Football pundit Stan Collymore will not feature as a BT Sport for Friday's Rangers match after an online row about sectarian chanting at games. The ex-footballer had claimed he was "taken off the show" by the broadcaster but a spokesman said they had not dropped or sacked him, indicating it was Collymore's choice.
The outspoken commentator had demanded Rangers are pulled off the television if their fans continue to sing sectarian songs. After announcing the news on the internet, Collymore became locked in a fiery online exchange with some sports fans, many of whom brought up his violent past and domestic violence.
It had been triggered after Collymore backed a petition which said: "Boycott sponsors Sectarian chanting is illegal. Demeaning."
The former Liverpool and England striker, who worked for BT Sport on a freelance basis, tweeted: "Just had a call from @btsportfootball. I'm taken off the show. Absolutely fine. Better to be right than bury my head. Enjoy!
"I can hold my head high and say i did the right thing to challenge hypocrisy amongst Rangers fans. BT show #RFC games, so inevitable."
He claimed he was dropped from the BT Sport line-up for the Raith Rovers v Rangers Championship clash because he called for Rangers to be taken off air until their fans stopped singing about "Fenian blood". A BT Sport spokesman countered the claim, saying: "Stan has intimated he no longer wishes to appear on BT Sport."
The broadcaster said that while they do not agree with any form of racism they "did not agree with the nature of the debate on twitter", and said they had been "brought into (the debate) without prior agreement". The spokesman added: "BT Sport will raise and discuss the issue within its programming when relevant and in an appropriate manner."
Collymore had urged his online followers to show their support for the petition and said if they signed it he would "take it to every sponsor and tv/radio station i know." Collymore hit back at his critics and said: "All @btsportfootball have done is empower right wing mob rule. Nothing else. 8 friends and i have cancelled already. Hypocrisy."
He also wrote: "You can get sectarian, racist, threats from Rangers fans but can't tell truths. Censorship & fascism alive and well in 2015 Britain."
The Rangers Supporters Trust dismissed Collymore's claims and branded him a "self-publicist". In a statement on their website they claimed that "if Mr Collymore was interested in sectarianism then he would deal with the subject evenly".
They stated: "Rangers have done significantly more than most other clubs, including Mr Collymore's Celtic, to deal with issues around fans' behaviour over the years and we are sure that will continue." They claimed that Collymore would only "exacerbate any genuine issues with ill advised, inaccurate and inane interventions".
They added: "If this is the type of man that BT Sport wish to associate themselves with then not only Rangers fans, but fans of all clubs, have the option of voting with their subscriptions."
Collymore retweeted a number of supportive messages he was sent on the site, including this from @JordanHassan23: "Even as a Rangers fan, I'm impressed with @StanCollymore 's dedication to this. Really needs addressed and sorted now."
The user then added: "Probably going to get abuse from fellow Rangers fans about that last tweet but it had to be said and something does need to be done about it."