Anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth has backed calls to introduce strict liability rules to Scottish football, with campaign director Dave Scott stating yesterday that “people are fed up to the back teeth” with behaviour that the group maintains fuels religious bigotry.
The issue has reared up once more following the use of flares and smoke bombs by a section of the Celtic support at Stair Park during their team’s Scottish Cup win over Stranraer on Sunday, with allegations of sectarian singing from the travelling fans.
Scottish clubs have been reluctant to follow Uefa’s lead on strict liability, which is essentially adopting a regulatory framework that makes clubs responsible for their supporters’ conduct within football stadiums.
Under the system, clubs are open to punishments ranging from fines to partial stadium closures or even points deductions for a wide range of transgressions that includes the use of pyrotechnics, and discriminatory and ‘illicit’ chanting – the latter covering any political expressions.
Celtic have been punished several times by Uefa on this basis for their fans’ behaviour during European ties.
Scott believes that the time for change has arrived and that moves must be made to make the SFA’s annual general meeting a watershed moment.
“The vast majority of fans who go to games in Scotland are decent people and are fed up to the back teeth with this behaviour and we want to find a way of ensuring that their voices are heard on this important issue,” Scott told STV.
“That is why we have written to the Scottish FA and SPFL urging them to put strict liability on the agenda for the agm in June. By doing so publicly, they give clubs several months to have meaningful dialogue with their fans about what course of action to take. This is too big a decision to simply leave to officials and it’s vital that fans are fully engaged in the debate. It’s their game and this can be a chance to help clean it up.
“Uefa have been operating strict liability successfully for years and by having a genuine debate on these proposals Scottish football has a chance to stand up to be counted and bring the game into the 21st century. The choice for clubs is stark remain part of the problem or be part of the solution.”
SPFL board member Mike Mulraney, chairman of Alloa Athletic, tweeted his objections to introducing strict liability. “At several of the recent Scotland games the SFA have been fined by UEFA under ‘strict liability’ It doesn’t work. The innocent are punished.”
Clubs voted against strict liability at the SFA agm in 2013 but chief executive Stewart Regan now expects it to return to the agenda this year.