Rangers clinched the SPL title after beating Kilmarnock 5-1 in front of 16,173 fans. However according to one Kilmarnock fan, thousands of Kilmarnock fans stayed away from the game, due to the large number of Rangers fans openly buying tickets for the home end. Therefore putting the safety of those Kilmarnock supporters in risk knowingly.
The statement from Johnston read: “This was never going to be an easy fixture to organise, in terms of ticket sales, segregation and crowd control. Over the years, Scottish football supporters have proved to be particularly adept at securing tickets to attend high profile matches, at home and abroad, regardless of the precautions taken to restrict their numbers or location within the host stadium.”
“The club held three high level planning meetings involving the police, G4S (match stewards) and other relevant agencies. There were many other in house meetings and discussions in preparation for all aspects of Sunday’s match. The safety and enjoyment of our supporters was always at the top of our agenda.”
Johnston added: “It was recognised that either no match tickets could be sold for home support areas in order to secure these for the exclusive use of season ticket holders or, if tickets were to be sold, then there was a high risk of infiltration by Rangers supporters, notwithstanding the use of a ticket application form to capture the personal details of the purchaser and containing an undertaking that the purchaser was a supporter of KFC and would not resell the tickets to anyone who was not. Proof of identity was also required. In addition, a notice was issued to each purchaser and displayed on the KFC website making clear the club’s policy in relation to anyone displaying support for Rangers in a home support area.”
It continued: “It was therefore a massive disappointment for everyone at the club to discover that so many of the East and Frank Beattie Stand tickets sold had found their way into the hands of Rangers supporters, in spite of our precautions.”
“In the run-up to the match it became evident that home support tickets and even season ticket vouchers were being offered for sale on the internet, at significant mark-ups, such was the demand. We considered selling a section at the north end of the East Stand to Rangers but rejected this idea in favour of using this area as a “sterile zone” to accommodate away supporters, should the police deem it preferable to enforcing ejections (this was, in fact, implemented on Sunday in an attempt to alleviate the problem). In the event, the number of away supporters in the East Stand rendered the option of ejection (by virtue of showing support for Rangers) redundant.”
“We fully appreciate that it will be of little consolation to the club’s supporters to know that Strathclyde Police were entirely satisfied with all arrangements put in place by the club for Sunday’s match and that our staff were praised by both the SPL and Rangers FC for their diligence and co-operation in hosting this important fixture. Please rest assured that all aspects of Sunday’s match will be carefully reviewed with the intention of avoiding any recurrence of the problems that our loyal season ticket holders experienced.”
However Johnston’s statement has not washed with some Kilmarnock fans, especially members of the Kilmarnock FC Supporters Association.
They had released a statement saying: “Tonight at Rugby Park a small band of Kilmarnock fans fed-up and angry at the way Rangers fans were allowed to take-over the East Stand on Sunday made a show of defiance by pledging to hand their season ticket books into the club in the morning as well as a letter underlining their unhappiness.”
“Led by supporter Chris Logan the fans were adamant that they will no longer be taken for granted by those in charge of the club. Chris explained that this protest was not in anyway a ploy to get at those in charge of our beloved club but only a stand taken against the way the ticket arrangements were handled on Sunday and as a secondary issue the increase in season tickets for the new season.”
And experiences from both Kilmarnock and Rangers supporters paint a different one to that peddled by Michael Johnston.
Days before the title decider a note was posted on the Official website which read: “No person wearing or carrying anything signifying support for Rangers FC will be allowed entry to designated home support areas, whether in possession of a valid match ticket or not.”
“Any person who enters a designated “home support” area and openly displays support for Rangers FC will be warned as to their conduct or ejected without re-admission or refund, at the discretion of Strathclyde Police, G4S stewards or Kilmarnock FC officials.”
“Do not purchase a ticket for a designated home support area unless you are a supporter of Kilmarnock FC and will behave accordingly at the match.”
Despite this, Rangers fans were knowingly sold tickets to the Home support areas, by Kilmarnock Football Club Ticket Office staff in their thousands. And on top of that tickets were being sold at a mark up by some Kilmarnock fans, with prices of up to £260 being paid by at least one Rangers fan after the game sold out.
Ten minutes into the game, some Kilmarnock fans walked out because of a high number of Rangers fans in amongst them and brazenly supporting their side in an area, yet Michael Johnston had warned only a day before that, “Any person who enters a designated home support area and openly displays support for Rangers FC will be warned as to their conduct or ejected without re-admission or refund, at the discretion of Strathclyde Police, G4S stewards or Kilmarnock FC officials.”
On top of that certain elements of Rangers fans were openly singing songs about Tommy Burns on the third anniversary of his passing.
So despite professing to care about his club’s supporters safety and not wanting to ruin their enjoyment of the game, that went out the window when at £25 quid a ticket, the increased thousands of so-called ‘home’ fans turned up and pound signs flashed in front of Johnston’s eyes.