Strict LiabilityDate: Monday, 24th May 2021
When the Pars score a goal at East End Park, I don`t leap up and shout "No Surrender!","FTP",sing about "wading in Fenian blood" or shout "FKB" or sing "When the bayonets slash the Orange sash".
Indeed the overwhelming majority of Celtic and Rangers fans in 2021 wouldn`t either .Yet the battle against the import of sectarianism continues. Today some Rangers players run onto the pitch at Ibrox and make the sign of the cross. The World has changed.
Today many articles extol the virtues of Strict Liability then conclude that it is dead in the water as the Old Firm will not accept it. Well quite.
Henry McLeish has talked rightly of the reputational damage done to Scotland as recent incidents have been beamed abroad. He calls on Scottish Football to take far more responsibility.
I can vouch for that. I have watched, with friends in Malta, a televised European match with Celtic or Rangers and cringed with embarrassment at the sectarian singing, the repulsive banners, the pyrotechnics etc. Foreigners are incredulous.
The problem is the impotence of the Scottish Government, in cleansing the Augean stables of sectarianism, has empowered the Old Firm. They regarded Humza Yousaf as a paper tiger. The ultimate irony being that, after Steve Clarke and Derek McInnes were victims of sectarian bile, with no repercussions, Humza, ironically, was the victim of anti Catholic attacks too!!Maybe he is a Catholic Moslem. It tells you all need to know about the mentality of the critics.
The Old Firm was further empowered by the inappropriate repeal, in 2018 ,of The Offensive Behaviour At Football And Threatening Communications Act to the dismay of Police Scotland. This had little to do with ameliorating the situation and more to do with a rare Opposition opportunity to lay a glove on the SNP.
As Dr Rosmarijn Van Kleef has pointed out, at Holyrood, the answer is to emulate every other UEFA country and implement Strict Liability as two thirds of Scottish Supporters demand. It means a club being sanctioned has points deducted, a fine, a Stand shut, a Stadium closed or they are demoted.
The offences are sectarian singing, repulsive banners, vandalism, criminal damage, smoke bombs, fireworks, flares, throwing missiles, pitch invasion etc.
UEFA is having growing success, in recent years, tackling racism, homophobic chants, match fixing and rioting with even the biggest European clubs suffering eye watering sanctions. It is worth googling the scores of football clubs big and small which have been sanctioned by UEFA.The list is long and boring.(Though not as boring as your cricket asides. ED).Since the European Super League debacle, the public are much more aware that UEFA has teeth and will use them.
There are currently some red herrings in this debate.
It is NOT the case that smaller clubs could be targeted if this were implemented. Other clubs are not riddled with sectarianism and, in any case, UEFA sanctions take into account a club or country`s ability to pay.
Second, no one is suggesting clubs should be responsible for fans` actions out with the stadium. That is a neat distraction from the issue, (as Calum Steele of the Scottish Police Federation has outlined), of the failure of the Scottish Government to equip our Police with body cameras).
Third it suits the Football Authorities that there is so much focus on Racism and BLM and toppling statues yet racist incidents are at their lowest level in Scotland for 17 years: not that ghastly Racism should not be taken seriously and tackled. However, It conveniently distracts from Scotland`s elephant in the room.
Neil Doncaster and Iain Maxwell are fiddling as Rome burns. Keith Brown must ensure they are part of the solution, not the problem.