Steven Gerrard fears Rangers may have to play behind closed doors

Steven Gerrard has warned Rangers supporters that the club could be forced to play a European home game behind closed doors if they do not heed the “clear message” sent out yesterday by Uefa.

Rangers were found guilty by Uefa of sectarian chanting during the match against St Joseph's last month. Picture: SNS
Rangers were found guilty by Uefa of sectarian chanting during the match against St Joseph's last month. Picture: SNS

European football’s governing body has ordered a partial
closure of Ibrox for Thursday’s Europa League play-off decider against Legia Warsaw after finding the Glasgow club guilty of a charge of “racist behaviour (sectarian chants)” during the first round qualifier at home to St Joseph’s of Gibraltar on 18 July.

A section of the ground comprising at least 3,000 seats will be closed for the visit of Legia.

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Gerrard admitted that this could prove the thin end of 
the wedge for a club where anti-Catholic chanting has been on the rise against in recent seasons.

“Unfortunately, those [closed doors games] are the things that will come if this continues,” said the Rangers manager. “If this minority continue to let the club down, that is what eventually will happen. So I’m sure Uefa are sending us a clear message that this is your punishment for this but, if it continues, you will be playing behind closed doors. And the thought of that is tough, as a manager. Especially when there is so much to play for in these games.

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“We need every little bit of help we can get. And 3,000 people can make an awful lot of noise.

“You know and I know that when Ibrox is full and is rocking it’s a difficult place for a team to come and get the right result. [If] you keep taking chunks of that away, it gives the opposition an advantage. So we’re gaining absolutely
nothing from these chants and this behaviour. Again, I ask and plead for the fans to behave properly when they come and support the team.”

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Gerrard gave his full backing to a strongly-worded statement released by Rangers in the wake of the sanction delivered by Uefa’s control and disciplinary body, which will require Rangers to display a banner with the wording “#EqualGame”, and the Uefa logo, in the closed section. 
The Rangers statement read: “Our supporters have been asked repeatedly by the club to refrain from indulging in this, and other forms of unacceptable behaviour. Sadly, the warnings have fallen on deaf ears and the actions of this minority will cause the club and the majority of good and decent Rangers supporters to pay a heavy penalty.

“The area, or areas, to be closed will be announced in due course and the club will do its best to restrict the impact to supporters. Unfortunately a significant number of supporters, innocent of any wrongdoing, will be unable to attend next week’s match. This is deeply regrettable to all at the club and we hope that the guilty parties, who attracted the attention of Uefa, might reflect on the damage their unacceptable behaviour is causing Rangers and their fellow supporters. If any individual supporter is unable to behave in a civilised manner then please stay away from Ibrox and our club. You are harming Rangers and that is something a genuine supporter would never wish to do.”

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In the statement, chairman Dave King doubled down on that unequivocal rejection of sectarian supporters. He said: “Rangers has players and supporters from many religions, cultures and backgrounds but we are one and the same when we gather to support our club. If any supporter cannot accept that then Rangers is not the club for them.”

Rangers were fined €40,000 (£36,000) and banned from taking fans to a Champions League qualifier in Malmo after supporters were found guilty of sectarian singing in a 2011 Europa League match at PSV Eindhoven.

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The club was also given a three-year suspended sentence that included a total stadium ban should the ugly scenes be repeated.