2007 - 2022


“You cannot justify it. It can’t keep on going.” Les Gray, Scottish Police Federation

Two things are clear. Neil Doncaster’s hopeless league reconstruction project (based on the idea of more not less Old Firm games) is in tatters, exposed as uselessly simplistic. It’s based on the formula: Old Firm bring money, so Old Firm is good. Secondly, from today’s pronouncements Celtic and Rangers are still in deep denial about the level of disdain for the spectacle.

The economic collapse has forced some unusual casualties. Woolies and the RAF went, Trident and Relocation Relocation Relocation didn’t (follow the logic if you can). Could the Old Firm derby be the next institution to be forced out of existence? Decades of bad blood and bigotry have not been enough to motivate politicians or administrators to act. Now simple economics might do what they manifestly failed to.

Yesterday the Scottish Police Federation called for an end to Old Firm “madness” after trouble flared again on Wednesday. Thirty-four arrests were made inside the grounds and hundred more in the streets and communities of Glasgow and west central Scotland after Celtic’s 1-0 victory.

The chief executive of the SFA, Stewart Regan, condemned “irresponsible and inflammatory” behaviour from players and coaching staff and said an investigation had been launched.

Another investigation? The SFA’s Hampden offices must be groaning with such reviews. Every time they open the cupboard they must face a cascade of paperwork. We’ve had thirty years of investigations (more?) but, in the words of Justin Currie, ‘nothing ever happens’.

Last month, a Scottish Premier League match at Celtic Park led to 16 arrests at the ground and more than 200 throughout Strathclyde. The link between domestic violence and these matches has long been documented. The chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, Les Gray, has said simply that police no longer had the budget to deal with match-related unrest. He called for the derby to be played behind closed doors or banned altogether. It raises the real question, could the cuts stop the Old Firm?

Gray was amazingly forthright: “We simply don’t have the money and resources to do this. Everyone involved needs to sit down and look at this. Something has to give. This madness cannot go on.”

So, let’s sit down and look at this then. Sectarianism, which we often treat as if it’s some sort of mystic entity hopelessly complex and impossible to fathom is at the heart of this, yet we entrust its ‘defeat’ to an organisation like Nil By Mouth, who, short of £60,000 may close next month. £60,000? I know, it’s probably the weekly wage packet of the Ibrox back-four.

As revealed in this weekends Observer newspaper Bob Doris MSP and Glasgow Central MP Anas Sarwar echoed calls of Glasgow based freelance journalist Erik Geddes’s proposition. He put it to both clubs that they could help out by asking for a voluntary one-off boost to the organisation to help them out. Their response (which can be summarised as ‘No’ and ‘No’) would suggest that the request should be made in plainer language jointly by Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government. This remains unlikely. Few politicians would risk alienating the Old Firm multitude ahead of a highly balanced election. But the idea makes sense and could be great PR for the clubs.

This would be the first simple measure in efforts to stop the cycle of violence and sectarianism associated with Rangers and Celtic, First save – then fund (much) more seriously the voluntary organisations working in this area. The second obvious move would be for the clubs to seriously address the wide-scale sectarianism tolerated amongst their fan base. Quarterly reports on what exactly they are doing should be made to a civic body of non-aligned non-religious people to assess objectively whether their efforts are credible. It’s hardly surprising that Djiouf should be at the centre of the latest uproar, nobody seems to have batted an eyelid when Rangers chose to sign a player who had spat at Celtic fans before.  Third we should demand that the SFA and the SPL publically re-issue their statement on 2007 regarding zero tolerance of sectarian songs.

Stating the obvious, but this need to be enforced. A three strikes and you’re out policy is needed. The first time there is a clear breach of the singing ban or an outbreak of serious violence a points deduction needs to be made, of, say ten points and a significant financial penalty (I suggest £100,000) to be paid to anti-sectarian charities. The second time a breach is made a further points deduction and a second fine should be incurred (I suggest £250,000). On the third occasion the club or clubs should be expelled from the league.

Fourth, there needs to be a serious attempt to change the culture of sectarianism that is fostered by the ‘marching season’. In the interests of civil liberties an outright ban is a non-starter. Instead all marches should be held in a fenced off area of a park. Participants should be allowed to say what they like, drink what they like and be as offensive as they desire. But they should not be allowed to march into communities and intimidate or abuse people. There needs to be a signal sent out, a line in the sand that this is not going to be tolerated. This is it.

