Ann Budge: Rangers segregation not good enough

Stewards struggle to contain Rangers fans at Ibrox after the match against Hearts was called off. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Stewards struggle to contain Rangers fans at Ibrox after the match against Hearts was called off. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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Ann Budge has hit out at the disorder that erupted after last Friday’s abandoned game at Ibrox branding segregation between fans exiting the stadium “clearly inadequate”.

But the Tynecastle chairwoman has insisted Rangers security staff were not to blame for the trouble.

Budge has conducted her own investigation into events in Govan after Hearts fans claimed they were attacked during and after the ill-fated fixture, which was called off due to snow after just 25 minutes. Social media reports alleged that Hearts supporters’ buses were pelted with missiles as they left the stadium amid chaotic scenes outside Ibrox, where Rangers fans congregated in an angry protest against their club’s board.

Budge fielded a host of complaints and questions from supporters in the aftermath and, after probing a number of issues, sought to address concerns.

Insisting there was no intelligence to suggest there would be crowd disorder, she said: “At the beginning of this week, we received the official report on the match which was submitted to the league by the SPFL match delegate and I have reviewed it in some detail.

“I have also spoken personally to the Chief Superintendent of Police Scotland in Glasgow. In addition, we have discussed the events with the head of security for Ibrox and with our own safety officer, both of whom were involved in decision-making regarding safety issues on Friday evening.

“The SPFL match delegate report states unequivocally that the events of Friday night were in no way caused by poor or ineffective match operation preparation on the part of the home club. Our own safety officer shares that view.

And she added: “While we may not all agree with some of the decisions taken on the night, I am confident that those decisions were taken in good faith, by appropriately experienced professionals using their judgement, and taking the big picture into account.”

As yet, there has been no date agreed for the rematch, although Saturday, April 4 has been discussed as a possibility.

When the match is finally replayed, Budge has promised to personally oversee security arrangements in a bid to ensure the encounter passes off peacefully. She concluded: “Lots of questions have been asked about what went wrong on Friday night. As I stated earlier, extenuating circumstances conspired to turn what should have been a showpiece football match into what was at times, a very frightening experience for many supporters.

“I have agreed with Police Scotland that we will personally discuss every aspect of the re-arranged fixture in detail, in advance of the pre-operational planning meeting.

“We will focus closely on segregation issues both inside and outside the stadium, as well as car park security and on ensuring safe ingress and egress from Ibrox.

Steve Kilgour, secretary of the Federation of Hearts Supporters Clubs, said: “What happened last Friday was shocking. I think it is a good idea [to improve segregation] as it makes it a lot more pleasant leaving the stadium.

“There is always potential for trouble at the Ibrox because of the layout of the stadium. The fans from both sides are mingling as soon as they get out.

“At Tynecastle and Easter Road you can be diverted away from each other through different streets.”