Rangers fans deserve UEFA answers after Seville Europa League shambles

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IT could have been the most memorable night of their lives. Instead, it turned into one to forget on and off the park.

A week on, the events of Seville do not make for pleasant recollection for Rangers or the supporters – around 100,000 in number – that followed their team all the way.

In a football sense, the defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt must go down as a case of what might have been, one of an opportunity that was blown in the cruellest of manners as a single kick proved the difference between success and failure.

It will take some time for the sense of disappointment and loss to ease. In truth, they may never be completely removed from the hearts and minds of a fan base who could see history being written before the final blow was inflicted.

Their message to Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side was to make them dream. In the end, they made them proud.

At a club like Rangers, no pleasure can be taken from a case of glorious failure but the moments throughout the run – the win over Dortmund, the drama against Belgrade and Braga and that unforgettable night against Leipzig at Ibrox – can be cherished. Ultimately, Seville can not be.

That is as much to do with what unfolded off the park as what transpired on it. Neither set of events can be taken back or changed, but Rangers are owed an apology for the treatment of their supporters inside the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

At first viewing on Tuesday afternoon, the home of Sevilla looked like a fitting venue for such an occasion. Imposing and impressive from the outside, the stands that towered over the pitch seemed set to provide the perfect amphitheater for the final drama to unfold.

Come Wednesday evening, a very different picture was being painted. From the moment fans arrived to the moment they left, the experience was anything but acceptable.

There was a somewhat chaotic, underwhelming feeling around the fixture as an event. Security was slow, while media seats were allocated on a first come, first served basis and improvised wooden steps aided the ascent up the steep stands to a tight working area.

Once in position, the tales of over-zealous police searches, of closed kiosks and fans struggling in the scorching heat started to emerge. Over the following hours, days and now a week, such stories have painted a harrowing account of what supporters had to experience.

There had been fears that punters would clash with police and German Ultras and a repeat of the shameful scenes of Manchester would unfold as tens of thousands descended on towns and cities across Andalucia and then swarmed into Seville on match day.

In the end, not one Rangers fan was arrested. They brought noise and color and a party atmosphere, contributed greatly to the economy and mingled with locals and rivals with a good nature that deserves both praise and thanks.

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It was shameful, then, that they were treated in such a manner by the authorities. There is no justification for confiscating water, medicine or sun cream or for binning power banks and air pods.

The Union Bears saw their tifo display turned away at the door. At the other end of the ground, Frankfurt fans set off flares and unfurled a giant display – and later a banner which read ‘F *** UEFA’ – as they too had to deal with inept service in the concourses.

Rangers did their bit in the build-up to the final. It was unacceptable that UEFA and the Spanish services did not hold up their end of the bargain as fans were placed in unnecessary and shameful risk.

The messages from former players may have been mocked and attracted ire online but it was a case of Rangers ticking the right boxes. In a series of Zoom calls with club staff and officials, useful information relating to fan zones and supporter welfare was presented to the media.

After the fall-out of George Square last season, it was a move designed to put the club on the front foot and get their viewpoint across. Secretly, they may have feared the worst but they could end the week proud of their support and grateful for those who represented Rangers in the right manner.

In a season where communication to the punters and the Press hasn’t been good enough, Rangers deserve credit for the way in which they approached and handled the final week and the words and actions seemed to resonate with those on the ground as huge crowds handled the heat and occasion in fine form.

On Tuesday afternoon, Rangers released another statement which highlighted their ‘major concerns’ over the treatment of fans at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan as they urged punters to contact Football Supporters Europe to ensure their voice is heard.

It was stated that UEFA has ‘no direct grievance procedures’ for fans to make complaints. The irony was not lost on many as an organization who hand down fines for minor transgressions refuse to look in the mirror and hold up their hands at their own misdemeanours.

A UEFA spokesman told the Herald and Times Sport last week that the governing body wished to ‘sincerely apologize to fans for the inconvenience created’ ahead of and during the final showpiece. Those words will be hollow to those who endured rather than enjoyed the hours spent inside the stadium.

A further request for clarity on any ongoing investigation or discussions was met with no response on Wednesday. At the time of writing, UEFA have yet to publicly respond to the Rangers statement and the serious allegations and concerns raised within it.

Time will tell whether Rangers fans get the answers that they deserve and whether followers of other clubs benefit if lessons are learned and improved procedures are put in place at future finals.

The 100,000 who traveled had a trip that they will never forget for a variety of reasons. Now they should not let UEFA dismiss their concerns and allow the memories of Seville to be brushed under the carpet.

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