Vivid memories from 1972, and now another to match it

John Lundstram after scoring the goal which took Rangers through to the Europa League final.
by Colin Campbell

THE bedlam inside Ibrox Stadium last night will be matched by the frenzied rush for flights, accommodation and tickets for the Europa League final in Seville over the next 10 days.

But it’s going to be stressful and potentially chaotic for those aiming to get there. I can testify to that. It’s been a tough week for me trying to get to Glasgow for the Rangers v RB Leipzig semi final, and I didn’t make it in the end.

I went to a ticket agency as soon as the semi final tickets were advertised on sale, two weeks last Saturday. A total of £290? It’s a lot to pay for a football match but this was one very special match so I booked it anyway.

I have a club membership but wasn’t reassured that would yield a ticket when they went on sale online last Friday and so it proved. It was a case of click the mouse and hope for luck and with huge demand they disappeared in a flash.

But I had my back up agency ticket to rely on. Well, that didn’t work out either. To cut a long story short I made repeated calls to their HQ in Spain (I didn’t know they were based in Spain when I bought the ticket, that only emerged when I got an emailed receipt) on Tuesday and Wednesday, when they were supposed to be issued. In fairness the phone was always answered promptly and they spoke perfect English, but each time their assurances that my QR code ticket would soon be mailed out became less convincing.

Late on Wednesday afternoon the last conversation resulted in a vague suggestion that I should go to Glasgow and hopefully a paper ticket would be delivered at a location to be decided. Hopefully, maybe. By that time I’d had enough, felt like I’d played 90 minutes plus extra time and penalties, and said that I wanted to call it quits and get a refund.

Again, to be fair, this was issued in full on Wednesday night. But maybe I’m being too fair. I didn’t want the money, I wanted the ticket. But it was not to be. Such is life, but it was a blow. (And those who’d say: “It’s only a football match, get over it”, would have received very short shrift from this quarter with my head hanging low on Wednesday night).

What almost certainly happened was that as online prices rose to peak at £700 on Wednesday, those like me who had got in early and paid less were simply written off and whatever tickets the agency had available went to those who paid the most.

It wasn’t “fair”, but that’s no longer much of a consideration in any aspect of football these days, with money dominating every move. And it will be overwhelmingly dominant in relation to anything and everything associated with a trip to the tournament final in Seville.

How different it was back in 1972. I remember watching Rangers winning the European Cup Winners Cup in 1972 in front of the telly with my father and brother like it was yesterday. Half a century ago and the memory is crystal clear. In the papers the next day the great John Rafferty of the Scotsman wrote what I thought was the most vivid report.

I was in Manchester in 2008 for Rangers last appearance in a European final along with 150,000 others, where there was rioting.

Let’s hope there is absolutely no repeat of that in Seville. But without being prejudiced or showing a lack of modern day inclusion to rioters, I have it in my mind that they are mainly likely to be neds and thugs, and it’s anything but clear how many of them will be able to afford to get there.

The cost of flights to anywhere near the city, as in 500 miles away, has soared. And on Wednesday night, I had a look out of curiosity at Seville accommodation. On the days around the match you wouldn’t get a broom cupboard for less than £1,000 a night, and rising. After the Rangers result one online agency had a top price of £3,300 for a ticket.

The total cost of a reasonably convenient flight, hotel and match ticket over two or three days would easily set you back £10,000. Cost of living crisis? Not everyone can afford to fork out money like that at the moment. Hopefully including any potential rioters.

Still, Rangers fans will head there somehow or other in their tens of thousands. I’d like to be among them as would my brother but we’ve concluded our days of roughing it to any degree are in the past. That’s a young man’s game.

I still have a pang of regret on missing out on that damn ticket for the momentous semi final. But it was a historic sporting night indeed, and one worth recording. Now I’ll calm down by watching the results of the English council elections to see the verdict on Boris Johnson.

Nicola Sturgeon congratulated Union Jack and Rule Britannia Rangers after the semi final triumph. Whether she did it through gritted teeth we’ll never know.

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