A police chief has hit out at Rangers Football Club for its “lack of support” over the “disgraceful” behaviour of fans at the weekend.
Supporters breached coronavirus regulations on Saturday and Sunday as they celebrated the Light Blues’ first top-flight title in ten years.
As well as gathering outside Ibrox Stadium to sing and set off red, white and blue smoke bombs, fans also congregated in Glasgow’s George Square – leaving memorial benches destroyed and litter strewn across the area.
On Monday night, deputy chief constable Malcolm Graham branded the scenes “disgraceful”.
He said: “The behaviour which we saw at the weekend was disgraceful and I utterly condemn the individuals who chose to completely disregard the coronavirus regulations, putting both the wider community and our officers at risk.
“I also strongly condemn the lack of support from Rangers Football Club over the messages we repeatedly asked them to put out to persuade fans not to go out celebrating and encourage those who did gather in large numbers to return home.”
Police made 28 arrests and seven people were issued with fixed penalty notices or will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.
Reasons for arrest included assaulting police officers, breaching coronavirus regulations, disorder, use of flares and sectarian breaches of the peace.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Monday, deputy first minister John Swinney said Rangers had a “duty” to tell fans not to gather and messages from them on Sunday could have helped disperse the crowds, adding: “The silence from Rangers was deafening.”
Chief medical officer Gregor Smith told the briefing there’s a “real risk” of a rise in Covid-19 infections following the gatherings.
Swinney warned this could mean “difficult decisions” regarding lockdown easing.
In a statement, Rangers said they had initiated open dialogue with key stakeholders in respect to a potential league win.
The club said: “We have proactively engaged with our local MP, the justice minister, the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the SPFL in relation to maintaining a cohesive message regarding public safety during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The club added that they understood the “jubilance” of their fans and highlighted “frustration” over the closure of stadiums.
The statement added: “We reiterate the message from our manager, Steven Gerrard, who highlighted that fans should adhere to government guidelines: stay safe, socially distance and look after each other in this difficult time.”
The club said they would continue talks ahead of future milestones to “maintain a cohesive message in relation to government guidance”.
DCC Graham added: “We’ve been planning for the conclusion of the football season for some time since the league was allowed to resume and the sport is in a very privileged position given the restrictions seen across the country for almost a year.
“It was very clear through the lack of messaging that Rangers did not take seriously their responsibilities in terms of seeking to persuade their fans to celebrate safely and responsibly.
“I commend the officers who delivered a policing operation which was entirely consistent with our approach throughout this pandemic to maintain public safety and minimise disorder, disruption and damage to property.
“They did this faced with considerable danger, all of which was completely unnecessary and avoidable.
“Where large numbers of people gather at an unplanned event such as this we use established crowd control measures to ensure we are keeping the public safe and manage those who are refusing to disperse.
“We will work with football clubs, local authorities and the Scottish Government to ensure we do everything we can to persuade people that none of these scenes can be repeated as the football season continues.”
Rangers has been contacted for comment.