Ibrox stadium, home of Rangers football club, saw a powerful tribute to the late Queen last night before the team’s Champion’s league game against Napoli. There was a minute’s silence, then an enormous tifo covering the entire Broomloan stand was revealed (of the Union Jack with the late Queen in silhouette in the middle). The national anthem was played on the public address system joined lustily by the capacity crowd. It was stirring stuff.
But Ranger’s tribute to the Queen defied Uefa’s general rules for pre-match ceremony and came after their specific request for an exception had been turned down. And this means the club could now be in hot water. It’s not clear how Uefa will respond but It looks likely the club will be sanctioned in some way with a hefty fine.
Uefa had rejected Rangers’ (and Manchester City and Chelsea’s) request for a special tribute ‘on the basis of maintaining a consistent pre-match ceremony with a subdued atmosphere and without any celebratory activities’. So, no anthems, which meant the Champion’s League’s own, a souped-up version of Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’, wasn’t played either. This was a trifle ironic as Handel’s original was composed for the coronation of King George II.
Interpreting Uefa’s position is a challenge but there seems to have been concern about some sort of free for all with clubs improvising tributes in potentially inappropriate ways. Uefa was almost certainly worried that a precedent could be set whereby clubs with more controversial allegiances (one thinks of Barcelona with its Basque separatist associations) potentially citing the example of Rangers when honouring their own, perhaps more politically divisive heroes. The governing body may also simply have been loath to lose control of that all-important pre-match corporate branding choreography (‘maintaining a consistent pre-match ceremony’) even for just one exceptional night.
None of these defenses stands up to much scrutiny, though.