The Shambles Of Rugby Park

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The Shambles Of Rugby Park

Post by Scottish » Wed May 18, 2011 8:42 pm

I thought I’d better put a few days reflection between the events of Sunday afternoon and writing about it here as anything said at the time may have been prejudiced by the proximity of the experience. But even three days later I am still angry about what happened at Rugby Park on Sunday.

Not so much by the scoreline - though the shambles in the title could equally be ascribed to the Killie defence in the opening minutes of either half - but by the management, or rather, mismanagement of this match.

Two examples: a well respected former Killie player sitting in a home supporters seating area in the Frank Beattie Stand gets his head slapped after the first goal goes in. A season ticket holder of many years in the East Stand is told to “go back to your f*in farm you historical Irish revolutionary loving c*nt” before a ball was kicked.

That’s two of many. Yet the Scottish press on Monday was full of praise for the OF fans after Sunday’s games. Just two arrests at Rugby Park. Fantastic, eh? That’s a bit like bragging about nicking someone for breaking into Harold Shipman’s drugs cabinet.

Let me say here and now that I don’t subscribe to the “all OF are animals” school of thought. Nor do I blame Rangers supporters for buying tickets for the home areas on Sunday. There was a very good chance their team would win the SPL title and they wanted to see the game. All that is perfectly understandable.

What isn’t is Kilmarnock’s response to something they could see coming from the moment the post-split fixtures were published. In their haste to sell as many tickets as possible the club made no efforts to segregate home and away fans, thus re-introducing all the worst aspects of pre-1980s football, only with seats.

There were no efforts made to determine who was buying tickets for the East and Frank Beattie Stands (the Moffat and Chadwick had both been given over to Rangers). You might ask how it is possible to determine which club someone supports when he/she is buying tickets. Yes it is difficult. But it is not difficult to demand ID from the purchaser of the ticket which would go some way to ensuring some responsibility is taken for any offences committed.

Then there was the ‘sold out’ notice put up on the club website five days before the game (I should point out that in this instance the club meant the tickets had sold out not, as some have said, that they ‘sold out’ in the popular meaning of the term). Firstly, this led to a mad dash for tickets from home fans, some of whom were travelling long distances for this match. I know of one long time fan who came from the USA and many others came up from England. Naturally there are those who smell money and eBay was inundated with tickets for sale with both Kilmarnock and Rangers supporters profiteering. Touts IMHO have always been the most despicable scum of the earth and it matters not whether they are outside a turnstile or behind a keyboard. Sunday’s situation was a tout’s paradise.

Secondly, the ‘sold out’ statement was factually incorrect. There were almost 2,000 empty seats on Sunday including one entire section of the East Stand nearest the Rugby Road exits (though some Rangers supporters were moved across to there during the game).

Third, this in turn led to the club issuing a ludicrous statement to the effect that home supporters should remember that Kilmarnock fans have turned out in big numbers in the recent past, citing the last match of the previous season v Falkirk and the 2007 League Cup Final v Hibernian. To suggest that Killie fans have the same interest in attending a game which could very well see Rangers - RANGERS!!!!! - crowned champions as one which could see their own team win or lose SPL survival or lift a major trophy is not only an insult to the intelligence of all and sundry it is a statement of such gross absurdity that to describe it as Orwellian would scarcely do it justice.

This situation could have easily been avoided. Kilmarnock’s average home support this season outside of OF fixtures is 4,800. From that we must deduct a further 300 or so visiting fans (a rough average, given Hearts and Hibs bring many more and Inverness and Hamilton far fewer). That takes us down to 4,500, more or less the capacity of the Frank Beattie Stand. It wouldn’t have taken much forethought (indeed many suggested such a move when the fixtures were announced) to hand over the entire East Stand to Rangers, re-locate existing Killie ST holders to the Frank Beattie and offer them a 10% deduction on next year’s season books as a gesture of goodwill. Bearing in mind that many home supporters who take their kids with them do not attend OF matches, there would have been ample room for all home fans. Supporters would have been segregated inside the ground and the club would still have benefited from its big financial pay day.

As it was the entire situation was disastrous and it is only due to Rangers’ emphatic victory that worse did not ensue. It was bad enough as it was. Had Killie drawn or even won then it doesn’t even bear thinking about what might have happened.

