Rangers fan lifts the lid on Seville experience

Rangers will make a summary representation to UEFA based on supporters’ experiences of the Europa League final in Seville, to be collated by the club’s supporters’ liaison officer on Thursday.

By David Oliver
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 10:46 am

A growing number of fans have complained of pre-match search procedures, confiscation of previously permitted items and a lack of water at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizuan Stadium in the southern Spanish city.

Only one arrest was made at the game, a fan of tournament winners Eintracht Frankfurt for assaulting a police officer, but otherwise the matchday passed off peacefully with the German side winning the trophy after a 1-1 draw and penalty shoot-out. Supporters of both sides were praised by the city’s police officials.

But one Rangers fan among the 39,000 crowd, a security and police expert, who asked to remain anonymous, shared his story with The Scotsman after returning home.

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Rangers supporters cheer from the stands prior to the UEFA Europa League final football match between Eintracht Frankfurt and Glasgow Rangers at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville on May 18

Experiencing an “incredible, friendly” atmosphere in the day-time build-up to the match, where a mix of supporters shared bars, tables and photographed one another with replica trophies, he found ticketed-access routes in the streets surrounding the 77-year-old ground blocked by riot police and water cannons then was twice subject of a search before entering – “all I was wearing was a pair of shorts and a shirt. Not even airport security is as thorough.”

“The question of escalation needs to be posed, if the Spanish police start at such a high-level on the risk scale how do they escalate their response when it is really required? The tactical options they utilised seem very unreasonable given the good nature of both sets of supporters,” he said.

Fans have complained mobile phone battery back-ups and wireless earphones were confiscated having previously been listed as admissible.

“A young girl being searched next to me was really upset as she had a small pencil case size make-up bag removed. Items which were well under the prohibited bag size were being unnecessarily seized, this included make-up bags and other items such as phone chargers, battery packs the same size and weight as a phone. Given most, if not all, tickets were electronic, your charged phone was a requirement to access your ticket and seat.

“Water bottles were also seized and binned, when only the lid needed to be removed.

“Near the stadium, there was no police communication with supporters, only constant whistle-blowing and suddenly, with no obvious threat or risk with it being only Rangers supporters, the police put tight cordons in place while wearing cloth caps, then the riot helmets were put on and eventually visors down – a sign of trouble but again for no apparent reason with supporters peacefully heading to the stadium.

“This process was described by a very well-respected ex-police colleague of mine as simply ‘clueless policing’.”

He also suggested that supporters – with rivals housed and entering via opposite ends of the ground – were ‘kettled’ in a bid to contain the crowds. “A tactic on occasions justifiable, it’s hard to believe was a requirement prior to kick-off. Families including women and children were amongst those caught up in what can be described as overly officious policing with very little or no public engagement."

After the game further stories of supporters resorting to drinking water from sinks in the stadium toilets circulated and Rangers players aiding dehydrated spectators with water bottles raised concerns over the showpiece event, played on an evening where temperatures remained above 30 degrees centigrade.

He went on: “Heading back to the car park we heard some of the issues faced by Rangers supporters; not enough or no water or food available during the game; supporters having to resort to drinking Spanish tap water as they were in dire need of liquid due to the heat – unforgivable as we are literally post-pandemic!

"In a specific area at the Rangers end there was absolutely no water or anything available at the kiosk but plastic cups. The staff started to hand them out so people could fill water from the toilet taps. Soon a cordon was put up round the kiosk, essentially to stop desperate supporters getting to the cups. In the heat, this was described as ‘barbaric’ conduct and certainly not conducive to getting fans to remain calm in the hottest of conditions!

"While walking back to our car we spotted the Luckia Sports Cafe, Republica Argentina. On approaching we were told it was closed. In Spanish we asked if we could purchase two bottles of water and use the toilet facilities. Yes, no problem was the answer, a huge contrast from our earlier experience. If I knew the staff member’s details, I would email to thank him again. This is how people should be treated and thank you to our unknown star of Seville!”

He added: "Seville was a fantastic and very beautiful host city which I will undoubtedly revisit but I, along with many others, can only say our visit was tinged with sadness due to the perceived over-zealous and quite unnecessary policing and the lack of basic necessities of food and water.”

Organisers UEFA apologised to supporters over the water shortages last week: "Even though the quantity of food and beverages planned by concessionaires was much bigger than what is usually served during a domestic sold-out match at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, it still was not enough to meet the extraordinary demand of the day and UEFA wishes to sincerely apologise to fans for the inconvenience created."

Rangers say they remain in dialogue with European football’s governing body and Football Supporters Europe (FSE) whose experience survey is the recommended method of reporting complaints and grievances at the game. The club’s SLO, Greg Marshall, is also gathering reports of supporters' experiences to submit a summary to UEFA.