A quarter of Scots pupils report ‘hatred’ at football matches

Pupils say they have seen hatred based on a person's religion, race, disability or sexuality at football matches. Picture: John Devlin
Pupils say they have seen hatred based on a person's religion, race, disability or sexuality at football matches. Picture: John Devlin
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More than a quarter of Scottish school pupils say they have witnessed offensive behaviour at a football match.

The Scottish Parliament’s justice committee polled more than 1,400 young people at around 50 secondary schools and found 28 per cent have either experienced or seen examples of “hatred” based on a person’s religion, race, disability or sexuality.

Nearly two-thirds of those taking part in the survey said they had seen similar behaviour online.

MSPs are currently hearing evidence on the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act amid an attempt by Labour MSP James Kelly to have the controversial legislation repealed.

Children between S1 and S6 took part in the online survey, which asked about their experience of offensive behaviour at football and in society more generally.

Nearly 45 per cent of those polled agreed there should be a specific law banning offensive songs at football, but 41 per cent said there should be no such law.

On the question of “threatening communications” online, 30 per cent said they had been the subject of a serious threat to carry out a violent act or a threat intended to stir up religious hatred. Mr Kelly said: “The survey shows the extent to which online abuse has become a serious problem for young people.

“No child in Scotland should witness or suffer hate crime or abuse. That is simply unacceptable in the 21st century.

“However, with only 17 prosecutions for online abuse in five years, the legislation dealing with threatening communications which was ridiculously tied to the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, is obviously ineffective.

“This inadequate piece of legislation needs to be repealed, and laws which are effective in prosecuting online abuse strengthened. That is the way forward to protect children from online abuse.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “These findings about the impact of offensive behaviour on our younger people underline the importance of tackling the issue effectively.

“We want everyone, regardless of age, to be able to enjoy our national sport without experiencing abusive, threatening or offensive behaviour. That is why this government stands on the side of the many tens of thousands of football supporters who place supporting their club with family and friends in an atmosphere of friendly rivalry above the bile and bigotry that is all too commonplace.”