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Rangers and Celtic fans urged by managers to stay home for upcoming derby match


Rangers fans celebrate on the Shankill Road

Rangers fans celebrate on the Shankill Road

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Rangers fans celebrate on the Shankill Road

The managers of Rangers and Celtic football clubs have issued pleas for their respective Northern Ireland fans to stay at home ahead of an upcoming Old Firm game.

Thousands of Rangers fans breached lockdown rules on March 7 to celebrate the side's first league win in a decade, leading to worries the scenes could be repeated on March 21 at Celtic Park.

The game could be postponed if the Scottish government cannot be assured such scenes are not repeated.

Last Sunday hundreds of supporters gathered on the Shankill to celebrate the Glasgow side being crowned champions.

The events included a cavalcade of cars waving flags and a fireworks display.

There were reports that sectarian songs were also belted out, and a social media post showed fighting among several fans.

The incident prompted the PSNI to describe the scenes as "disappointing", warning it would take enforcement action against fans.

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Such were the scenes, Rangers legend Ally McCoist made a direct plea to Northern Ireland fans to wait until it is safe before gathering to celebrate.

In Scotland, large numbers of supporters celebrated at Ibrox Stadium and Glasgow's George Square to mark the achievement amid, despite calls to celebrate at home.

Fines were issued in Corby in Northamptonshire in England after about 200 fans gathered.

Scotland's Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and Sport Minister Mairi Gougeon held talks with both clubs on Friday, along with Police Scotland and Glasgow City Council.

Now, the managers of both clubs have called for fans to take in the fixture at home.

Posting on Twitter, Mr Yousaf said he was very pleased to see strong messages from both clubs urging fans to "obey rules and stay at home" for the upcoming game.

Previously, he warned it would be postponed if there was any police intelligence saying fans were about to "square off" against each other.

In a message to fans published on the club website, Rangers manager Steven Gerrard wrote: "The best place you can support my players and I this Sunday is from the comfort of your own home.

"We know you are with us here in spirit and we know how much last weekend meant to you when we secured the title.

"We know all of you enjoyed it, but we must stay safe, and stay at home."

He said it "hurts" that the fans cannot attend the upcoming game but stressed the dangers posed by Covid-19 and the need to remember the lives already lost to the virus.

Meanwhile, Celtic interim manager John Kennedy reiterated the stay at home message in a statement on the club's website.

He said: "For us, and for everyone, it's about staying at home, being safe and sticking to the rules and legislation that's in place.

"It's difficult for everyone, it's a difficult period for society as a whole, but especially surrounding the game, and the attention it brings, we want to make sure everyone does the right thing and stays at home and keeps everybody safe."

He added: "That's the message from us - stay safe, stay at home, be with your families and enjoy the game on TV."

Belfast Telegraph

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