GLASGOW (Reuters) - Rangers fans flouted coronavirus lockdown restrictions to gather outside Ibrox before and after their team's 3-0 win over St Mirren to move within a point of the Scottish Premiership title on Saturday.
Goals by Ryan Kent, Alfredo Morelos and Ianis Hagi continued Rangers' 100% home record with a 16th win and they will be champions if Celtic fail to beat Dundee United on Sunday.
Rangers have not won the title since 2011, since when they spiralled into financial turmoil and were demoted to Scotland's bottom tier in 2012 after entering administration.
With former Liverpool and England midfielder Steven Gerrard in charge, however, the Glasgow club are on the verge of ending Celtic's hold on power stretching back for the past nine seasons.
Hundreds of fans let off flares and fireworks in the hours before kickoff while after the final whistle Rangers players ran into the corner of the ground and greeted fans who had gathered outside the gates.
One video on social media showed Rangers fans assembled outside the stadium appearing to greet players who briefly poked their heads out of the windows of the changing rooms.
Although the mood of euphoria was understandable after the club's voyage back from the depths, the behaviour of the fans was criticised by the Scottish Government.
"We are extremely disappointed supporters have gathered at Ibrox today," a spokesman said.
"At this crucial stage of suppressing the virus, the actions of this minority of individuals jeopardises the safety of other supporters, the police on duty and the wider community."
With Rangers 21 points clear of Celtic a 55th title is assured, taking them four ahead of the number won by their arch-rivals.
Gerrard said he could understand the jubilation of the Rangers fans.
"This club has been to hell and back over the past 10 years. I've only been part of it for three, but I can certainly relate and I've got that feeling and that affection with the fans and I know what they have been through," he said.
"I can totally understand the scenes. But I think it's important they stay safe as well and we all try and be humble and focus on what is left, because there are a lot of big games left and we want more."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)