FOR all that we talk up the passionate supporters and surreal moments that make Scottish football what it is, our game now seems to be embroiled in controversy relating to racism or bigotry on a weekly basis.

It’s vital that racism and bigotry are called out. It’s important, however, not to start portraying innocent actions as bigoted or racist. When we do that, we run the risk of people switching off and failing to reckon with genuine incidents of prejudice.

Which brings me to an old Bahamian folk song called ‘The John B.Sails’, later popularised by the Beach Boys as ‘Sloop John B’ on their classic Pet Sounds album.

That tune has been appropriated by some Rangers fans and become ‘The Famine Song’, with the lyric ‘The famine’s over, why don’t you go home’ targeted at Irish Catholics. Anyone with two brain cells or the slightest bit of empathy will agree that the lyrics are appalling, shameful and have no place in Scottish society.

There is, however, another set of lyrics sung by Rangers supporters to the same tune.

Since July 2011, Rangers fans have been singing a completely inoffensive song called ‘Four Lads Had A Dream’ to the tune of ‘The John B. Sails’. The lyrics are: ‘Four lads had a dream, to start a football team. They had no money, no kit, not even a ball. They still carried on, the Rangers were born. 55 titles, we’re still going strong’.

The titular ‘Four Lads’ are also known as ‘The Gallant Pioneers’. When Rangers released a video last Thursday paying tribute to them, they chose ‘The John B.Sails’ to soundtrack it.

The video’s purpose was to promote a retro Rangers top celebrating the 150th anniversary of the club being formed by those Four Lads, and so ‘Four Lads Had A Dream’ is the obvious choice of soundtrack.

Every single Rangers fan watching the video would have instantly made the connection between that music and ‘Four Lads Had a Dream’. Even the most drum-pounding, sash-sporting, 1690, ‘No Surrender’, obsessed with that scene from the Trainspotting sequel without realising that they’re the punchline, hardcore bigot would have been thinking ‘Four Lads Had a Dream’, not ‘The famine’s over, why don’t you go home’.

That didn’t stop the backlash, which saw Rangers being called out for supposedly using ‘The Famine Song’ in their video.

The worst that you can say about Rangers in this situation is that they were possibly naive to go with an instrumental version of the song and leave themselves open to this kind of response. Including a version with vocals, or even just adding subtitles to the video, would have prevented any dubiety. 

This is yet another moment that shows how incapable so many of us in Glasgow are of discussing serious societal issues when they arise in a football context. In every single debate like this, the people who support the club involved defend them, and the people who hate the club involved attack them. Neither side back down, despite logic dictating that only one side can be right. 

It says a lot about you as a person if your opinions on racism, bigotry or any other serious issue are based primarily on whichever football team you support, and what it says isn’t particularly flattering. 

Given a balanced and comprehensive explanation of the facts and context, anyone from the outside looking in would conclude that Rangers have not promoted - or even hinted at - ‘The Famine Song’ here. 

On numerous occasions, I've written and spoken on podcasts about the very real racism and bigotry directed at Catholics in this country. This just wasn’t it, though, and any talk of ‘dog-whistling’ is misguided. 

I wouldn’t blame those people who have been targeted by ‘The Famine Song’ for thinking the worst when they saw the video and heard that music, particularly if they were unfamiliar with the history of ‘Four Lads Had A Dream’. Any group that has been marginalised and demonised will naturally be more attuned to attacks on them. 

The explanation this time, though, is completely innocent, and this controversy should have died down as soon as the facts were laid out.

As someone from a Jewish family, I’ve seen in the last few years how difficult it is to have claims of antisemitism taken seriously. That’s why it was frustrating to see some claim that Scotland fans were indulging in antisemitism earlier this month by booing the Israeli national anthem. 

Depending on who you ask, the booing was either an attempt to create a hostile atmosphere ahead of a big match or a comment on the country of Israel. Far too many people express their criticism of Israel in an antisemitic manner that targets, scapegoats and unsettles people like me and my family, but just criticising the country is not in and of itself antisemitic. 

The unfounded accusation directed at Scotland supporters undermines legitimate claims of antisemitism, of which there are constant examples in our country. It’s been exasperating to see how easily people will dismiss our concerns, and making misguided claims of antisemitism as some have in connection with the Scotland fans makes it harder for us to be heard on the frequent occasions when we highlight genuine antisemitic incidents. 

The same is true in this instance. Organisations like Nil By Mouth are right to call out ‘The Famine Song’, but this isn’t ‘The Famine Song’. Claiming that it is, in the face of clear evidence to the contrary, makes it easier for those who need to examine their behaviour when it comes to anti-Irish and anti-Catholic language to ignore more legitimate accusations in future. 

There are still far too many Rangers fans dragging their knuckles with renditions of ‘The Famine Song’ outside the stadium, not to mention the racism recently directed at Celtic’s Kyogo Furuhashi and the backwards ‘That’s why we don’t allow mobiles on supporters' buses’ reaction to it from some fans. 

No Rangers supporter can say with a straight face that there is not still a problem among the fanbase. At the same time, no fan of Celtic or anyone else can reasonably claim that this particular video was pandering to the ‘Why don’t you go home?’ element. 

For all that Scottish football loves a long-running, fiery debate, this one can be easily extinguished. 

What was the video about?

It was about ‘Four Lads’ who ‘Had a Dream’. 

If you attend a match at Ibrox and hear the melody of ‘The John B.Sails’, are 50,000 fans singing ‘Four Lads Had a Dream’ or ‘The Famine Song’?

They’re singing ‘Four Lads Had a Dream’. 

On that basis, what song are Rangers wanting and expecting fans to hear in this video?

‘Four Lads Had a Dream’. 

It’s as simple as that.