Rangers fans: what happened in George Square Glasgow - and could football gathering delay lockdown exit?

Nicola Sturgeon called out Rangers FC fans after thousands gathered to celebrate club being crowned Scottish champions

Crowds of fans gathered in Glasgow on Sunday (7 March) to celebrate Rangers being crowned Scottish champions.

Arrests were made and fines were issued after people broke Covid lockdown rules in George Square, said Police Scotland.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called the fans “infuriating and disgraceful” and said the end of Scotland’s tight coronavirus restrictions could be delayed as a result of the mass gathering.

Police said arrests were made and fines were issued after people broke lockdown rules in George Square (PA Media)Police said arrests were made and fines were issued after people broke lockdown rules in George Square (PA Media)
Police said arrests were made and fines were issued after people broke lockdown rules in George Square (PA Media)

So, what happened during the Rangers gathering - and could the incident affect when the country leaves lockdown?

Here is everything you need to know.

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What happened after Rangers won?

Rangers took the title after Celtic failed to beat Dundee United on Sunday 7 March.

The result gave the club a 20-point lead, and they became Scottish Premiership champions for the first time in 10 years.

After the win was announced, large numbers of fans made their way to George Square in Glasgow city centre to celebrate the achievement.

Fans had also gathered outside Ibrox stadium over the weekend.

This was despite warnings to stay at home amidst the current Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, in place since January.

Thousands of people took to the streets, letting off flares, waving flags and chanting.

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Ch Supt Mark Sutherland said police officers had attended gatherings at both the city centre square and the stadium.

He added that arrests were made and fixed penalty notices were issued due to breaches of the restrictions, as well as disorder incidents and the use of pyrotechnic devices.

The crowds were urged by the police to go home in a statement published shortly before 9pm on Sunday evening.

Under the current government guidance, public gatherings are completely banned and only a maximum of two people can meet outdoors for a permitted purpose.

Football matches are also taking place behind closed doors with no fans permitted in the stadium.

The Scottish Government website states: “Marches, parades and static demonstrations are not allowed at this time.”

In November 2020, hundreds of Celtic supporters broke Level 4 restrictions to gather outside Celtic Park to call for Neil Lennon, the club’s former manager, to be removed.

Could the incident delay Scotland’s lockdown exit?

Nicola Sturgeon suggested that the mass gathering of football fans could stop the country from coming out of lockdown.

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In a Tweet, the First Minister congratulated Rangers on their win, but added: "Gathering in crowds just now risks lives, and could delay exit from lockdown for everyone else.

"If those gathering care at all about the safety of others & the country, they will go home.”

Later on, Ms Sturgeon tweeted again, saying she was “angry” that the crowds had formed.

She said it was "infuriating and disgraceful" to see the fans "risk our progress" after everyone else sticking to lockdown rules had made "so many sacrifices".

And on Monday 8 March, the Deputy First Minister John Swinney admitted that the exit from lockdown could be delayed after the incident.

Mr Swinney said the government would be guided by the data but said difficult decisions would be made if infection rates rose in the country as a result of the weekend crowds.

"We have said we will be driven by the data and if it goes in the wrong direction because of what went on at the weekend, that will have an effect on our decision-making,” he said.

"We have been transparent about this. The data will drive our decisions.

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"If the data suddenly, because of all that commotion at the weekend, goes in the wrong direction we will have difficult decisions to make."

Mr Swinney pledged that the government would speak to management at Rangers.

What was Rangers’ response?

Rangers had been criticised for being “silent” and failing to tell fans to go home via social media accounts.

David Hamilton, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said he was "appalled" by the crowds.

He added: “There is a responsibility to the club here. It should not take the government to have to ask the club to tell people to go home.

"That should have been something the club should have taken on themselves proactively."

The club had tweeted or retweeted multiple times after they were crowned champions, but no direct acknowledgement of the incident occurred until Monday (8 March) lunchtime.

In a public statement posted to Twitter, Rangers pointed to comments made by manager Steven Gerrard during his press conference on Friday 5 March, in which he told fans to “abide by the Government rules and respect social distancing”.

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“We have proactively engaged with our local MP, the Justice Minister, the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the SPFL in relation to maintaining a cohesive message regarding public safety during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the wider statement read.

"We understand the jubilance of our support across the world who recognise this has been a historic year for the club.

"Nevertheless, it has been of great frustration for all football fans across the world that they have not been able to watch their team within stadiums, especially for the loyal Rangers season-ticket holders who have stood by this football club through thick and thin in the last decade."

The club added: "We are aware there is the possibility of more, significant milestones within this season, and we will continue to proactively engage with key stakeholders to maintain a cohesive message in relation to government guidance at this present time.”