18,000 fans are expected to be at Rugby Park tomorrow to see Kilmarnock play Rangers, with the Ibrox side’s destiny in their own hands, knowing that if they win they will pick up their third title in a row.
Kilmarnock have announced that the game is a sell out, but in reality it is the club that has sold out. Throughout this season, Rugby Park has never been sold out even when both sides of the Old Firm come calling, and yet conveniently in the final match of the season against Rangers they just happen to sell out. A game that will see Rangers lift the SPL title if they beat their Ayrshire opponents.
The whole issue stinks to high heaven of the club putting money before crowd safety. Away fans WILL be within the Home support, a situation pointed out by Kilmarnock Chairman Michael Johnston.
Johnston said: “There’s no doubt there will be Rangers fans among the home support. However, we hope everyone behaves responsibly and that Rangers supporters show respect for the home club. If not, they will be ejected.”
Allowing or knowingly allowing away supporters of any number into the home section of the ground is a sheer breach of SPL Rules & Regulations, and puts those fans both home and away in harm’s way.
Johnston added: “We took 18,000 fans to Hampden for the CIS Cup final four years ago, so there are a large number of Ayrshire-based Kilmarnock fans who will turn out to support our club. It has been difficult to say to people we were not selling them tickets because we didn’t believe they were Kilmarnock fans. That said, we asked everyone who purchased tickets for the home areas to supply us with some personal details.”
Kilmarnock may have taken 18,000 fans to Hampden four years ago for a Cup Final, but this is a league game, and on average Kilmarnock have had 5,885 at Rugby Park, with a 18,128 capacity. Even their Highest attendance this season, ironically against Rangers was just 10,177. So where did these extra 8,000 fans come from? If Johnston believes that everyone in Ayrshire must be a Kilmarnock fan, then he is clearly mistake.
It is evidently clear that Kilmarnock know what they are doing, know who these fans are and know that the extra fans that have helped to sell out Rugby Park are in fact NOT Kilmarnock supporters. And their public sale for home areas of the ground this week, was clearly aimed at Rangers fans looking to party after a Rangers win.
Johnston’s dismissal of safety concerns is sheer lunacy, given the recent goings on in Scottish Football. And even if the Police are happy with the arrangements, it is still against the SPL rules and regulations on Crowd Safety. Johnston defended his selling policy and also warned that officers and stewards will be on guard ready to eject any Rangers fans who behave inappropriately among the visiting support.
Hopefully not the same officers and stewards that were on guard during Wednesday night’s clash between Celtic and Hearts.
Kilmarnock have posted on their official website the following statement:
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.
Sadly I can’t see those 8,000 extra Kilmarnock fans cheering a goal from their team if he holds Rangers to a draw or far worse a defeat.
Johnston’s policy to sell tickets for home sections to Rangers fans certainly goes against what he said in 2007, when he was ready to forfeit over £100,000 after Kilmarnock fans had complained to the club about Celtic supporters finding their way into the home sections back in Season 2002/2003.
Johnston said in 2007, “Given that tickets are £23 each, we are going to lose around £100,000 in revenue due to restrictions that we have voluntarily put in place to segregate the supporters. It could be even more because some Kilmarnock fans may decide to stay away from Rugby Park because they don’t like to be outnumbered. There were some problems at the end of the 2002/03 season when Celtic fans got into the home end. We had a lot of complaints from our supporters and we are following procedures that we put in place since then.”
So he has now disregarded those procedures, and the complaints from Kilmarnock supporters not to mention SPL rules to get that much needed revenue now? Hypocritical to say the least.
He added, “When it became clear that Celtic could win this season’s title at our place, they asked for more tickets. They will get approximately 800 more for the West Stand once they have sold out their initial allocation for the Moffat and Chadwick stands. That is the best compromise we can achieve. It is important that our supporters feel comfortable in their own stadium and we have to respect our season ticket holders. We can’t give away additional tickets to Celtic without disrupting them.”
“However, if we find that fans have given tickets away to Celtic supporters then we will consider banning them. But if you can’t trust your own supporters, then who can you trust?”
It seems the Kilmarnock fans cannot trust Johnston to listen to their complaints, secure their safety when they are in much need of funds now, more so than they were in 2007.
In 2007, Celtic won the title at Rugby Park thanks to a Shunsuke Nakamura free kick to secure a 2-1 win. That game wasn’t sold out, away fans were prevented from purchasing tickets in the home section, and the Kilmarnock section was not sold out in fact it wasn’t even half full. In that season Kilmarnock’s highest attendance was at the game that Celtic won the title with 13623 fans. Their average attendance that season was 7564.
So in four years, despite having 18,000 fans at the CIS Cup Final, they have went from on average 7,564 fans at Rugby Park to 5,885. A drop of 1,679 fans which has seen Killie hit in the pocket for around £40,000 per game.
But hey who cares about Crowd Safety or who the fans really support when those extra 7,951 fans bring in just under £200,000 for the one game.