Glasgow Bigotry Alive and Kicking 2004-11-23Posted by clype in Glasgow, Intolerance, Scotland.
The First Minister Mr.Jack Mcconnell, delivered an unprecedented rebuke to the players and management at Rangers and Celtic yesterday, telling the footballers they had to take responsibility for ‘inciting’ the violence that erupted across Glasgow on Saturday night [2004-11-20].
The First Minister condemned the behaviour of both clubs as ‘totally unacceptable’ and described Saturday’s events as a ‘step back in time’.
While he stopped short of threatening government action against the clubs, The First Minister’s intervention in the affairs of the “Old Firm” [Celtic and Rangers] marks a major hardening of his approach.
- Senior politicians have attacked “Old Firm” supporters for their behaviour in the past, but no-one has linked the behaviour of the players to violence outside the ground.
The clear implication of The First Minister’s remarks was that the players run the risk of being charged with inciting ‘sectarian’ hatred (bigotry) if they act in the way they did at Ibrox [Glasgow Rangers’ Stadium] on Saturday.
Saturday’s “Old Firm” match was one of the most ill- tempered for many years, on and off the pitch. By the end of the night, a pub and a shop had been smashed up as supporters went on the rampage following Rangers’s 2-0 victory.
On the park, two Celtic players, Mr. Alan Thompson and Mr.Chris. Sutton, were sent off, while others were involved in angry clashes.
Rangers’ substitutes Mr.Bob. Malcolm and Mr.Steven Thompson were warned by the police about goading Celtic fans in the stadium and, at the end of the game, Celtic manager Mr.Martin O’neill ran to the Celtic end with his arm round midfielder Mr.Neil Lennon — pumping his fist and yelling defiantly.
The First Minister has made the campaign against “sectarianism” and “Bigotry” a central part of his time as First Minister and, as a west of Scotland MSP, he is well aware of the damage and division it causes in local communities. The First Minister said yesterday:
‘It is the responsibility of every individual player who sets foot on the turf at Ibrox or Celtic Park to represent the positions that those clubs represent’.
Without citing specific incidents from Saturday, The First Minister said:
‘They need to recognise their behaviour can incite the horrible, ugly scenes that were seen in Glasgow on Saturday night. And they need to recognise their behaviour at games — which has been better for the last two or three years — was unacceptable on Saturday, and in the future has to be more restrained’.
‘Everybody in the club — players on the pitch, the management teams, those who sit in the boardroom making the decisions — everybody associated with those two clubs has a responsibility not just to their own clubs but to Scotland as a whole for the reputation of our country’.
Asked if players could face charges over “sectarian” violence, The First Minister said it would depend on individual circumstances and on the relevant authorities.
‘Should there be … violence or whatever, that clearly had a religious element to it, then clearly that is something the prosecuting authorities would want to look at’, he said.
‘Let’s hope that doesn’t happen in Scotland. Our objective is to stop these incidents’.
A spokesman at Rangers said the football club had decided not to comment on The First Minister’s remarks.
The chief executive of Celtic, Mr.Peter Lawwell defended Mr.O’neill’s behaviour. He said:
‘I am astonished at the reaction in some quarters to the events at Ibrox Park on Saturday.
‘In today’s society, no-one should have to put up with “sectarian” abuse of this nature, and Martin was keen to support a player who has been central to the domestic and European success Celtic has enjoyed in recent years’.
The First Minister’s remarks coincided with the publication of a study on those charged with “sectarian” offences since a new law aimed at cracking down on religious hatred came into force.