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Scottish police probe Rangers players using 'sectarian language' in title celebrations

Rangers fans celebrate winning the Scottish Premiership in George Square, Glasgow on Saturday. Picture by Andrew Milligan/PA Wire 
Douglas Barrie and Conor Riordan, PA

Police Scotland is investigating footage which "apparently" shows players using sectarian language as they celebrated their title win.

Thousands of fans defied Covid-19 warnings against large gatherings and massed in George Square on Saturday to celebrate Rangers winning their first Scottish Premiership championship since 2011.

Officers are now looking into social media footage of players appearing to use sectarian language during the celebrations.

A Police Scotland statement said: "We are aware of a video circulating on social media apparently showing Rangers players using sectarian language while celebrating on Saturday.

Read More: Police to investigate any potential Covid-19 breaches as Rangers fans gather in west Belfast

"We are assessing its contents and will liaise with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service as part of our inquiries."

The square was strewn with hundreds of broken bottles, plastic bags and spent flares after flag-draped fans had been seen attacking each other and launching bollards and other missiles at riot police.

The move comes after the Deputy First Minister John Swinney, spoke out against Saturday's scenes which led to five police officers being injured and 28 arrests - with officers saying many more will follow.

He told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland: "Every exhortation was given by Police Scotland, the Scottish government and Rangers Football Club for fans not to assemble.

"But unfortunately 15,000 people did so and they started off behaving peacefully and then they descended into thuggish behaviour in George Square.

"I'm limited as to what I can say this morning because there's an ongoing police investigation but the conduct on Saturday was absolutely reprehensible."

And he added: "There was absolutely no need for them to gather, absolutely no need whatsoever, and the warnings were given very clearly... and then some of them went on to behave in a loutish and thuggish fashion in George Square - devastating property, circulating and expressing vile anti-Catholic bigotry in the centre of the city of Glasgow."

Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), tweeted images of injured officers, including broken bones and lost teeth.

He described the scenes as "horrific", also telling the BBC programme: "Many of the officers who are quite long in the tooth have probably quite rightly described it as some of the worst violence that they've experienced in over 20 years of police service."

Mr Steele said those criticising the police do not understand policing tactics, adding: "I don't believe that the club is responsible for what took place yesterday, I absolutely believe the club has got a fundamental role to play in trying to make sure that the behaviour of fans - indeed football authorities, in general - have a role to play in making sure that these kinds of disgraceful behaviours, laying down what's acceptable, what's not acceptable is addressed in the future."

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable, Gary Richie, said: "I'm absolutely sure that the policing response that we put in place for the events in Saturday was absolutely the right one."

In a statement the club said winning the title was an "historic day" and global support from fans has been "incredible".

It continued: "We are grateful to Scottish Government officials, Glasgow City Council and Police Scotland for the constructive engagement in the lead-up to the weekend's game. We worked closely with the authorities for two weeks before Saturday's match to ensure a consistency of message.

"Sadly, a small minority of people behaved inappropriately and in a manner not reflective of our support. Some of the scenes were unacceptable and have besmirched the good name of Rangers Football Club."

Scottish Football Association president, Rod Petrie, congratulated Rangers on their win but said the scenes in George Square were an "abomination not a celebration".

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