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July 20, 2022updated 07 Oct 2022 7:10am

BBC ends seven-year boycott of Rangers FC

By Alexandra Turner

The BBC has ended its seven-year boycott of Glasgow-based Rangers FC.

The broadcaster apologised for past failures to meet its own editorial standards as it reached an agreement with the club to return to Ibrox Stadium.

BBC coverage of Rangers FC will resume at the beginning of the 2022/2023 season. While reporting of Rangers on and off the pitch including match action has continued to be featured, this will be the first time since 2015 that journalists from the BBC will attend Ibrox or any Rangers press conferences.

The BBC said in a statement: “A disagreement between BBC Scotland and Rangers FC has limited the ability to report from Ibrox stadium over a long period of time. The BBC and Rangers FC have now agreed that it is in the best interest of the BBC’s audiences and Range’s supporters everywhere for the BBC and the club to resolve the dispute and to provide the fullest possible coverage of all Rangers’ matches.

“The BBC is committed to reporting the Scottish Premiership fully and fairly across all clubs. However, it recognises that the club has genuine concerns about the accuracy and balance of some coverage.

“The BBC acknowledges that there have been occasions when parts of the coverage of Rangers FC have not met its editorial standards. It has apologised for those instances and is happy to repeat those apologies now.”

The statement ended with the BBC saying it “look[s] forward to a positive ongoing relationship with the club”.

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Rangers FC responded saying it “acknowledge[s] the recognition of past errors and the apology from BBC Scotland and the recent apology from Michael Stewart”.

Former Scotland footballer Stewart was a pundit for BBC Sportsound who in February 2020 made inflammatory comments about Rangers’ director of communications. He issued his own apology in May, saying: “I realise that my remarks and the subsequent social media storm caused Jim and his family a lot of upset which I sincerely regret. I am also conscious that my remarks have caused embarrassment to Rangers Football Club and I would like to apologise to them too.”

Why did the BBC boycott Rangers FC?

The BBC’s boycott first began after the club banned reporter Chris McLaughlin, as well as Graham Spiers, a columnist and broadcaster with The Times, in 2015.

Rangers said the ban was placed on McLaughlin after he led a match report on the news of unrest at a game, saying “three arrests were made after sectarian singing”. The article was headlined: “Arrests made at Hibernian v Rangers Challenge Cup match.”

At the time, a Rangers spokesperson told the Sunday Mail that in their opinion the BBC did not “seem to be applying proper checks and rules within their sports department”.

They added: “At the game you had police praising both sets of fans but he led on the fact Rangers could be in trouble because two people were arrested for alleged sectarian chants.”

Spiers, whose own ban was made without any reasons given to him, told Press Gazette at the time that the ban on McLaughlin was “mystifying”.

He added: “The perception is, I think, that Rangers thinks his reports are anti-Rangers and there’s this perception that the BBC has an anti-Rangers agenda – I think that’s what Rangers, and some very angry Rangers fans, are saying.

“I’ve spoken to people inside the BBC who are Rangers fans, and they’ve said to me… ‘I can’t fathom what they’re talking about – I’ve never seen any trace of bias against Rangers’”.

At the time, a BBC spokesperson told Press Gazette: “We believe [the ban] was unjustifiable and we stand by the integrity and the quality of our journalism.”

Picture: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

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