SNP councillor speaks of 'threats of violence' after Ibrox fan zone rejected

A senior SNP councillor has spoken of how he and party colleagues faced "sustained abuse and threats of violence" after plans for a fan zone next to Ibrox Stadium were rejected.

Rangers had applied to open a fan zone opposite the main stand at Ibrox

David McDonald, depute leader of Glasgow City Council, was cleared by the Standards Commissioner following a year-long investigation alongside council leader Susan Aitken and Govan councillor Stephen Doran.

The trio faced complaints they had intervened over a decision to refuse Rangers Football Club permission to open a supporters' hospitality area on land owned by Glasgow Life - an arms' length organisation that manages the local authority's sporting and cultural assets.

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The club applied in 2018 to open a fan zone - which would sell food and drink to supporters on match days - on an artificial football pitch directly opposite the main stand at Ibrox Stadium.

The application was rejected on the grounds that it would prevent children playing on the pitch.

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Club 1872, a supporters’ association that owns a 10 per cent stake in Rangers, later reported the councillors to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland over the matter.

In a statement today, Councillor McDonald said: "After a full and thorough investigation, the Ethical Standards Commissioner has confirmed that there was no basis or truth to the false allegations made against me or council leader Susan Aitken in relation to decisions made about the Ibrox fan zone.

"These fabricated claims led to sustained, vitriolic abuse that culminated in threats of violence and murder.

"Social media can be a dangerous place and words have consequences for those arrested for their actions.

"The orchestrated effort to smear and harass dedicated elected members based on assumptions about their footballing allegiances, even when none exist. This must end now.

"It has obviously been a stressful time for me, my family, friends and party colleagues, but each and every one of them stood with me in support and for that I cannot thank them enough."

Initial plans for a trial run of a fan zone, set up on Edmiston Drive and able to accommodate around 2,000 supporters, were lodged by Rangers in 2018.

The plans were shelved in July that year after intervention from Glasgow City Council, despite hopes the trial run at Ibrox could help determine the feasibility of a similar fan zone at Hampden for the four scheduled Euro 2020 Championship matches.

In a statement issued yesterday, Councillor Aitken said: "I could not care less what football team anyone supports. I don’t follow football myself.

“But I do know that my city is passionate about football and I want the game to play a positive role in Glasgow’s social, cultural and economic life. I’ll work with any team to achieve that."