RANGERS are dropping their controversial orange away strip at the end of the season, but claim the decision has been taken on "commercial rather than political" grounds.
John McLelland, the Ibrox chairman, was forced to defend the kit at the club’s agm last month, when one shareholder suggested the choice of colour was needlessly provocative.
With the issue of sectarianism coming to the fore again in Scottish football, Rangers’ decision to pick orange has come under fresh scrutiny.
A spokesperson for the club said: "The decision to drop the shirt was a commercial decision not based on politics. We change the shirt every season with new designs to try and make it new and fresh."
While the club originally described the kit as "tangerine" when they launched it last April, McLelland admitted at the agm that it was orange. The shirts have been hugely popular with supporters, and hundreds could be seen in the away end at Celtic Park during yesterday’s Old Firm derby.
The decision to change the kit has been welcomed by the anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth. A spokesperson said: "This is a step in the right direction. The orange strip has been seen by many as contradictory of the good work done by Rangers against sectarianism."
Donald Gorrie, MSP, also welcomed the decision. "I think it is a very good gesture to drop the shirt," he said. "I think it was a mistake on the part of Rangers to introduce it in the first place - I don’t think they thought through its implications.
"On the fringe of Old Firm supporters, there are people imbued with sectarian prejudices, but I believe both clubs are trying to work with their fans to bring that to an end."
Ian McLeod, the Celtic chief executive, wrote recently to the club’s fans to ask them to stop singing pro-IRA songs. McLeod admitted he was disappointed when the plea appeared to fall on deaf ears during the recent away game against Dundee.
Jesper Christiansen, the Rangers reserve goalkeeper, has asked manager Alex McLeish to let him leave Ibrox.
The Dane is currently on loan at the German side Wolfsburg and is desperate to have the switch made permanent when the transfer window re-opens at the turn of the year.
He said: "I would like to stay down there (Wolfsburg). This is because I will not get the chance to play at Rangers.
"I am doing well and the best thing for me would be to extend my time with Wolfsburg and stay in the Bundesliga."
Christiansen also had a loan spell at his homeland club Vejle last season.
He moved to Rangers when Dick Advocaat paid Odense 1.7million for his services in October 2000. The 22-year-old made six appearances, but hasn’t featured at all over the past 16 months.