No More Old Firm

At the time of writing it seems ‘The Rangers Football Club’ will be starting the season in the SFL Division 3. There is relief that instead of discussing tax or moral philosophy the fans can finally go back to watching football again. But this time it’s different. Rangers are different. No, I’m not talking about the ‘oldco’ and ‘newco’ stuff - it’s still ‘The Rangers’. The change is that the fans can have a break from the ‘Old Firm’ rivalry (and to a lesser extent the rest of the SPL). Far from being upset about this supposed fall from grace it should be embraced. Being so closely aligned with Celtic might have been good business sense in the past, but for the last decade it has slowly suffocated anything positive for Rangers fans. Any attempt to give it a false revival - like the Glasgow Cup - should be opposed. Time to let it go.

Anyone who has followed my writing knows I do not miss criticism of Rangers fans when I feel they deserve it - and at times it was deserved. But for many it went beyond proper criticism into outright mischief-making. Rangers fans (occasionally alongside Celtic fans) have been blamed for everything from sectarianism to domestic violence in Scottish society. Opportunists representing Churches, Politicians and the Police saw easy headlines and instant moral superiority if they criticised the Ibrox club. Much real sectarianism, racism and domestic violence was forgotten as long as you could blame the Rangers-Celtic rivalry. Hopefully with a long break in the ‘Old Firm’ derby, we can ease the mass hysteria that each game brought to our elites.

It’s not just being blamed for all the ills of society that was becoming untenable - the obsession that many non-Rangers fans have for the club has become truly abnormal. With liquidation of the ‘oldco’ and the club in Division 3, much of the excuses for the obsession should diminish. I’m not suggesting it will change overnight - the recent mental gymnastics that Rangers don’t exist but should still be punished for its past - shows that hatred finds many ways to justify itself. However, even these people will eventually struggle to find excuses to focus exclusively on Rangers now that the rivalry is no longer direct. That should be something of a relief.

But if we want to leave the ‘Old Firm’ nonsense behind us and focus solely on our own club, the Rangers fans have to rise to the challenge too. There will have to be changes, and an awareness that how we react in Division 3 will influence how we are perceived in the future. Every single Rangers fan who goes to an away match needs to remember that they are an ambassador for the club and the rest of the support. You should enjoy yourself, but if you give anyone an excuse to “prove” how bad Rangers fans are they will take it - and you will deserve it. There will be no excuses for singing about Fenians or the Pope when playing Montrose or walking the streets of Brechin.

We have a great opportunity to re-discover the working man’s game in all its raw glory: as a happy 90 minutes of fun, passion, a pie and a pint on the way home - nothing more. Even before Rangers financial troubles, Scottish football fans have led the sports media away from football into using it as a proxy for their own private culture wars. Football phone-ins are a great example of this way of thinking. No-one discusses formations or how good their club’s left-back is playing - it’s all how much hate and pettiness you can push against supporters of your rival team. There is no joy in any of it, and this is something we should consciously leave behind.

However, let’s be clear - the Rangers team and the rival Division 3 teams won’t be great quality compared to life in the SPL. Most of the Rangers players - and the opposition - will be young lads or journeymen. They might not be the greatest footballers, but they will be doing their best because they love football. That should be remembered and respected, even for the opposition. As the amateurs of Queens Park say on their motto, "Ludere Causa Ludendi" – to play for the sake of playing.

If we have learned nothing else after the troubles of the last six months, surely we have realised that just playing football is all we really want? It’s not the Champions League we go for, or the SPL title, or the rivalry with Celtic and everything negative that surrounds it. No, none of that really matters. Through near-loss we have learned all we really crave is watching eleven footballers in Royal Blue, working their heart out for the club we love.

Others may be focused on Rangers to a strange extent, but let’s not repay the compliment. To change the chant slightly - we are only here to see The Rangers.

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