Stewarding and police were totally inadequate. An entire section of the Frank Beattie Stand (supposedly reserved for home fans) was inhabited by Rangers supporters with only a thin line of tape and two stewards, a woman in her early twenties and a youth of about nineteen, separating away and home supporters. I was seated on the ‘home’ side of the tape. Yet when the first goal was scored, there were cheers in front of me, to the right of me, to the left of me and behind me. After the second goal was scored, some Rangers supporters got up out of their ‘home’ seats and stood in the aisle, singing, dancing and kicking the backs of the seats in front of them. When two Killie fans complained to the police they were told nothing would be done about it as the club were at fault for selling the tickets.

This takes me to the other statement issued by KFC last week. This one solemnly warned that anyone found wearing Rangers colours or expressing support for Rangers in a home area of the ground may be ejected from the ground. Note that word. ‘May’ not ‘will.’ The pusillanimity of the statement was extended even further by saying such ejection would be at the ‘discretion’ of the police and/or the stewards.

Needless to say such discretion didn’t appear to be forthcoming very often. I saw two Rangers supporters moved before kick-off, one into the away support and the other huckled out of the ground. Once the match started that was it. When the away fans sang ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’ they were indeed speaking the truth.

Of course they had a lot more songs in their repertoire and to be fair many were of a celebratory nature. No one can blame them for ‘Come On Over To My Place’ or paeans of praise for the man who did more than anyone else to secure the title for Rangers - Terry Butcher - but the usual old ‘party songs’ were all to the fore and nothing was done about them. Once again the ears of the Scottish press (Michael Grant, I’m looking particularly at you) could only hear the good, never the bad or the ugly.

In short the intimidation and bigotry on display forced many home supporters to leave early (though no doubt some will claim the score was the reason for the home exodus). Well, it takes a lot for me to leave a Killie match early and I’ve seen plenty of humiliating scores in my time, worse even than Sunday’s, but I left my seat with two minutes remaining in the first half just as the massed ranks of Ibrox’s finest swelled in choral imitation of that old BNP/EDL favourite ‘Ten German Bombers.’ Oh, and lest anyone think otherwise, I believe the same events would have happened had the other side of the coin visited Ayrshire on Sunday and treated us to a ditty commemorating the virtues of that fine upstanding gentleman Sean South.

So a season ends on a sour note for Kilmarnock supporters and not just because of the result. Treated like filth in our own ground, offered no protection by police or stewards whose wages are paid for by Kilmarnock supporters. And all of it sadly predictable and easily avoidable.

There will be repercussions, that is certain. Fans will think twice about renewing season tickets if this is the kind of behaviour they have to put up with. And, let’s face it, Sunday apart, Rugby Park isn’t a place it’s particularly difficult to gain admission to so more supporters may be tempted to pick and choose their matches in future, thus denying the club season ticket money up front and negating the gains made from Sunday’s fiasco.

In some ways that would be a fitting reward for this desperate chase to make a quick buck. And speaking of bucks, Harry S Truman famously had a notice on his desk in the Oval Office saying ‘The buck stops here.’

Maybe someone could send one to Kilmarnock chairman Michael Johnston?

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Re: The Shambles Of Rugby Park

Post by lbb » Thu May 19, 2011 9:35 am

I have sympathy for Kilmarnock and Kilmarnock fans.

The club is in a difficult position. My understanding is that Kilmarnock made an additional £250,000 from Sunday's fixture compared to the previous league meeting against Rangers. There isn't any club in Scotland that can turn its nose up at that kind of money. In seeking to maximise their income from this opportunity, however, they clearly messed up the segregation. They obviously thought they were being clever by warning Rangers fans they may be ejected from the home area whilst knowing full well they were selling tickets to Rangers fans for the home area. It was bad organisation on their part but I don't blame them for trying to get as much as they can.

It can't have been easy for Kilmarnock fans to have their ground taken over like this and, to rub salt in the wounds, have their team crumble so easily. To be surrounded by gloating away fans can't have been a pleasant experience.

