NYON, Switzerland — UEFA has punished Rangers for fans’ sectarian chants by ordering part of the stadium closed for a Europa League playoff next week.
UEFA, the governing body for European soccer, says its disciplinary panel found the Scottish club guilty of a charge of “racist behavior” during a Europa League game in Glasgow against St Joseph’s of Gibraltar last month.
Rangers fans had chanted: “F*** the Pope and the Vatican.”
Rangers must close a 3,000-seat section of Ibrox Stadium when Legia Warsaw visits for a second-leg game on Thursday. The first leg was a 0-0 draw in Poland.
UEFA has regularly prosecuted Rangers, and its Glasgow city rival Celtic, over the years for chants that have their roots in the clubs’ religious history. Rangers fans typically identify with the Protestant faith and Celtic with Catholicism.
Rangers accepted the UEFA decision, and issued a strongly worded statement warning against unacceptable fan behavior.
“Unfortunately, a significant number of supporters, innocent of any wrongdoing, will be unable to attend next week’s match. This is deeply regrettable to all at the club and we hope that the guilty parties, who attracted the attention of UEFA, might reflect on the damage their unacceptable behavior is causing Rangers and their fellow supporters,” the statement said.
“If any individual supporter is unable to behave in a civilized manner then please stay away from Ibrox and our club. You are harming Rangers and that is something a genuine supporter would never wish to do.”
Rangers chairman Dave King said the club is “open to all” and sought to disassociate the team from sectarian activity.
“Rangers has players and supporters from many religions, cultures and backgrounds but we are one and the same when we gather to support our club. If any supporter cannot accept that, then Rangers is not the club for them,” King said.
Crux staff contributed to this report.
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