THE MSP who wants a strict liability law to be imposed on Scotland’s football clubs told The National last night that his bill will continue in the Scottish Parliament despite the Scottish Professional Football League yesterday warning clubs that they must act against misbehaviour by their fans.
The SNP MSP for Cathcart James Dornan whose constituency includes Hampden Park was “very disappointed” by the SPFL’s refusal to bring in strict liability which would mean that clubs would be responsible for the behaviour of fans and would pay a penalty if supporters misbehaved.
Mr Dornan is upset that the SPFL did not emphasise that fans who misbehave could cost their clubs fines, being forced to play behind closed doors, or even lose match points.
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“It’s a damp squib,” said Mr Dornan. “There’s nothing new in what they are saying, at least nothing that really deals with the problems of sectarian behaviour, homophobia and racism in football.
“There is nothing to suggest that there will be any harder action taken against clubs if their fans misbehave.
“They are trying to head off my bill with a smokescreen, but I am now going to steam full ahead with the bill.”
When the SPFL issued their latest guidelines on unacceptable conduct yesterday, they emphasised that all 42 member clubs were being told that the responsibility for dealing with fan misbehaviour was theirs.
The SPFL said clubs should develop proactive programmes and raise awareness of the prevention and elimination of unacceptable conduct in stadia where matches take place.
The SPFL stated: “The updated guidance sets out what is expected of the home club for any SPFL match at its stadium.
“It also describes what is expected from both home and away clubs with regard to the identification of supporters who misbehave and that proportionate disciplinary measures should be taken against any engaging in unacceptable conduct.
“There is also new guidance on club communications such as unacceptable conduct statements, as well as on ticketing information and pre-match information sharing.”
Unacceptable conduct includes conduct “which stirs up or sustains or is likely or designed to stir up or sustain, hatred or ill will against or towards a group of persons based on their membership or presumed membership of a group.”
The groupings are defined as “female or male gender, colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origin, membership of a religious group or of a social or cultural group with a perceived religious affiliation, sexual orientation, transgender identity, and disability.”
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “The SPFL and its member clubs are committed to preventing unacceptable conduct to ensure our stadiums are friendly, welcoming and safe environments. “This ongoing work includes this updated guidance for clubs which sets out measures that member clubs can take to address this issue and to identify and sanction those who engage in unacceptable conduct.
“It has been fully consulted on with all 42 clubs, the Scottish FA and the Scottish Government and, indeed, dialogue continues with the Government on further measures which will be discussed early this year.”
Mr Dornan added: “I was hoping for more but not expecting it. “Football has lots of problems and while sectarian misbehaviour is the one that gets the most attention, there are plenty of other issues.
“Football grounds are the last place in society where some of these behaviours appear to be acceptable or almost acceptable.
“Football is an important part of society, but society in general has rejected these behaviours and football clubs have to play their part in cleaning up football’s act.”
The National understands that the sport’s governing body the Scottish Football Association will also respond to Mr Dornan’s bill. The consultation period ends on March 17.