So Scotland [Deep breath!]? Well, I did try to get ‘the other side’ of this story, but since there’s no one in the press office at Ibrox today, and there’s no mobile number for the press officer they do have available (which is unusual in my experience), I’m going on what’s already out there.
Adds: This story broken here by Phil at An Phoblacht.
On Saturday, Rangers (or Sevco as they are known to their rivals throughout Scottish football) thumped Stenhousemuir 8-0 on their increasingly emphatic way back to the Scottish Premiership.
So Rangers decided to have their Armed Forces day by inviting 400 British servicemen to their stadium. It seems to have been done in part to promote the establishment of a fans forces fund by the club’s own charity fund to donate its target figure of £15k to two military charities at the end of the season.
So what went wrong?
Erm, nothing quite, other than it became obvious that most if not all of those servicemen who turned up were themselves Rangers fans, as well as members of the British Armed Forces. Things took their usual course and bingo, embarrassing video of British squaddies clapping and singing along to Derrys Walls:
The incident has given rise to the usual degree of hyperventilating about Rangers on the net. But Alex Thomson of Channel Four News puts his finger on the core of the problem from the British Army point of view:
The problem is with our servicemen and women being exposed to this and hung out to dry by their commanders who seem to have the PR skills of a garden slug. This is the British Army, the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy – and some years into a delicate peace process in Northern Ireland.
You can’t expose young people in the ranks to this and expect them to do anything else but let their hair down. What is idiotic and so far unexplained, is how they were put into this position by their commanding officers.
It was so easy: march on. Stand and enjoy the applause. March off.
Who thought allowing these people to be sucked into this deeply political cauldron and be made idiots of, was somehow a clever plan? The MoD either lost control of this event or, worse, never thought to impose any. We await answers to these questions from the MoD and, in particular, the General Officer Commanding Scotland, Major General Nick Eeles.
And from Rangers point of view, this comment on a Hearts online forum seems to me to strike to the core:
The whole thing might not sicken me but it certainly makes me deeply uncomfortable. Did you see the photo of the squaddies holding a ‘keep ulster protestant’ scarf?
I’ve never liked the crass exploitation of the armed forces by football clubs. Remembrance & recognition are very important but I can’t help but feel rangers have been using the forces as a marketing tool.[emphasis added]
Welcome to the house of self undoing [walks away slowly shaking head]…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty