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Rangers continue to bathe in Britishness or is it all a PR Stunt?

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During Rangers 5-0 win against Motherwell at Fir Park today, Rangers skipper David Weir donned a specially embroidered commemorative shirt against Stuart McCall’s side, paying a special tribute to Prince William and Kate Middleton, who were married at Westminster Abbey yesterday.

Weir’s Number 3 jersey was prepared by kit man Jimmy Bell, and read, ‘Congratulations William and Catherine, 29th April 2011’.

However the message is technically in breach of FIFA regulations, which prevent players from making religious, political or personal statements.

Manager Walter Smith claimed that he had no knowledge of his captain’s tribute to the Royal Wedding, while it was also reported that Weir was also unaware of the tribute until just before kick off.

Smith said, “I didn’t know it was there. Sorry, I can’t enlighten you at all. It must have been the kit man.”

Rangers were recently criticised by Matt Dickinson, Chief Sports Correspondent of The Times, over permission given to the Rangers Supporters Assembly to place a small Union Jack flag on every seat in the home end before the seventh and final Old Firm derby of the season.

Dickinson stated, “I rang Rangers yesterday to ask why, exactly? The Union Jack is not an official symbol of Rangers FC. It is not part of the club badge, not on the shirt. It is not to be found on any page of the Rangers website. A shirty spokesman, dismissing the inquiry as a nonsense, said that it was the flag of his country and the British Isles. But there are dozens of British clubs and none of the others ever hand out Union Jacks.”

Dickinson is right in the respect that no other club has dished out Union Jacks to their fans for a display – so why Rangers?

He continued, “If Rangers wanted to give the team a show of support, why not simply hand out regular club flags and scarves? Why endorse a provocative symbol of tribalism, on the very day when both clubs were meant to be going out of their way to calm their fans?”

Dickinson claimed that the Union Jack, “has been hijacked as a sign of lasting enmity, of division, entrenching the idea that one club, for now and evermore, will represent the Protestant sector of Glasgow and the other the Catholic. One club handing out Union Jacks cannot possibly take us any closer to the day, however far away it may be, when Rangers against Celtic becomes a “normal” sporting rivalry, defined by geography, not historical or religious baggage.”

He finished his article with, “Rangers will insist that they do plenty [to weed out Sectarianism], but that has not been the impression given in the past 48 hours, on or off the record. They should pay more attention to their manager, the wise Walter Smith, who talked last week of how the sectarian problem had been tolerated for too long, and his relief that he was retiring. ‘To be quite honest with you, I’m quite glad to be getting out of it,’ Smith said, which was a terribly sad admission from a man steeped in Rangers since he was a lad. So that is one manager driven away and another who might have been killed. And a stupid club who think there is nothing odd, amid all this trouble, in handing out 40,000 Union Jacks.”

So after bathing in the Britishness of 40,000 fans waving mini Union Jacks during their game against Celtic, kit man Jimmy Bell took the club’s Britishness to an all new high with his commemorative message to the newly weds. No other club or individual donned such a message on their kit so why Rangers? Will they do the same for the next Royal wedding between the Queen’s Grand daughter Zara Phillips and England rugby player Mike Tindall on July 30th? I doubt it very much.

The whole mini flag waving and special tribute message reeks of the club trying to prove how British they are, and how much more they are than others. If they wanted to prove how British they are, maybe the club led by Sir David Murray, could have paid their BRITISH taxes, like everyone else does whether we see ourselves as British, Scottish, English, Welsh or Irish. Maybe then they could bleat on about how BRITISH they are, but currently the whole stunt just looks hypocritical.

While the Quintessential British Club supporters are waving flags costing 20p each, and the kit man is embroidering just the one shirt, the club continues to fight against Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, who claim that the club owe around £25 million in back taxes – not including fines and interest that could be accrued also. Taxes that could have been used to pay for Flak Jackets and equipment for those soldiers they continue to peddle out onto the centre circle at Ibrox to celebrate and worship. £25 million could have bought 500,000 flak jackets [body armour]or paid towards a couple of those fancy armoured personnel carriers, rather than player’s bank accounts. But hey the soldiers get a free ticket to a game that makes up for it all right?

I doubt that any action will be taken against David Weir or Rangers over the embroidered shirt, however given that Tamir Cohen was booked for taking his top off to reveal a tribute to his father Avi Cohen, who died in December after a motorcycle accident, after scoring the winner against Arsenal. Mike Jones the referee who booked Cohen reportedly apologised to player after the match, but by the letter of the law he was correct to do so, a law that many including myself think is idiotic.

By the letter of the law, and without any official permission to do so from the SPL or the SFA, the continued ‘Britishness’ publicity stunt should be punished accordingly. Whether it is the club, David Weir or Jimmy Bell the kit man punished for it. Otherwise ALL messages printed on kit, t-shirts by Scottish clubs and players should not be punished accordingly.

Or was it the last desperate act of Martin Bain and Rangers to try to dodge paying the tax bill? Maybe I could get my shirt embroidered also, it would save me paying Council Tax this year.

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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