CELTIC fans have been warned by police that singing “Ooh ah up the ’RA” at games will lead to arrests and prosecutions, following advice from the Crown Office.
However, Assistant Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan said “no other chant or song, sung en masse by the Celtic fans” would currently be subject to criminal proceedings.
The advice, revealed at a supporters’ meeting, goes further than the Scottish Government, which has refused to list which songs will be banned when the new legislation – the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill – comes into force.
The Lord Advocate has issued guidance saying it could be any song, chant or behaviour “that is likely to lead to public disorder”, but this has been criticised for being too “vague”.
The Scottish Premier League has also banned pro-terrorist chants at matches, and warned clubs they could lose points or be made to play games behind closed doors if they fail to tackle such behaviour.
Celtic and Rangers fans have reacted angrily to what they see as the criminalising of football, and have held protests at matches and in the centre of Glasgow.
When the new legislation was passed in the Scottish Parliament last week, fans were banned from the public gallery for wearing T-shirts with the slogans “Football fans – not criminals” and “Shame on you SNP”.
However, ministers are determined to crack down on sectarianism in the Scottish game.
Last season saw ugly clashes at Old Firm matches, bullets and explosives sent to high-profile figures including Celtic manager Neil Lennon, and a breach of the peace offence by Hearts fan John Wilson after he approached Lennon at pitchside at Tynecastle stadium in Edinburgh.
Earlier this month, Celtic were cleared of breaching SPL rules after fans were reported for singing pro-IRA songs, with the league deciding that the club had taken all reasonable steps to minimise the risk of such “unacceptable conduct”.
Speaking at the Celtic supporters’ meeting last month after a fan had been arrested for singing the song at a match earlier in the season, ACC Corrigan warned supporters that such chants will be dealt with by the police and the Crown Office.
“The ACC said that his understanding – coming from the procurator-fiscal in Glasgow – is that if you sing ‘Ooh ah up the ’RA’ you will be prosecuted for breach of the peace,” minutes from the meeting revealed.
“When questioned, he said that no other chant or song, sung en masse by the Celtic fans is currently seen as being something for which you would be charged at a football ground. However, he said that could change under certain circumstances.”
Celtic FC and the Celtic Trust declined to comment.
Strathclyde Police said Rangers also had songs that, if sung, would lead to arrest and prosecution. They said they would name songs liable to lead to criminal action.
A Crown Office spokesman said: “The singing of offensive songs, of any kind, will not be tolerated and the perpetrators of any incidents of this nature will be dealt with robustly by the prosecution service.
“Where the song is religiously prejudiced, the relevant aggravation will be libelled.
“We will continue to work with police, law enforcement, football clubs, the authorities and supporters to ensure that Scottish sporting venues are free from all kinds of offensive behaviour.”