A SOLUTION MUST BE FOUND The scenes in Glasgow following Rangers success in winning the Premier League in Scotland were shameful and brought disgrace on the club and their supporters on a day where there was great positive opportunity to celebrate success. Instead the actions set them up for widespread condemnation and disgust from everyoneContinue reading "A SOLUTION MUST BE FOUND"



The scenes in Glasgow following Rangers success in winning the Premier League in Scotland were shameful and brought disgrace on the club and their supporters on a day where there was great positive opportunity to celebrate success. Instead the actions set them up for widespread condemnation and disgust from everyone other than those involved. Except the Greens Leader who was surprisingly quiet about events, no doubt connected to his role in removing the measures previously available through the OBFA from being readily available to the police. Measures which the opposition joined together to eliminate despite it being laws which had widespread public support. They of course promised replacement legislation but it has never seen the light of day. Much easier to destroy than to create!

I will not relate the weekend events that would create the allegation that we are dealing with animals here rather than human beings. These were the actions of a minority but not a tiny minority. The problems were widespread, serious and involved injury to the police and other innocent members of the public. In the middle of a COVID pandemic it was hugely irresponsible and will have affected the health of many who were nowhere near these “celebrations” but who will become infected because of this irresponsible and reckless behaviour.

It is not a new problem. It has been present all my life. I was brought up in Clydebank, a community split down the religious divide. I use the term religious wrongly, it is rarely those involved in religion that are the source of the problem but others who use it as an excuse to promote their bigotry and ignorant behaviour.It is a blot and completely unnecessary. I have been trying to work towards its elimination from society all my political life and believe it or not, difficult given the events of the weekend, but things are much better today than when I was younger.

Now we know about several factors that were involved that could and should have been entirely foreseen and prevented. Not least the influx of fans from Northern Ireland only too happy to enjoy a day of sectarian disruption in someone else’s city rather than their own. It was not just them of course they were joined by many of the mindless bigots motivated to fight again battles from the 17th century they know little or nothing about. Would they had studied and learned from the excellent managerial skills of Steven Gerrard on how hardwork, teamwork between all religions on the Rangers Team sheet brought success to their club over the course of the season. Working for a unity of purpose rather than one of division and destruction.

So what to do? I am not new to this problem in a previous life when I was the Chairman of the West of Scotland Young Conservatives in the late 70’s I wrote a policy paper on the problems of football hooliganism which attracted a lot of publicity and I was invited to take part of a number of television programmes on the topic, indeed one programme used my paper as the basis for their programme.The key part of my paper was a questionnaire that I sent to every football club in the top division setting them a series of questions asking them how serious they regarded the problem. What steps, if any had their club taken to reduce or eliminate any problems, did they operate any restrictions about who could sign for the club, either by creed, colour or any other consideration? It got an excellent response from all the clubs, except one.

I had arranged a late afternoon press conference to reveal the results of the survey. In those days I did not own my own company and I worked for a big company in Springburn. Early afternoon, the switchboard operator came on to tell me a Mr William Waddell of Glasgow Rangers Football Club required to speak to me very urgently. 

He wanted to talk to me about my survey, in particular he wanted to know how many clubs had replied? He became very incensed when I told him every team other than his own had replied and had outlined what actions they were taking to do what they could to resolve the problem. He then made a series of threats about what would happen to my “political career” if I revealed that Rangers had not replied. It was an empty threat I had no political career to even consider. I told him he still had time to complete the questionnaire, I gave him the hotel venue and time of the press conference and suggested if he could leave a completed questionnaire at the reception thirty minutes before the Conference I would be happy to include Rangers in the results. He then repeated his threats and did his best to thoroughly intimidate me. 

At the Press Conference, journalists wanted to know which clubs had taken part. They were surprised when I was able to tell them that every single club in the top division has taken part, bar one. They immediately sensed it would centre round the Old Firm and could I say anything about their response. I was able to say I had received a very positive response from Mr Kelly from Glasgow CELTIC and he looked favourably on my suggestion that the Scottish Flag, should fly slightly higher than the other flags at Parkhead as they competed in the Scottish League. Regretfully I was unable to say anything about Rangers, despite Mr Waddell phoning me earlier that day. I NEVER HEARD FROM MR WADDELL EVER AGAIN!

I tell that story to emphasise that things are better today than they were then. The position at Ibrox today is very different and there are no restrictions on who can play for the club and they have repeatedly insisted they want no truck with and completely disown those who seek to promote bigotry. It is very sad then that despite their best efforts they still find themselves involved in these incidents.

This is not an insurmountable problem, many years ago Scottish football supporters had a very poor reputation but steps were taken to turn it round, the decent Scotland fans got behind the efforts and the famous Tartan Army was born where self policing by the fans themselves still ensured they could drink and enjoy themselves to the full but where if anyone got out of line they fans themselves stepped in to take care of any problem. It was a huge turnaround and the Tartan Army have now an excellent, well earned reputation and are very welcome at all football tournaments in all countries. 

What needs to happen is for the decent fans, the genuine supporters to be given the ammunition to highlight that those who pursue this wanton destruction and aggression are damaging their club.

How do you do this? Well in my view fining the club won’t work, the money won’t be coming out their pockets so those responsible won’t care. Take points off them or throw them out cup competitions then that is a very different matter and that is where the authorities should look to act. Decent fans will be very angry with those fellow fans who act in such a way that the club’s success in competitions is endangered. I would forecast that like the Scotland fans did before them many will support and engage self policing and will extract virtue,admiration and support from the general public for so doing. If that was to also fail then an entrance levy on all home games set to recover the costs of any public hooliganism could be justified although I am reluctant to penalize the innocent for the actions of the demented minority.

That in my view is the best way forward and I hope the footballing authorities are brave and intelligent enough to follow that path. A solution must be found and the decent fans, those that really care for their club, are best placed to take that control.





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