By a Newsnet reporter
A former editor of the Daily Mirror has questioned apparent media reluctance to report what he claimed were scores of uniformed soldiers taking part in sectarian singing at a so called Armed Forces Day event at Ibrox stadium.
Roy Greenslade, who now writes for the Guardian newspaper and the London Evening Standard, described the events which took place after hundreds of military personnel had marched onto the park before Rangers’ game against Stenhousemuir on Saturday.
According to the journalist, a group of soldiers were filmed dancing, clapping and singing along with the crowd. Mr Greenslade suggested that chants were sectarian in nature with references to IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.
A video posted on Youtube appeared to support the claims and showed scores of soldiers joining in with fans as they sang and chanted No Surrender. At one point soldiers rushed towards fans with some breaching safety barriers.
In other images posted online, troops wearing full army fatigues can be seen holding a scarf which reads, “Keep Ulster Protestant”.
Greenslade then implied a media blackout of the episode, describing as “odd” the lack of reporting by any Scottish media outlet.
“The STV report mentioned that an army band ‘entertained fans’ and quoted Major General Nick Eeles, general officer commanding Scotland, as saying it was hoped to make it into an annual event.
“The Record did write that ‘the match-day experience began in dramatic circumstances’ but only because ‘two marines abseiled down the Govan stand ahead of kick-off, before delivering the match ball to the referee.’
Criticising both the Record and STV, Greenslade added: “How odd that both outlets missed the story? Or do their reporters think soldiers chanting jingoistic sectarian songs in unison with football fans is unworthy of comment?”
Others to criticise the behaviour of the troops and the lack of coverage from the Scottish media is online magazine ‘Bella Caledonia’. It’s founder Mike Small described the episode as “mass manipulation and exploitation”.
“You can see how the custodians of the new club trading as Rangers can make short-term capital by pandering to jingoistic sectarianism. But what do the armed forces get out of it?” he said.
Joining Greenslade in questioning the logic of allowing the event to take place at a football match, he added: “This was an event where military chiefs were in attendance and was sanctioned by football authorities. That simple reality must have consequences.”
The episode has resulted in considerable controversy and criticism on social media sites. However figures associated with Rangers have defended the event.
Andrew Dickson, who presents the club’s official TV channel – Rangers TV – suggested detractors should “take a look at their passports and remind themselves of where they come from…”.
Concerns over sectarian chanting and behaviour at football matches has led to controversial anti-Sectarianism legislation being introduced by the Scottish government. The legislation followed a summit held at the request of Strathclyde Police after trouble flared after an Old Firm game.
Last month a Celtic fan was convicted at Dundee Sheriff Court after being caught on camera singing a song which the prosecution claimed glorified people associated with terrorism.
Speaking after the hearing Prosecutor Vicki Bell, who is football liaison prosecutor for the North of Scotland, said: “Attending football matches should be about enjoying the match itself and not be used as a platform to show support for proscribed terrorist organisations.”
The full Ibrox video can be seen HERE