Rangers’ fans group Club 1872 has issued a statement over the cancellation of a proposed pilot scheme for a fanzone at the club’s Ibrox stadium.
Initial plans for a trial run of a fanzone, set up on Edmiston Drive and able to accommodate around 2,000 supporters, were lodged earlier this year.
The proposal included plans for food outlets, a bar, big TV screens and a stage for live music and appearances by club legends, and was due to run for four home matches.
The plans were shelved in July after intervention from Glasgow City Council, despite hopes the trial run at Ibrox could be used as a litmus test for a fanzone at Hampden for the four scheduled Euro 2020 Championship matches.
Now Club 1872 has issued a statement after it emerged council leader Susan Aitken has thrown her support behind a similar scheme at the national stadium, just weeks after rejecting Rangers’ proposal.
Govan councillor Stephen Dornan, who was against the plans, claimed the fanzone would mean children would be unable to play on the artificial pitch outside Ibrox on match days.
Dornan said recently: “Rangers should be investing in youth football in the area. They shouldn’t be trying to replace it with burgers and booze - I can’t sit back and watch a kids’ football pitch being taken away.”
The statement from the supporters’ group read: “Around three weeks ago, Club 1872 received formal confirmation from Rangers that the proposed Ibrox Fanzone pilot has been cancelled for the foreseeable future due to the direct intervention of SNP, Glasgow City Councillors Stephen Dornan, Susan Aitken and David McDonald.
“Very serious questions now exist over the actions of Council Leader Susan Aitken and her deputy David McDonald in this process, and that is something on which we are seeking urgent clarity from Glasgow City Council (GCC).
“We recently submitted an FOI request to GCC in an attempt to discover precisely what role these two councillors played in ensuring that the Fanzone application had to be withdrawn prior to a scheduled licensing hearing even taking place. We have also written to them personally to ask them why they intervened in this case and what track record they have of intervening in similar public entertainment licence applications.
“Having seen Mr Dornan’s public comments, as well as his submissions to the Licensing Board on the matter, it is clear that he has taken every opportunity to misrepresent the purpose of the fanzone and the excellent work which Rangers do to support the local community. “Mr Dornan’s attitude towards Rangers and our supporters shows a level of ignorance and malice which does not reflect well on him, either personally or in his role as councillor for Govan.
“Our understanding is that his lobbying efforts had been unsuccessful until the late intervention of his colleagues.
“Despite council officials and Glasgow Life - who have vast experience of holding major sporting events in the city - being fully supportive, these individuals appear to have used their positions to circumvent due process.”
Club 1872 pointed out that the Gers had received backing from “across the political spectrum” for the fanzone plans, adding: “Having been in close contact with Rangers regarding the Fanzone for a number of months, and having ourselves provided a submission as part of the licence application, we are pleased that the club is refusing to accept the situation as it stands.
“We will continue to work closely with them to ensure that facilities for our supporters at Ibrox improve over the coming months and years, regardless of any attempts to hinder that progress.”
Former Glasgow council leader Frank McAveety and current Glasgow Labour MSP Pauline McNeill branded the actions of Aitken, Dornan and McDonald “totally improper” and tantamount to “hijacking a quasi-judicial process”.
McAveety added: “I welcome Aitken’s calls for Hampden and don’t see why the same can’t apply to Rangers. Football fans are the lifeblood of the city. We need supporters to have the best possible fan experience.
“Rangers deserve a crack at this.”
A Rangers source told the Daily Record earlier this week: “Everyone was on board, including police, for an event that would have cost the club money, but which we recognise is vital to the fan experience going forward.
“However, grubby municipal politics came to the fore, for what reasons no one can really understand. The hypocrisy of Aitken is astounding. She has been speaking loudly and publicly of the need to improve the fan experience at Hampden and yet a few miles across the city denies the same rights to Rangers and our fans.”
Gers managing director Stewart Robertson is believed to have written to Aitken to express his anger on behalf of the club, and has included numerous examples of Rangers’ work in the community.
A council spokesman was reported to have said: “Where clubs are pursuing fan zones, it is expected the appropriate levels of community engagement is undertaken and that local representatives’ concerns are addressed.
“This was not the case with the Ibrox proposals, with the community council objecting to the use of a community facility by Rangers FC and their supporters.”