Finally, and though it seems trivial it’s absolutely necessary to enable all of this, the media needs to stand up and be counted and stop it’s role as a cosy, fawning cheerleader for these clubs. With a few notable exceptions the print and broadcast media has let the Old Firm off with an easy ride. For example not one news outlet has confronted the reality of Rangers financial crisis. This is taboo.

So, in summary here’s how to solve this problem, and no we don’t need endless summits to do this just go Picard on it and ‘make it so’:

1.       Properly, seriously, credibly fund anti-sectarian work and start by making OF players cough-up for Nil by Mouth

2.       Make the clubs publicly accountable for addressing the issue amongst their own supporters. This needs to be verified and monitored by some body willing  and able to do it.

3.       We need to enforce the zero-tolerance policy introduced in 2007 and then abandoned. If the SFA has such a policy they need to be supported to maintain and enforce it.

4.       Take bold clear decisive action about the organised bigotry of Loyalist and Orange Lodge marches.

5.       We need to hold the sports media to account for their passive acceptance of Old Firm behaviour.

The idea of holding games behind closed doors is just daft. It would likely be used as a one-off ‘punishment’ then quickly abandoned. Or it would morph into a Sunderland-Newcastle -style away fans ban. What we need is to put these clubs under some rule of law. If the SFA and SPL don’t step up to the mark on this they should be abolished or completely re-configured. Kenny MacAskill has said that this is about cheap booze, and no doubt that plays a big part. But this is making it into a political issue to have a go at Labour. Not good enough. Labour have made great play of the SNP stopping the summits on sectarianism that Lord Jack McConnell initiated, making out that this was a sign of the Scottish Government downgrading the seriousness of the issue. But this is making it into a political issue to have a go at the nats. Not good enough. Nor do I want to hear the usual easy trite stuff trundled out about catholic schools. Not good enough. Nor should we play Pin the Tail on the Donkey and try and sort out old feuds by blaming it all on Neil Lennon. Not good enough at all. I hope the SFA desist from that particular cop-out.

The 5 point plan is simple, but I hear objections. First come the green and white hordes arguing that the problem is on the southside of the city not the east and the constant media efforts of bundling them together as the ‘Old Firm’ is a misplaced travesty of ‘balance.’ They are the victims not the perpetrators. This is largely true. As has been pointed out: “78% of the arrests made from the away support, representing 12% of attendees. It’s not an Old Firm problem, a Rangers problem.”

Though both sides on the management benches have some questions to answer about conduct, and the racial abuse of Djiouf was clear to see. However if Celtic Football Club are largely innocent and taking action on the other issues of sectarianism then, what’s the problem? The fact is both clubs are still locked in an obsession about Ireland. This fetishisation of conflict (that’s now largely past) is a miserable prospect. It’ time to move on.

The second objection I hear is the cynics voice, that “We’ve heard it all before”, that the “Politicians have neither the guts nor the guile to stand up to what are powerful corporate and political forces”.  This is definitely true. And make no mistake these clubs are big business. It’s part of the problem and one of the reasons why they haven’t been confronted. In a culture that worships businessmen and the business world (think of the sycophancy around David Murray, Donald Trump, Duncan Bannatyne or the masterful (sic)  Sir Alan Sugar) who’s going to stand up to these people? How can we explain Wayne Rooney elbowing someone in the face or Ashley Cole shooting someone without censure? These people aren’t immune to the law because they’re footballers, they’re immune to the law because they’re ridiculously rich.

This may all be true, but listen to what the police are saying…

Strathclyde police said Wednesday’s arrests were for a variety of sectarian, racial and breach of the peace offences. Police had warned they would crack down on drink-fuelled violence linked to the match after trouble flared in the wake of the last Old Firm game. On 20 February, more than 229 people were arrested in the force area and in some cases prisoners were said to have been driven 50 miles as police cells filled up.

Gray said: “What happens on the pitch is reproduced throughout Scotland, on the streets, in pubs, in homes. You cannot justify it. It can’t keep on going.”

It’s worth quoting Stewart Regan at length: “The Scottish FA categorically condemns the inflammatory and irresponsible behaviour throughout last night’s Scottish Cup replay between Celtic and Rangers at Celtic Park.

“As chief executive of this organisation I was both saddened and deeply embarrassed to witness the scenes that unfolded during what is supposed to be Scottish football’s flagship fixture: these images were broadcast around the world and shows our game in a poor light. I acknowledge the pressures of expectation on both clubs but last night’s behaviour crossed the boundaries of acceptable conduct at a football match.

