Rangers in clear despite fans' one-arm salutes in Israel

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The Independent Online

Rangers have avoided punishment after satisfying Europe's governing body Uefa with their explanation for the one-arm salutes made by supporters in Israel last week.

The club announced that they were to be the subject of a Uefa investigation after a group of supporters made the gestures during the first leg of the Uefa Cup last-32 match against Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Photographs of a group of supporters making the salute were the subject of a complaint to Uefa by an anti-racism body. Although linked to the Red Hand of Ulster, the gestures were apparently misinterpreted as Nazi salutes. While that decision came as a relief to Rangers, the club have warned their supporters that such salutes will not be tolerated tonight, in the second leg against Hapoel at Ibrox.

Rangers chief executive Martin Bain said: "The photographs in question show a small number of Rangers fans in Tel Aviv making one-arm salute gestures. Some Rangers fans continue to give 'Red Hand' salutes which the club and the vast majority of supporters discourage because they will be misinterpreted. We have regularly consulted with our supporters groups and they have said they are doing everything they can to prevent this."

Bain added: "We have repeatedly made clear that fans should not make any gestures that can be misinterpreted and we are urging all fans attending the game [tonight] to remember the potential consequences."

The club's manager Walter Smith last week warned travelling supporters to refrain from any sectarian chanting against Hapoel. Uefa fined Rangers £13,000 last season after supporters were heard chanting discriminatory songs during both legs of the last-16 Champions League game against Villarreal.

Rangers were also warned at the time that they would be held responsible by Uefa for any "future misconduct" of their fans. That prompted fears that the club could be heavily fined if found guilty of further supporter-related offences, or even thrown out of European competition.

Rangers, meanwhile, will run checks on Karl Svensson's fitness this morning before finalising their team to face Hapoel.

The 22-year-old Swedish central defender risks missing the second leg after sustaining a groin injury in Sunday's Scottish Premier League win over Falkirk.

Rangers captain Barry Ferguson and Kevin Thomson are poised to team up in midfield after both trained yesterday. Ferguson also sustained a groin injury against Falkirk, while Thomson has recently been sidelined by a hamstring problem, but both are expected to play.

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