The Death of Banter

There's no disputing it. We Rangers supporters have had a torrid time over the last 15 months. When Craig Whyte plunged our beloved club into administration, I personally feared the worse. I always had some semblance of faith that it would work out and we'd survive, but I don't mind admitting that I often pondered where I would spend every other Saturday if the famous gates of Ibrox were to close one last time.

It wasn't an easy journey; however the important thing is we did survive. Our detractors looked forward to our death so much that they still celebrate it despite our tangible existence. They often claim we're in denial but I feel it's the other way about. Nevertheless, we've been subjected to ‘zombie’ and ‘Sevco’ chants about our supposed ‘new/dead’ (delete where applicable) club. The jibes are tiresome and at times malicious but it was to be expected to a degree. Supporters have wound up each other since someone decided to make kicking a ball around into a game. It's part and parcel of the sport we all love with social networking (for better or worse) being used with great effect to amplify barbed comments. Nothing compares to the noise-ups that occur within the stadium though, and it's here I feel that many fans have forgotten what it's like to take being ridiculed.

Rewind to Boxing Day last December when we hosted Clyde. It was a great atmosphere and incredible turnout especially considering the time of year. It wasn't our greatest game of football but we happily took the three points and went home to eat our Christmas leftovers the happiest of the supporters. Well, most of us were anyway. It appeared that a section of our support didn't take kindly to the Bully Wee faithful unfurling a banner emblazoned with ‘Happy 1st Christmas’. Some were left gobsmacked at the gall of the Clyde support. What harm had we ever caused them that we deserved to be ridiculed in such a way? Well the answer is simple really-nothing.

As I've already mentioned, a lot of these comments are tiresome but do we need to take to Twitter and throw our toys out of the pram whenever, shock horror, the opposition's support have a dig at us? Football is as much about one-upmanship from the fans as it is the two teams competing on the pitch. Our last game at Fir Park in the SPL saw the home fans unfurl a banner gloating that they would be playing in Europe at our expense. The banner showed comic character Andy Cap travelling to different European landmarks promising to send us a postcard, a stark ‘get it up ye’ to the Bears' travelling support. Revenge would come in the form of the League Cup match last September when Rangers hosted Motherwell at Ibrox. Not only did the Gers on the pitch play a blinder to ensure that the Steelmen would be exiting the competition that night, the Blue Order of BF1 had a wee surprise for the visitors’ corner. They released a banner of the same Andy Cap character at the same European landmarks, except this time he was leaving each one dejected with a fan clad in blue asking what happened to our postcard. From a creative point of view it was the perfect comeback and was a great example of how fans can taunt each other while keeping within the confines of taste and decency.

Not all banners are ‘simply banter’, however, with the Green Brigade having been known on at least one occasion to overstep the mark. If I'm being honest I have respect for the ‘Four Horsemen’ banner they displayed at the last Old Firm game. It was an overly expensive waste of money considering how things turned out but, at that moment in time, they won the victory in the terraces which, as I've already mentioned, is very important to supporters, especially the self-styled Ultras. However, the now infamous ‘zombie’ banner they unfurled at the Norwich game goes beyond what I believe to be acceptable at a football ground as do slogans with slurs relating to child abuse.

Neither is comparable to the banner the travelling Stirling Albion support had prepared in honour of the game that would commemorate our 140 year anniversary. While the vast majority of the 49,913 crowd where in a celebratory mood, the visitors unfurled a banner that read ‘more like 140 days’. Those that hate us saw it as an act of rebellious defiance, with the Albion fans representing all that is morally decent in Scottish football, standing up against the villainous establishment club. It was a dig, nothing more, move on. I didn't like it any more than the next guy but it's not worth losing sleep over. Again, we won the game so who was really laughing come full time? I do, however, believe the club were right to seek an apology from Montrose after they referred to us as a new club in their match day programme. It's easy for some to excuse this as banter but an official body should show more respect to a fellow club and set a higher standard. As for their fans, regardless of how much we've lined their club's pockets the past season we should expect no favours.

Personally I'd like the fans to bring the colour and noise to the game with banners and chants aimed at our rivals as opposed to moaning about them on Twitter and Facebook. If Clyde or Stirling Albion fans want to unfurl a banner mocking us, then we bring a bigger banner to the next game and do our talking in the stands while the team do it on the pitch. We are in danger of taking the permanently offended crown we like to bestow upon our neighbours across the water. Maybe it’s time we learn how to take a joke and, most importantly, remember how to fire one right back. Remember, this is fun.

Thomas Simpson is an award nominated writer and filmmaker. He is a Rangers season ticket holder and lifelong fan.