Rangers’ Premiership win: Officers assaulted as fans celebrate

POLICE officers were assaulted as crowds of fans gathered in Glasgow to celebrate Rangers winning the Scottish Premiership.

Large numbers of supporters went to Ibrox Stadium and George Square on Sunday to mark the achievement despite warnings to stay at home.

Nicola Sturgeon said the crowds were “infuriating and disgraceful” and could delay the end of the Covid lockdown.

Police Scotland said officers made 28 arrests for a variety of offences.

The force also said seven people were issued with fixed penalty notices or would be the subject of a report to the procurator fiscal.

Offences included assaulting police officers, sectarian-related breaches of the peace, breaking Covid rules, and pyrotechnic use.

Rangers took the title after Celtic failed to beat Dundee United.

The result gave the Ibrox club an unassailable 20-point lead and the title for the first time in 10 years.
Under current Scottish government coronavirus guidance, public gatherings are banned and a maximum of two people from two households are allowed to meet outdoors.

Following Sunday’s game, crowds of fans took to the streets, as some let off flares while others chanted and waved flags outside the club ground. In Glasgow city centre fans flocked to George Square to celebrate.

The police response has been criticised by some but Ch Supt Mark Sutherland, divisional commander for Greater Glasgow Division, said officers were met with a “very difficult set of circumstances”.

“Our priority was public safety and this included reducing the risk of disorder, road safety and effective crowd management among the complexities of a vociferous crowd. This included established crowd control measures to prevent serious disorder in multiple areas and protect the public,” he said.

“An appropriate policing response was in place throughout the day and officers continually engaged and encouraged compliance with coronavirus regulations.

He added: “Where it was appropriate to do so officers moved to enforcement for a variety of offences including breaches of coronavirus regulations, acts of disorder, pyrotechnic use and a number of arrests for assaulting police officers and sectarian related breach of the peace.”

Supt Sutherland praised the professionalism of his officers and in the face of a “challenging set of circumstances.”

Football supporters have also been accused of breaking coronavirus rules in Belfast and Corby – which is known as “little Scotland” – following Rangers’ win.

Last May thousands of Liverpool fans flouted social distancing guidelines and gathered outside Anfield to celebrate the club’s first Premier league title in 30 years.

And in November hundreds of Celtic supporters defied the level four restrictions and converged on Celtic Park to call for the removal of the club’s then manager Neil Lennon.

On Sunday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon congratulated Rangers on the title win, but added: “Gathering in crowds just now risks lives, and could delay exit from lockdown for everyone else.”

In a later tweet she said: “I share folks’ anger at this.”

She added it was “infuriating and disgraceful” to see the crowds “risk our progress” after everyone complying with lockdown rules has made “so many sacrifices”.
Club ‘responsibility’

David Hamilton, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme that officers, many of whom have not been vaccinated, were put in “jeopardy” by the supporters’ actions.

But he also criticised the club for being “silent” and failing to address the mass gatherings on its social media accounts.

He added: “There is a responsibility to the club here. It should not take the government to have to ask the club to tell people to go home. That should have been something the club should have taken on themselves proactively.”

The club tweeted or retweeted more than 50 times in the hours after they were crowned champions but did not address the mass gathering of fans and it has yet to comment on the scenes.

Glasgow Kelvin MSP Sandra White described the celebrations as “absolute chaos” and questioned what plans were in place to prevent mass gatherings.

“They [the fans] should never have been allowed to leave Ibrox and march into the city centre in large numbers. It could have been stopped there and then,” she said.

“People have lost loved ones and people can’t visit loved ones and yet this is being facilitated.”

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