Unacceptable theatre shutdown must spark rethink over mass football fan gatherings - Brian Ferguson

There was something depressingly fitting about a dark week for Scottish football ending with a mass gathering of fans forcing the shutdown of a theatre in Glasgow city centre.

Days after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon entered the debate over sexism and misogyny tarnishing what is continually promoted as the national sport, management at the Tron Theatre were unable to get their staff safely into the building.

Artistic director Andy Arnold told me of his dismay at the lack of any warning about a huge police operation which saw traffic halted and roads closed to accommodate an extended street party for Celtic fans in the Glasgow Cross area.

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It was clear that behaviour of what he described as a “sizable minority” outside his building and the impact on his staff were key factors in the decision to call off a sold-out show and close the venue.

Police closed off several streets around Glasgow Cross during the mass gathering of Celtic fans on Saturday. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS Group

Actress Janette Foggo, who was putting up a theatre worker involved in the play Who Killed My Father, was among those to express her dismay on social media at the “appalling” and “frightening” behaviour of fans.

She told me that there was so much concern for the safety of workers that they had to be evacuated out of the “dock” entrance normally used to transport sets and costumes.

The police themselves later condemned the “unacceptable level of anti-social behaviour.”

I’ve no doubt there will be many fans out there who will think that the closure of a theatre for the night is a small price to pay for the city centre to accommodate an exuberant gathering of fans.

Celtic fans descended on the Merchant City and Glasgow Cross areas on Saturday to celebrate. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS Group

But let’s look at the big picture for a moment.

This was far from a one-off city centre gathering – they are fast becoming a regular occurence, as rival groups of supporters engage in an irresponsible game of oneupmanship.

There is also the demographic involved – with the vast majority of them young men clutching carry-outs.

The behaviour of football fans has long been tolerated inside the grounds of their clubs and on public transport.

But when their celebrations spill out into public places and ruin a night out for folk not remotely interested in the outcome of men’s football matches it is time for the city and the police to seriously reconsider the impact of accommodating such gatherings in future.

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