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Template:POV-check Template:Lead rewrite The Famine Song is a derogatory football chant sung by Rangers fans, mainly to provoke Celtic supporters. Set to the tune of Sloop John B by The Beach Boys, the chant was first heard in 2008. Three judges in Scotland have ruled the song is racist, and a Rangers fan was found guilty of a breach of the peace (aggravated by religious and racial prejudice) for singing the song.


The title of the song refers to the 1840s Great Famine of Ireland, which led the country's population to fall from approximately 8 million to 5 million—starvation and emigration accounting for the loss.[1] Although the bulk of emigrants moved to North America, large numbers moved to Scotland and England, settling in London, Liverpool and Glasgow.[2] Since then, Glasgow, in particular, has had problems with sectarianism, with its two main football teams being the focal points of identity: Celtic for Catholics, Rangers for Protestants. The chant replaces the original words of the chorus of "Sloop John B", "I feel so broke up / I wanna go home", with "The famine is over / Why don't you go home".

Lex Gold, the Scottish Premier League (SPL) chief executive, said that football clubs could be deducted points if fans continue to sing such songs:

Clubs know they need to be alert and make sure their fans are doing all they can to avoid sectarian or other offensive abuse. The verse of the song that has featured hugely is racist, it's not sectarian as such, it's racist. The rules were structured to help to try to tackle this. You don't start with points deduction. We have a range of sanctions which can be applied.[3]

John Reid, Celtic's chairman, has tried to highlight the non-Catholic specific aspects of the famine: "Few of those who sing this song will have stopped to think that famine is nonsectarian and the millions of people who died or were forced into mass emigration - some to Scotland - were from all faiths and traditions within Ireland.[4] Ireland's Consul General has approached the Scottish Government regarding the song. A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government is totally committed to combating sectarianism and bigotry, which is why we have expanded on the work of the previous administration and are doing more. We are working with the clubs themselves, as they are part of the solution to the problem.[5]

Kenny Scott, Rangers' head of Security and Operations, said in October 2008 that conversations with the Strathclyde Police made it clear to the club that there was the potential for supporters singing the song to be arrested.[6] In November 2008, a Rangers fan was found guilty of a breach of the peace (aggravated by religious and racial prejudice) for singing the song during a game in Kilmarnock.[7] At his appeal in June 2009, three Scottish judges ruled that the song is racist because it targets people of Irish origin.[8][9] The Rangers fans' organisation, the Rangers Supporters Trust, rejected claims that the song was racist, describing it as a "wind-up" albeit a "distasteful" one which is designed to mock not the famine itself, but Celtic fans' perceived affiliations with the Republic of Ireland.[10][dead link]


  1. Edward Laxton, The Famine Ships: The Irish Exodus to America 1846-51, Bloomsbury, 1997, ISBN 0 7475 3500 0
  2. Christine Kinealy, This Great Calamity, Gill & Macmillan (1994), ISBN-10: 0 7171 4011 3, 357.
  3. "Gold: I'll dock points if clubs fail in fan duty". Evening Times Online. November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-06.
  4. "Rangers' Famine Song is racist, says John Reid". Daily Record Online. September 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-06.
  5. "Concerns raised over famine song". BBC News. 2008-09-15. Retrieved 2008-11-06.
  6. "Famine Song Statement". Rangers Official Club Site - News.,,5~1436866,00.html. Retrieved 2008-11-06.
  8. "Judges brand Famine Song 'racist'". BBC. 2009-06-19. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
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