26 Oct 2012

Piercing the wall of silence surrounding Rangers ‘fans’

To publicise what is happening in and around Glasgow in recent months is to pierce a wall of silence.

It is clearly not the done thing to talk about Glasgow’s dirty secret of football intimidation. Still less to point out the truth that all parties beyond Ibrox agree upon: that Rangers have a problem with a small minority of “fans” prepared to commit serious crimes, a group who will threaten anyone, anywhere, who dares criticise their club.

So it is courageous and important that individuals like Gary Allan QC should break their silence and talk exclusively to Channel 4 News about just what he suffered at the hands of Rangers “supporters”.

Having spent some time – pro bono – working on the Scottish Football Association tribunal which passed sanctions on Rangers FC for flagrant financial mismanagement earlier this year, he was preparing to go back to the world of good, honest criminals, gangsters and psychos – the bread and butter of a criminal barrister.

Then… his world and his family’s was turned upside down.

“Please come to Hampden Park and please come today, this afternoon,” went the sudden message. There, to his amazement, were Special Branch Officers and anti-terror officers waiting to meet him. To his growing astonishment, a number of serious, credible threats to his life were unveiled by the officers.

He was told to go back to his house and secure the smallest room in the downstairs area with the smallest windows. He was told that he – and he alone – must pick up all mail and move it to this room. He – and he alone – must open it.

He was told to be wary of any jiffy bags. But even normal envelopes should not be opened in the usual casual fashion because of the danger of razor blades being taped inside to cut him – and razor blades contaminated with anything from faeces through to HIV to ricin.

The police then put his entire house under surveillance 24/7. For a sustained period police would patrol around the house every 20 minutes. His neighbours had to be informed. His family were at first bemused, then genuinely frightened.

At his office his clerks needed further training and enhanced security measures. The cost of all this to the taxpayer would have run to tens of thousands of pounds.

Should something happen, he was told to ring the emergency number. On no account, he was advised, should he ever call a hospital or doctor’s surgery for fear that, if he or his family suffered some attack, they could turn up and contaminate a hospital which might then have to close. Instead, everything he and his family needed in any emergency would come to the house – fast.

Mr Allan wants to make it very clear – as does Channel 4 News – that we are talking of a minority criminal underclass connected to Ibrox. He feels nothing but sympathy for the vast majority of magnificent and law-abiding fans of the club. But he is also seriously concerned about the conduct of Rangers manager Ally McCoist in this matter.

Mr McCoist – infamously – demanded to know the names of the men sitting on the SFA Tribunal in judgement of Rangers earlier this year. Gary Allan QC specifically said after our interview that he wished to address the McCoist issue. We turned on the camera again and framed up. It is worth quoting at length his side of the story which has never been made public.

GA: “I was astonished when I saw a recording of Mr McCoist demanding that the names be disclosed and declaring he did not know who they were, and felt he ought to know and Rangers fans ought to know.”

AT: “Astonished because he was lying?”

GA: “I don’t know whether Mr McCoist was lying. That is, of course, a possibility, but I’m happy to consider other possibilities, that he was simply completely misinformed.”

“I’m also prepared to consider that he overlooked the opportunity to ask his director of football administration, who was at the tribunal. Because that gentleman sat across the table from me for five days; engaged in discussions with me for five days; introduced himself to me with a hand shake for five days. As did his solicitor. And as did the representative for Duff & Phelps (the Rangers administrators), who was in attendance each and every day for every session.

“Now, it may just be that Mr McCoist didn’t think about his first port of call to find out who the tribunal members were – he just didn’t think he could ask his director of football administration, or the club’s solicitor, or the representative of Duff & Phelps. Maybe he just doesn’t know how to go about doing these things.

“But I think there is room to think that Mr McCoist’s behaviour wasn’t through oversight, that there was an agenda he worked to. But if there were to be any suggestion that Rangers did not know who was sitting in judgement of them – that would be a completely misleading and groundless suggestion.”

His views are put more succinctly by the chairman of Raith Rovers, who suffered a variety of threats from Rangers “fans” this year, up to and including the alleged payment of two men to burn down the club stadium.

“Rangers actually knew who was on that panel, and Ally McCoist demanding to know who these people were actually inflamed a situation that didn’t need inflaming.”

The issue with Ally McCoist has now been dealt with by the Scottish Football Association, and Mr Allan merely wished to put his side of the story on the record.

Channel 4 News sought an interview with Rangers and Mr McCoist over the issue of threats. The club declined that invitation but issued a brief statement saying:

“..Rangers Football Club, like every other responsible club, does not condone any form of anti-social behaviour.”

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