Hubris of the Ibrox club means they are more hated in Scotland than ever
21 December ~ Directly in front of where I sat Angelo di Livio had a harmless off-the-ball flick at Gary Bollan. It was the 90th minute of an awful night so I leaped up and spewed misplaced rage at an uninterested Italian international. Only on sitting back down did I notice the away fans celebrating, the ball in the far corner of our net, Giancarlo Marocchi engulfed by Juventus team-mates and that the home support suddenly consisted of angry little me.
My tantrum obscured a moment of personal history – the first time I’d attended Rangers 0 Anybody 4 – and explains why owner David Murray eventually used desperate measures to placate the Rangers support.
Rangers’ attitude to Scottish football is, for many, summed up by Murray’s use of Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) last decade. Exploiting tax loopholes while ridiculously dominant is, for some rival fans, cheating – they want us stripped of titles won in this period. For most it’s arrogance bordering on contempt. But none of these supporters thought of Rangers any differently before we used EBTs, or even before that Juventus visit in the 1995-96 Champions League group stage – our heaviest ever European home defeat.
It’s taken three appeals, six years and a host of law lords to decide Rangers were, after all, liable for tax on EBTs, which became unusable after a 2010 legislation change. And the liquidators of the Rangers oldco have sought leave to appeal November’s Court of Session decision, in favour of HM Revenue & Customs, to the Supreme Court. Stripping Rangers of titles won between 2001 and 2010 for doing something which wasn’t illegal at that time is as valid as stripping us of titles won before 1992 because our goalkeepers picked up pass backs. Yet opposition fans are missing the punishment already endured by Rangers – the possibility of a huge tax bill led to our 2012 liquidation – and that it was down to the very sense of entitlement they so despise in us.
Far more contemptuous was my fear at the Nou Camp in November 2007, 2-0 down to Barcelona at half time. Being terrified one of history’s great teams might take five off you when you’ve done far worse to part-time and provincial sides for decades; that’s arrogance of self-damaging proportions. I’ve attended roughly 700 Rangers matches yet I’ve seen us lose by four goals, never anything worse, on just three occasions. This engenders optimism, expectation – and apoplectic, chairman-hounding rage at the slightest setback.
Fearing more than one four-goal loss per decade proves my lack of validity with opposition punters is unconnected to EBTs. “Real fans” just shouldn’t get to 46 years old without seeing their heroes lose by five clear goals. The hubris, however, is very real. Exiting competitions before they inflict an embarrassing scoreline blinds us to objective decline. Rangers finished second in the league table in 2011-2012 and first in 2012-2013. In-between, we’d been liquidated and dropped four divisions but – hey – there were none of those brutally heavy defeats entailed by relegation campaigns. Now an entire Ibrox board is kicked out every year and Scotland hates us more than ever.
In June, watching Juventus lose the 2015 Champions League final more easily than Rangers lost the 2014 Challenge Cup final, I realised we’d changed who we lost to rather than by how many. Our rabid short-termism resulted in a historic mistake. Our rivals will forever more claim it broke our history. That’s punishment enough. Alex Anderson