The proposed exhibition game between Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers, due to be played on July 21 at Fenway Park, is in some doubt after comments in a Boston Globe newspaper article.
The article alluded that Rangers’ supporters were in some part culpable for the 1971 Ibrox Disaster, in which 66 fans were crushed to death.
The recently crowned 2010 SPL champions took offense to the following excerpt:
"Most notably, disaster struck at Rangers' Ibrox Stadium in 1971 following a crush-barrier failure. It is widely accepted that the tensions between Celtic and Rangers fans played a major part in the 66 deaths."
An official inquiry into the disaster ruled that it was the failure in the stairwell barriers that caused the tragedy.
Rangers’ chief executive Martin Bain released the following statement about the proposed trip to Beantown:
"In relation to the match against Celtic, the club is far from having anything confirmed and while we have received an extremely positive letter from the Mayor of Boston looking forward to our visit to the city, this is somewhat premature as we are still considering other pre-season options,” he said.
"It is extremely disappointing that comments in the Boston Globe do not reflect the Mayor of Boston's invitation letter to the club."
Rangers Supporters Assembly club vice president Ross Blyth was not so diplomatic, and argues that the friendly would pose more problems that it is worth.
"I would urge the club to look elsewhere. There are plenty of teams we could play," he said. "Rangers were never going to be very popular in Boston anyway so this is just an indication of the kind of hassle we could face. It's difficult to try to change people's perceptions. The team, the club and the fans could do without the hassle."
The Boston Globe withdrew the article and author Mark Stokes has apologized.
The two clubs have a long and heated rivalry. Catholics predominantly support Glasgow Celtic and the vast majority of Glasgow Rangers supporters are Protestants.
The two clubs face off in the final derby of the season this evening in Celtic Park. Rangers ran away with this year’s championship and the only thing the teams are playing for is pride.
With these two teams, that is more than enough to ensure a full-blooded Scottish Premier League game.
Should the exhibition game at Fenway Park go ahead, it will be the first time the two teams meet overseas.