It's a difficult one for clubs. Someone has to win the league and they may not win it at their own ground. Clubs need the money. Last year, Hibs only had a small allocation for away fans because of reconstruction but made it clear that they were more than happy to sell hospitality packages to Rangers fans. Again, for the posh seats, it came with the Kilmarnock proviso - we will sell to you but you may be ejected if you make it known you're supporting Rangers.

Clubs need to balance respect for their own fans who turn up week in and week out with the need to maximise income when the opportunity arises.

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Re: The Shambles Of Rugby Park

Post by Scottish » Thu May 19, 2011 11:54 am

lbb wrote: My understanding is that Kilmarnock made an additional £250,000 from Sunday's fixture compared to the previous league meeting against Rangers.
Difficult to see how it was that much. 6,000 extra fans @ £25 each = £150,000. Hospitality, bar and restaurant takings would be up but not by a hundred grand. Still a useful sum
lbb wrote: To be surrounded by gloating away fans can't have been a pleasant experience.
It wasn't the 'gloating' that was the problem. In any case I think that was being aimed at a certain venue some 25 miles to the north. It was the behaviour, the nature of the chants and the threatening atmosphere.

I've no problems with Rangers fans celebrating a title win. I'd be surprised if they didn't. The issue is the nature of some of the celebrations and their associations with past events which have nothing to do with football. As my cousin said to me when we left at half-time, at least 'Ten German Bombers' is only about battles of 70 years ago, much more up to date than the usual numbers.

Yes, clubs do need to balance maximising income and respect for their fans. The problem on Sunday was that there was a way to do precisely that which KFC opted not to pursue. I note with utter open-mouthed astonishment that claim on the club website (part of a pathetic apology to home supporters) that the police were supposedly perfectly content with the arrangements for Sunday's game. If that is the case then it says much about the incompetence of the Strathclyde constabulary.

If Killie had followed the path of giving over three stands to Rangers it would have meant a ticket allocation of around 13,000-13,500 - far more away tickets than Rangers receive for ANY other SPL match, Celtic included. The 'mays' and 'discretions' could then have been turned round - and here the police need to be more forceful - to strict warnings that any fan in the Frank Beattie Stand (other than the directors box party) wearing Rangers colours or expressing support for Rangers would be ejected at once from the stadium and their name and address forwarded to Rangers FC for appropriate action. A statement from Rangers saying that any Ibrox season ticket holders ejected from Rugby Park for any reason would lose their season tickets for next year would have gone a long way to avoiding aggravation as well.

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Re: The Shambles Of Rugby Park

Post by baz » Thu May 19, 2011 11:04 pm

lbb wrote:My understanding is that Kilmarnock made an additional £250,000 from Sunday's fixture compared to the previous league meeting against Rangers.
Killie were always going to make extra money on this game and no one was complaining about that, but it was the chairman's reluctance to draw the line which was the problem. Instead of being content in selling out both wing stands, both ends of the main stand and almost 100% of the hospitality section (at increased prices) the club knowingly sold tickets to the East Stand (which is 100% home end unlike the main stand) which ensured that no segregation was possible. There were in the region of 2k away fans in there on the day so the "extra money" that was made on the day was actually only around £50k before costs and when you look at the number of fans who are now threatening not to renew season tickets or to walk away altogether it will add up to a lot more than £50k so it was a false economy...not to mention asking for trouble and playing with the safety of the home (and away) support...can you imagine if Killie had scored first?

The club shop which sold tickets were giving them to anyone as long as they signed a bit of paper saying that they were not Rangers fans...despite them having Glasgow addresses, wearing Rangers colours and actually asking for tickets for the away end first, among other things. There was no real attempt to control this.

On the day itself the policemen on the turnstiles were asking Rangers fans entering the home end to take off their if that made them not Rangers fans any more...if it wasn't so scary that would be laughable, can you imagine them doing that at an old firm game? Inside the ground the stewards claimed they were told not to get involved with anyone an the police had the attitude of "its your own clubs fault for selling the tickets" while threatening the home fans with arrest if they continued to make complaints. You couldn't make it up.

A statement of "apology" was released today which not only made no attempt at an apology but instead lays the blame firmly at everyone else's door, including the home fans because it had been noticed that a few sold their own tickets (which I may add is reprehensible but in hindsight maybe they had the right idea).
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