“We have already launched an investigation into all incidents that occurred and will do everything in our power to ensure there is no repeat. The events at Celtic Park, however, run deeper than the Scottish FA’s disciplinary procedures. The unedifying sight of two of the country’s most recognisable and respected coaches engaged in an angry confrontation was not only unsavoury but exacerbated an already incendiary atmosphere inside the stadium and throughout the West of Scotland.

“The clubs have a duty of care to ensure that the image and integrity of the game is upheld at all times. This was not adhered to last night. This week, Strathclyde police reiterated their concerns over the heightening violence and public disorder around Old Firm derbies. It is incumbent on Rangers and Celtic to ensure a far more responsible level of behaviour.

“In an age of austerity and financial hardship, football must try harder than ever in this country to restore its image as the national sport, extolling pride and passion. It fails in this regard.”

Strong words but also entirely empty ones. Without action of real consequence and authority all this is meaningless. We don’t need this level of violence in our society. The Old Firm should be made to cough up, shut up or get out.

Views from all football fans are welcome, but also from the many people who don’t follow football but are appalled by the violence surrounding the game.

Comments (82)

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  1. ayewecan says:

    Excellent 5 point plan; Along with this article, it should be tabled at next week’s summit. Instead I suspect some po faced mandarin, who has never been to Glasgow let alone a football match, will spend the next 6 months consulting and drafting another report, for a Holyrood Inquiry, SFA working group etc etc. Where is Henry McLeish, Lord McConnell – or George Reid even? There’s surely a MBE in this worrthy exercice

  2. Pat Kane says:

    Would that the mass male catharsis for lost working-class dignity that is the average Old Firm stramash (indeed, the entire institution of Scottish football) could be redirected into national liberation, a la the football ultras in Egypt http://mideastposts.com/2011/01/27/soccer-fans-play-key-role-in-egyptian-protests/ But this would presume, of course, a nation that both sides of the sectarian divide could agree to support… somehow, I think Scotland might fall down the middle between UK and Ireland…

  3. ewan morrison says:

    Football. What has it ever been other than a thing to divide the working class and create a false illusion of identity and belonging. Scotland is plagued by the false consciousness of football: consider the referendum on independence that failed due to a game in the world cup; and now this – the world is in economic crisis and people who should be getting together spark up the old divisive pseudo-sectarian conflict. So called leftist intellectuals in Scotland should stop fuelling the fires and legitimating the game through their pathetic nostalgia for some fantasy of working class belonging. I propose the Stalinist line – shut down the sports arenas of the old system and send all supporters to mandatory consciousness raising camps.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Life is a playground for addiction, so many to choose from, and its as difficult to go cold turkey on football as meat, drink, telly or sex. There is another international dimension to football though; second language skills are miserably low in Scotland compared to the rest of Europe. Football has to suffice until a bridge is built through End of Empire. And despite everything football can still be the beautiful gemme.


  4. somepapfaedundee says:

    Tie up points 1 & 2 by making part of point 2’s accountability heavily financial, passing the proceeds on to fund the anti-sectarian work of point 1.

    The old firm are a single entity to most who lie outwith their orbit; the sponsorship, tv rights and league control should make that apparent to anyone, but they’ve lost control of the brand and rivalry is lost in hatred. The thing that gets me is how people can wonder at the state of Scottish football when we have this consumptive syzygy at the heart of it.

    ayewecan – hopefully Glasgow won’t feature at all in whatever reckoning is made. It’s a matter of making 2 sporting institutions clamp down hard and visibly on intolerable behaviour; I couldn’t care less about how well someone knows Glasgow or football, I fear that’s exactly what would lead to excuse making and kid gloves – and the time for both is long past.

  5. ayewecan says:

    somepapfaedundee – fair point, but let’s not start at base one with a 100 page introductory note on “The Rules of Association Football” written by some typical Scottish Office Mandarin on a fact finding miusion ( I’ve worked first hand with these people – “why take 1 week when we can pad it all out for a couple of years?”)

    But let’s quickly get some hard stats on where the problem lies and how big it is. Bella’s stats on the breakdown of arrests at the last game is illuminating, but we need much more. And I’d treat percentages ( like Scottish Womens Aid’s 80% rise in domestic abuse figure) with some suspicion until I saw percentages of what and the comparissons with what.

