Tom English: 'Bain came across as an apologist for the moronic tourists'

FOR MARTIN BAIN, the time has come to plea bargain. The Rangers chief executive will know that the violent scenes we saw in Bucharest on Wednesday night cannot go on much longer without the club getting hit with some kind of ban from European competition. Maybe the ban won't be handed down this time, maybe it won't happen next time either.

But as sure as night follows day, Bain must be certain that the next incident involving the vermin rump that attaches itself to his club is just around the corner. They've been fighting, periodically, for 40 years after all. There's

no reason to expect a peace pact at this stage.

Judging from his reaction to the trouble in Bucharest, Bain clearly needs advice. In attempting to divvy up the blame, on a 50-50 basis, between the thugs who broke up seats and flung them at stewards and the stewards themselves, he came across as an apologist for the moronic tourists. And not for the first time either. It would have been nice to hear him say that the CCTV footage – of outstanding quality, it seems – would be studied and the trouble-makers identified and banned from Ibrox for life. But he chose not to. He was as cringe-makingly wrong in his judgment last week as he was in his assertion, post Manchester, that the riots after the UEFA Cup final of 2008 were spearheaded by English hooligans. So, here's what he should do next. He should discreetly ask UEFA to forget any thought they may have of swingeing fines or points deductions or behind-closed-doors games at Ibrox and suggest instead, off the record, that a one-year ban be placed on Rangers supporters travelling abroad to follow their team.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He should do it because Rangers are heading for a significant sanction if some of their supporters keep up their current levels of hooliganism: Pamplona, Villarreal, Manchester and now Bucharest. He should do it because you get a sense around Ibrox that the club is at the end of its tether with these abusive half-wit fans and their refusal to take responsibility for their own actions. If you're Walter Smith, there is no downside to having the fans banned on the road. The constant threat of trouble is just not worth it. Having them banned at home, however, would be a nightmare, in terms of revenue and image and other things. Rangers are moving towards that point, though. Bain needs to pre-empt the doomsday scenario and he needs to do it quickly.

We could sit here all day going on about some of the Rangers support and their feeble attempts to deflect the blame for their own behaviour. Not only are these people violent, they are also thunderously stupid if they think that civilised Scotland is buying the excuses they've been trotting out since Wednesday night.

We've heard that old one about English accents infiltrating the ranks, the same pitiful argument they put up in the immediate aftermath of the Manchester riots, a bogus defence that came tumbling down around their ears just as soon as all that YouTube footage started to emerge and all those distinctly Scottish accents were heard from people in their unmistakably blue shirts seen rampaging around Manchester, smashing cars and windows, chucking bottles and attacking policemen. And each other.

UEFA washed its hands of the Manchester business. Shame on it for that. A city centre under siege and Michel Platini and chums turned and looked the other way. By rights, Rangers should have been banned from Europe for what happened down there.

It's always somebody else's fault as far as some Rangers fans are concerned. In Manchester, it was the fault of the local council for not anticipating the size of the visiting support, the fault of Tesco for selling them beer so early in the morning, the fault of the sunshine for frying the brains of the fans, the fault of the big screen for breaking down. In Bucharest, it was the fascist stewards and police to blame and the shite stadium and the poxy, rundown city and the closed turnstiles and, of course, the guys with the English accents stirring things up.

It has to be said that many Rangers fans have grown as weary of this kind of buck-passing as the rest of us, large elements of them condemning outright what went on in Bucharest. Many of them must be fearing a hefty punishment from UEFA on Thursday. Sure, the Unirea officials made a hash of things. Yes, those turnstiles should have been opened and, unquestionably, the behaviour of the Romanian stewards and police deserves investigation.

But Rangers shouldn't even be allowed to look at the moral high ground, never mind occupy it. Some of their fans dynamited their own credibility when they ran amok in Manchester and disgraced themselves in European games with Osasuna and Villarreal, not to mention the 17 arrests at the infamous Ibrox beam-back at the UEFA Cup final. At the club's own event there were Rangers fans led away with blood-stained jerseys, Rangers fans handcuffed on the ground, Rangers fans roaming about steaming drunk and looking to cause hassle. And even they could not find anybody to blame that night. There's just a hardcore of hopeless drunken neds that cling to Rangers and won't let go.

When they complain about over-zealous stewards and indiscriminate use of CS gas, they forget that the reason security personnel are jumpy is because of the foul reputation Rangers fans now have abroad. They can view YouTube in Bucharest as well, you know. They've seen the videos from Manchester. No Rangers fans should have been surprised to find an aggressive force in Romania. The reputation of the fans precedes them everywhere they go these days.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Bain would be doing the club, and their legions of proper supporters, a service if he made representations to UEFA and brought a halt to the trips. For without drastic action, Rangers are on a self-destructive road and are heading for the kind of punishment that will hurt the club to its core.