WHEN he was gathering information for his campaign for the strict liability bill that he is trying to put through the Scottish Parliament to force football clubs to take responsibility for their supporters’ behaviour, James Dornan MSP was told by sources that the only reason some people were involved as fans was so they could cause trouble.
It seems these sort of people still exist and football continues to turn a blind eye to them – the casuals that have troubled more than a few Scottish clubs, the bigots on both sides of the Old Firm divide and the just plain baddies who think that being part of a football crowd gives them a licence to commit mayhem and abuse which would not be tolerated in any other sphere of society. The tide is turning, however, and the bad and the bigoted – be they religious, homophobic or racist bigots – are going to lose. The Scottish Professional Football League’s lukewarm statement the other day at least showed they are taking the issue of unacceptable conduct by supporters seriously. All it needs now is for the SFA to act as well and start issuing some stark and serious warnings, i.e. sing this or that song and your team will lose a point or three. There are some politicians who are disgracefully trying to undo one part of the battle against the football baddies. Those who wish to overthrow the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act for petty political reasons – freedom of speech my a***, as Jim Royle might say – still have not come up with a decent alternative that will seriously alter the poisonous cultures that still exist in football.
The Act is flawed and needs changed, maybe even radically changed, but that won’t happen while dozens of cases are still pending following last year’s Scottish Cup final post-match trouble. Eventually the Scottish Government will bring forward a review of the Act and fix it, but there will still need to be a football-specific law.
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Why specific to football? Because as football fans are never happy to admit, it is only at football that such horrendous misbehaviour on a mass scale – did you hear the bigoted stuff at the Hogmanay Old Firm match? – is permitted to occur with little punishment of those responsible.
Offensive behaviour at football is just too common still. If anyone can say any other part of Scottish life that is so disfigured by people misbehaving in their thousands then the Kicker will eat his ancient Adidas Santiagos. And don’t bother mentioning Orange Walks, as while the sentiments expressed by members of the Order may be objectionable to many, the Orange Walkers themselves are subject to discipline – including expulsion from the Order – which certain football clubs could never match. Dornan has taken a responsible and sensible attitude to tackling the problem, and his strict liability law will go through Parliament unless Scottish football’s club directors and supine authorities show some backbone. It is time for the clubs and the high heid-yins of the SPFL and SPL to act. We’ve had enough of the baddies and the bigots – let’s stand up to these overgrown playground bullies and kick them out of our game forever.