Rangers fans celebrations were reduced by lockdown, says Livingston boss David Martindale in violence claim

Livingston boss David Martindale has defended Rangers over the club’s fans’ celebrations at the weekend – and believes Covid restrictions actually helped avoid the potential for violence in the mass gatherings by reducing the turnout of people.

Livingston manager David Martindale (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Thousands of fans poured into Glasgow at the weekend - first to welcome the team to Ibrox and celebrate a 3-0 win over St Mirren on Saturday, and then groups gathered in the city’s George Square and outside Rangers’ grounds at Ibrox and Auchenhowie when the title win was confirmed on Sunday.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is said to be considering axing next week's Old Firm clash at Celtic Park after accusing Rangers chiefs of "not doing nearly enough" to prevent the mass breaching of coronavirus stay-at-home rules. However the Ibrox club have also responded to criticism from Ms Sturgeon and her deputy John Swinney earlier this week.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Martindale has questioned the club criticism and the Livi manager - who was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison in 2006 for drug offences - believes the scenes round the city could have been much worse had restrictions not been in place.

Rangers fans pre match during a Scottish Premiership match between Rangers and St Mirren at Ibrox Stadium, on March 06, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

"I don't understand what Rangers were meant to do,” he said. "I was sitting debating it with someone the other day. I thought to myself, 'Thank God we're in lockdown when that happened' – can you imagine if we weren't? I think that city centre would have been absolutely jumping and I think there would have been a bit of violence through a lot of people congregating in one area.

"We were pretty fortunate it was probably just Rangers supporters who were out on Sunday.

"Everyone knows my background and the fact I've been to prison. See the amount of people who are in prison as a result of Rangers and Celtic games, it's incredible.

"So I think being in a lockdown helped us slightly because it was just Rangers supporters enjoying their occasion. You never had a mix of people and fans congregating with them because they were having a night out on the town.

"But I don't understand what Rangers were meant to have done better. I don't know how you control that."

On Tuesday, the First Minister told Holyrood she shared the "anger" over the "disgraceful" behaviour of fans and that she would be speaking with Police bosses to ensure there was no repeat when Rangers head to Parkhead a week on Sunday. It has raised fears the game on March 21 or even the remainder of the Scottish season could come under threat if there is a repeat of the large-scale gatherings.

But Martindale hopes calmer heads will prevail.

"I think it would be disappointing," he said. "I don't believe the Celtic-Rangers game is going to have the same proportion of people they had on Sunday.

"Hopefully the government's announcements have made people become a bit more realistic and they stay away from the stadium.

"I don't think it would be great for anyone if two sets of fans turn up. Hopefully it's just a threat to keep people away."

Get a year of unlimited access to all The Scotsman's sport coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis of the biggest games, exclusive interviews, live blogs, transfer news and 70 per cent fewer ads on Scotsman.com - all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today