Patricia Ferguson, Scottish Executive Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport sets out below the Executive's anti-sectarianism action plan for sport, designed to tackle the religious hatred that has blighted the Scottish game for over a century.
“Sport exerts a huge influence on society. It is very easy for us to get caught up in the excitement of a major sporting event and to be carried along by the actions of the crowd. In Scotland some of the chanting and singing at football matches is based on sectarian bigotry and fans – and occasionally even players and officials – sometimes go along with these without really considering the effects of what they are saying. Football brings joy to millions and I am pleased that clubs, governing bodies of sport and other organisations are all engaging positively in the anti-sectarian agenda. As a result there are many excellent examples of work being taken forward to tackle sectarianism in sport and I would like to highlight some of these.
The Scottish Football Association (SFA) has introduced a National Club Licensing Scheme which places a responsibility on Scottish Premier League (SPL) and Scottish Football League (SFL) clubs to demonstrate they operate clear policies against sectarianism.
It has also re-issued the Lord Advocate's guidelines on behaviour to all member clubs to remind them of their responsibilities for good behaviour on and off the field of play, and that the conduct of participants can have a bearing on the subsequent conduct of those spectating. sportscotland also actively promotes ethical participation in sport and has produced an Ethics in Sport document providing basic information for sports organisations on ethical issues with a specific section covering Faith, Religion and Sport. sportscotland has also launched Working Towards Diversity and Inclusion which sets out how it will implement the UK Equity Standard and is supporting key partners to implement this within their own organisations.
But there is still scope for more positive action by governing bodies and that is why we will work in partnership with the SFA and sport scotland to develop a strategy for tackling sectarianism in football. This will be launched by the end of 2006. (ACTION 6)
Of course, I fully recognise that both Rangers and Celtic Football Clubs already have a wide range of initiatives to tackle sectarianism in place. Working individually and together the clubs have helped break down barriers and encouraged greater understanding within and across our diverse communities. In April 2005 I supported the launch of the Old Firm Alliance project and I believe that it is through tangible, joint ventures such as this that we can make a real difference to the attitudes that young people carry into adulthood.
Work with young people can take many different forms which is why we also supported the Strathclyde Police initiative to produce 25,000 blue and green 'Say No To Sectarianism' wristbands to promote the anti-sectarian message among school children in the Glasgow area. The success of the wristbands was so overwhelming that the Executive agreed to provide £12,000 to produce a further 50,000 wristbands and build on the success of this initiative.
Another positive initiative with young people has been taken forward by YouthLink Scotland at their Outlet Youth Centre at Polmont Young Offenders Institute (PYOI). This was the development of the A Culture of Two Halves projects which enables young people to explore their heritage and investigate links between sectarianism, football and crime in Scotland. Many of the young people in the project were at Polmont because they had committed crimes influenced by sectarianism and by questioning their own attitudes and behaviours they were able to produce an anti-sectarian training pack and DVD, which is used by peer education groups to tackle sectarian issues amongst their contemporaries at PYOI.
The message of 'Rivals Not Enemies' is at the heart of our work with football supporters' groups. I understand the importance of positive engagement with football supporters to ensure that their views are taken into account as work to tackle sectarian bigotry progresses. Numerous individual football supporters and supporters' groups have already indicated their commitment to the anti-sectarian agenda. By working with football supporters' groups and broader organisations, such as the Federation of Scottish Football Supporters' Associations, we can make sure that responsible fans can play their part in tackling the problem and that their views are fed into the Action Plan to tackle sectarianism in football.
That is why we have appointed an independent facilitator to work with supporters groups of the SPL and a selection of SFL clubs to identify actions that these groups can recommend or take forward themselves. This work will begin early in 2006 and the facilitator's report will be delivered by mid-2006.
The street traders who operate outside of sports arenas can both profit from and encourage sectarian attitudes and behaviour if they do not behave responsibly. That is why we wrote to all Scottish local authorities encouraging them to licence street traders and prohibit the sale of sectarian and paramilitary goods as a condition of any licence. In one joint operation with Strathclyde Police, Glasgow City Council's Environmental Protection Services out-of-hours enforcement officers removed materials of a political, racial, religious or sectarian nature from street traders outside Celtic Park and Ibrox Stadium. Of the 150 street traders checked 18 did not have a licence and 40 were warned about contraventions of licensing conditions. One hundred and fifty-six items were removed from licensed traders.
Eleven Street Traders were reported to Glasgow City Council's Licensing (Complaints) Sub-Committee. Ten were given warnings about the licence holders failure to comply with licence conditions.
For some time we have been concerned about continuing sectarian chanting and sectarian-motivated violence at and around football matches, and whether the police have adequate powers to deal with these. Football Banning Orders are one of the tools which we believe the police and courts should be able to use to tackle abusive sectarian behaviour around football matches. A Banning Order will help to ensure that hooligans and those who indulge in the worst bigoted abuse are not able to attend games or visit venues (such as certain bars on match days) for up to 10 years. This will help to remove the worst offenders from the terraces and act as a strong deterrent to others.
We have therefore introduced Football Banning Orders as part of the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill 2006. The provisions relating to Football Banning Orders will be implemented by autumn 2006. (ACTION 8)”