Football not the cause of sectarianism14 February 2005

Celtic and Rangers have joined forces to deny that football is at the root of sectarianism in Scotland. Both clubs were represented at a summit on sectarianism which was hosted by First Minister Jack McConnell in Glasgow. Various groups, including educational bodies, religious groups and local government, took part in the discussion on how to tackle the problem.

Football is often singled out as the root of the problem, with Old Firm matches blamed for fanning the flames of religious hatred. However, both clubs have united to claim that Celtic and Rangers are merely symptoms of a social problem, not the problem itself.

Rangers safety officer Laurence Macintrye confirmed that the First Minister was left in little doubt that both clubs are making an effort to tackle the problem. He said,
“Several times today I've used the expression that Rangers and Celtic are flagpoles up which different groups hoist their flag. We are not to blame for this, we are just one of the symptoms of a wider problem in society.”

“We think we are certainly doing enough. We have a sectarianism and racism monitoring group at Ibrox which meets fortnightly. We try to monitor everything that's happening in terms of racism, sectarianism, xenophobia and other inappropriate behaviour. I made the point that we don't need to come away from that meeting today to start new initiatives – there are many initiatives already taking place and that was a point which was accepted by the First Minister. He was very well-briefed on what the football clubs are doing.”