Great piece from John McDermott in the FT (worth the registration)…
The club, like the nation, had a comfortable dual identity as both Scottish and British. At its most famous game, the 1972 European Cup Winners’ Cup victory over FC Dynamo Moscow, fans sporting kilts and Robert Burns T-shirts waved the Union Jack alongside the Lion Rampant, Scotland’s royal flag.
“There was then an unquestioning acceptance of a strong Scotland within an overarching Britishness,” says Graham Walker, a renowned historian of politics in Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as a life-long Rangers fan.
Off the pitch, Rangers was run in unspectacular fashion. It exemplified traditional Scottish Protestant virtues such as “strength, solidity, pride, decency and probity”, says Harry Reid. “This has now been turned on its head.”
For many fans, it was that European game against NK Maribor which foreshadowed the subsequent decline. Only three years previously, Rangers had reached the final of the same competition, but it wasn’t just the bad result that stayed in people’s minds.
Rangers draws much of its support from working-class fans in Glasgow and the west of Scotland, many of whom identify themselves as Protestant unionists. Graham Walker, who saw the game that night, says: “It seemed to me that too many fans are more concerned about defending Britishness than supporting Rangers.”
Today Rangers is a faded emblem of a faltering belief in the UK: a Scottish institution in Britain and a British institution in Scotland.
Its rise and fall reflects not only how a football club lost sense of financial reality but much of its identity, too. Its story represents an imperfect microcosm of contemporary Scottish and British history.