The dispute between Rangers and the police following fans celebrating the 55th title win under Steven Gerrard has developed yet further controversy with the emergence of new emails in The Scotsman.
Thousands of Gers supporters had gone to Ibrox on March sixth and seventh 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic, to celebrate the first league title win in a decade.
The police and the Scottish government had slammed supporters for the events during a public health crisis, and condemned the club for doing nothing to prevent the situation.
However, new emails show that the Light Blues had been in contact with police beforehand to warn that they intended to hold training at the stadium, followed by a dinner, on the day they were mathematically crowned champions.
Police had attempted to avoid releasing the correspondence after a Freedom of Information request, but were ordered to provide un-redacted information earlier this year [Scottish Express, 23 July].
The emails, now obtained by The Scotsman, as quoted in the Scottish Express, show that Superintendent Stephen Dolan said: “I would go so far as suggesting that taking the team to Ibrox during such celebrations may be morally (and potentially legally) reckless.
“I’m told that our discussions with the club suggest that the directors are intent on the players gathering at the venue should they be declared league winners and potentially using training as a reason to do so.
“Whilst I am clearly not in a position to question the credibility of any intent to conduct training at that venue on the day, I would question why they would do so when this is not their normal training venue and, to my understanding, training would not normally occur at that time on a Sunday.”
The government’s strategic football lead David Hamilton also referred to the plans as “contrived”.
Whatever the police and government view on the validity of the plans, and it is clear that they saw them with some suspicion, they cannot deny that communications had taken place to make them aware ahead of time.
The coronavirus pandemic was a serious matter, and still is in many places, but Rangers were far from the only cause of large gatherings around that time.
It may be a valid position that despite being kept informed they felt it likely that there was a risk of a large-scale gathering that they could not handle, but there is also no guarantee that fans wouldn’t have descended on Ibrox whether the team was there or not.
Had they remained at the training ground there is a fair likelihood that plenty would have headed for the stadium anyway, and if not surely the next actual game there would have seen a crowd outside instead.
The achievement represented so much more than just another league title, preventing Celtic from making it 10 in a row, and the first one since returning to the Premiership.
Being against the large gathering of supporters due to the potential to transmit the virus is one thing, but using the gathering as an excuse to give the club a kicking while trying to hide the information they had is a very poor look for the authorities.