs, they state that “if a large crowd are going to walk, we will facilitate. No horse or batons”.A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We made it very clear at the time that we condemned the selfish and irresponsible behaviour of some fans which endangered other supporters, the police and the wider community.“As we have said throughout the pandemic, under the restrictions, people should not be gathering in large numbers. People have to take personal responsibility for their actions at times when we are at a fragile state in the pandemic.“Enforcement of the Covid regulations on mass gatherings are an operational matter for Police Scotland.”Rangers FC was contacted for comment.In May, the club said the behaviour was inappropriate and was “in a manner not reflective of our support”, adding those responsible had “besmirched the good name of Rangers Football Club”.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.