Nil by Mouth: Football officials ‘lack backbone’ to tackle hate

Picture: Ian Rutherford
Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Campaigners for strict liability have accused Scottish football of lacking the “backbone” required to kick racism and sectarianism out of the national game.

Anti-sectarianism charity Nil by Mouth will today meet SNP MSP James Dornan as he attempts to introduce a strict liability bill in the Scottish Parliament.

Strict liability, which is already in place in England, allows clubs to be punished with fines and points deductions for the behaviour of their supporters.

Following violence at the 2016 cup final between Rangers and Hibs, justice secretary Michael Matheson said the Scottish Government was considering introducing the measure.

However, previous surveys have suggested the majority of Scottish football fans are opposed to the idea.

Dave Scott, campaign director for Nil by Mouth, said: “We’ve been campaigning for Uefa’s strict liability principles to be introduced into Scottish football since 2013 when the clubs tried to brush the idea under the carpet at a Scottish Football Association (SFA) AGM.

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“Since then we have witnessed numerous instances of violent, sectarian and racist behaviour at matches and the Scottish Government’s own advisory group [called] for the game to sign up to strict liability.”

He continued: “Added to the tens of millions of pounds of public money Scottish football benefits from each year, this is clearly too important an issue to be left to clubs and governing bodies with neither the backbone or appetite to act.”

Earlier this year, the SFA and the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) said rules and guidelines on unacceptable conduct had been “updated and tightened” to ensure stadiums are “safe and friendly environments”.

It followed the publication of a report by Dr Duncan Morrow which accused football clubs of frustrating attempts to tackle sectarianism.

Efforts are under way to build cross-party support for Mr Dornan’s proposals.

The Glasgow Cathcart MSP said: “The vast majority of supporters only want to see the match and not have to listen to the nonsense they often have to put up with.

“I look forward to working with supporters of all clubs to ensure that any legislation that may eventually come about will be of the highest standard.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the “preferred solution” was for the football authorities to take action.

She said: “We are working closely and constructively with the football authorities, clubs and other partners on this issue.

“The Scottish FA and SPFL have introduced rule changes and associated guidelines on unacceptable conduct, and these changes are welcome progress.

“At the end of the current season, we will use the best evidence available to carefully consider with the football authorities, clubs and other partners how effective the new measures have been.”

She added: “Our preferred solution has always been that football proactively shapes and delivers a solution that is robust, transparent and contains a strong element of independence.

“However, we will consider what action should be taken if evidence shows that measures taken to date are not effective.”