Scottish football has done nothing to eradicate sectarianism

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Government should step in to make authorities punish clubs whose fans misbehave and while it's at it build more shared school campuses says campaign group

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1st April 2016 by Paul Cardwell 1 Comment

One of Scotland’s highest profile anti-sectarian campaigners has slammed Scottish football authorities for doing nothing to rid the game and the country of sectarianism.

Nil by Mouth campaign director Dave Scott blasted the Scottish Football Association (SFA) as arrogant, saying it was a failing that it had never fined a club a “point or a pound” for sectarian behaviour.

Speaking as part of a debate hosted by Action on Sectarianism, which was livestreamed on Periscope, Scott said without the football authorities help we will not get rid of sectarianism and even called on the Scottish Government to intervene.

“Scottish football is doing nothing to tackle sectarianism,” he said.

“The SFA has failed in that no club has been fined a point or a pound for sectarian behaviour.

Scottish football has done nothing to eradicate sectarianismDave Scott

I think the government should be putting pressure on it, if you can do something about fitness, public disorder why not about sectarianism

“The clubs early on did make a show of trying to do something about it. But it was usually for the press opportunity. They do little unless it involves UEFA, Scottish football has just ignored the issue. Recently they asked for facial recognition software as a solution rather than work with the fans.

“There is a lot of arrogance which seems to hide a lot insecurity to tackle it. Most people who go to football are incredible people, campaigns but there is a very noisy minority.

“There are some who have taken steps forward such as Ann Budge (chairwoman of Hearts) to make a family friendly experience again. But there are still people who don't want to take children to football because of the atmosphere.”

Scott reiterated calls for clubs to adopt the Strict Liability Rule, where clubs are punished for the behaviour of their fans regardless of their attempts to control them, saying without it sectarianism would always prevail.

He added: “Clubs should talk to members, fans etc. the life and sole of the clubs and ask them what they think. 

“We have asked the Scottish Professional Football League to tell us how many times sectarian chanting and singing has been reported and what they have done about it. They refuse to answer. This would not be acceptable in any other publically funded organisation.

“They have not worked to change the environment. There has been more work in schools and communities than in the football grounds.

“I think the government should be putting pressure on it, if you can do something about fitness, public disorder why not about sectarianism.”

While happy to take a sharp swipe at Scottish football, Scott was clear that sectarianism is not just a problem belonging to the sport – indeed only one in three sectarian arrests in Scotland are related to the game.

Discussing a question on faith schools, Scott urged more local authorities to build shared campuses which are attended by pupils of all and no faith.

Stopping short of saying faith schools should be scrapped, he suggested the structure of schools in Scotland has to change. Bringing schools together on shared campuses, such as at Wishaw Academy, would maximise opportunities for children to mix and learn from each other, as well as benefitting local authorities financially, Scott explained.

“I think schools can be part of the solution rather than the problem,” he said

“Bringing schools together is key to our work, whether through sport or workshops.

“I would like to see more in schools, shared campuses maximising opportunities for children to mix and learn from each other.

“We need to work out how to manage the good bits of schooling and how we bring these together.”

With regards to Orange marches, Scott said Nil by Mouth does not support an outright ban on them.

Instead, he called for a limit to the amount that are held, highlighting that there were more marches in Glasgow last year than there were in Belfast.

Finally, Scott called on people not to get so obsessed and fixated on the language used when deeming something sectarian and instead judge whether the words are being used as an offensive term.

“There are lots of different words and a lot of people get hung up on whether they are sectarian,” he added.

“Context is always key. Prof John Curtis did an extensive research into this and found that Hun and Fenian were found offensive by the same percentages of people.”

7th April 2016 by Alan

I'm sure there's good work goes on around this organisation. The Divided City project seems positive. However, it also seems that to tackle sectarianism we need to bowdlerise the history (and reality) of sectarianism in Scotland. Nil by mouths website, perhaps in the pursuit of balance, leaves out the experience of the Irish Catholic population in Scotland over most of the 20th century. I'm with Tom Devine on this one, "the malign aspects of the old sectarianism, which did indeed affect the life chances of many people of Irish Catholic descent, have disappeared for the most part", i.e. there was a reality and it affected a particular community. Now, it's mostly about language - "Scott called on people not to get so obsessed and fixated on the language used when deeming something sectarian and instead judge whether the words are being used as an offensive term." In other words, sectarianism is about being offended by a word which notionally can be attached to a particular (religious) group. A licence to be offended. Gi'es peace!