    Such stats would I think ( but I dont know) show there is a Rangers problem and a Celtic problem, but on much different scales. And also a football problem and a non football problem. We could then start to tackle them with due proportion. I may be biased ( as a Celtic leaning StMirren supporter), but my genuine experience of attending matches, and in lost of contexts, is that Rangers fans are by far the worst. Indeed Celtic fans are much less bad Hearts fans, and some of the worst fans can be at place like Greenock, Ayr or deepest Fife.

    Celtic do have a problem with historical baggage, and certainly a specific problem with their current manager Neil Lennon. But my humble view is their main problem is that their main rival is Rangers, with whom they share a city. Ask Man U fans, Liverpool Fans, Inter fans Barca fans etc etc, plus the entie population of Seville fans will tell you they have no problem with Celtic fans – indeed, they rather like them.. Rangers fans do most damage in Glasgow, cause there are more of them there, but their imprint is found in most cities they visit , especially when they lose – Lisbon last week had a close escape I suggest

    But now Im in danger of getting anecdotal – so lets get some hard stats and lost of them. Not just the ones the plods and others with their own agenda feed us

    1. somepapfaedundee says:

      Fair enough ayewecan (and cheers for the reply) – we probably wouldn’t want someone who knows absolutely nothing about football to be pontificating. The current problems are about bigotry, abuse and violence though, and to be honest it doesn’t matter what system they manifest in (football in this case) the things themselves have little to do with football; it is simply the prime vehicle.

      Regarding the arrest stats – I’m happy to accept that Rangers fans were the overwhelming majority of the arrested in this case; all I’d add is that i think that more away arrests are par for the course. Like yourself though, I’m in anecdote country here.

      I am aware of the historical baggage (actually luggage, it sounds more like you chose to carry it) in the context of all this and on both sides, but I think that part of the problem is that everyone gives it too much respect. I think it waters down any sense that it is simply wrong now.

      I think both sides are doing immense harm to their communities and themselves.

  6. John in Glasgow says:

    My best piece of advice to anyone trying to tackle the ” Old Firm” problem is firstly to stop thinking about the cop out collective term ” Old Firm”, and view the Clubs in their own right. It suits the politicians and the press in this Country to use this term, but whatever problems both Celtic and Rangers may have, they are far from the same problems.

  7. Vronsky says:

    While the sentiments are laudable, this looks rather like the MacConnell agenda – social division is terrifically useful, but we must protest that we disapprove, so we’ll only go after it where it doesn’t really matter (the fitba). And if the SNP recognise this as a hypocritical waste of time, why then we can cane them for being soft on bigotry. Lord Jack is guaranteed a slot in the BBC/Herald every time he plays this card, which is becoming about once a month. His interjections are intended to reinforce division, not deal with it.

    “Nor do I want to hear the usual easy trite stuff trundled out about catholic schools.” Easy and trite? I suppose so – it’s an observation of fact. Kids are divided if you train them to be. Some very scary psychological experiments have been conducted to show this, and they didn’t require anything as dramatic as telling the weans that they have to be educated in separate buildings in the same town. Then these kids become adults, and on it goes.

    You could reduce your five points to just the one – end religious apartheid in state education. Nobody has the guts for that, of course, so keep a copy of your article – journalistically, you’ve got a hold on a winning line on the fruit machine. You can use this piece again in ten years time, twenty years time, a hundred years time, because until we have the courage to stop this partitioning of our children, we will be divided.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      This isn’t a McConnell agenda, all McConnell did was hold a few summits. We need some action and some change now not hope that changing education will reap rewards in twenty years. There’s plenty wrong with education in this country from the elite of private education to the general standards but this would be widely seen as an attack on religious freedoms. This would do little or nothing to help the matter.

      1. somepapfaedundee says:

        That’s fine if you believe that indoctrination has a legitimate place in education. I don’t believe it does, and I want the church (CofS) out of ‘mainstream’ schools as much as I want ‘faith’ schools stopped.
        If you don’t believe indoctrination by faith has a place in school then getting rid of any religious influence in schools is not an attack on religion, but a recognition that religion in schools is an abuse of education.
        If you do believe that indoctrination by faith has a place in state mandated education, then I think that we need a national debate about what education is for, and what religious institutions are for.
        I’d be happy to concede though, that some things are better discussed without the fog-of-war that peripheral matters can bring, and that this may be a good case in point. leaving the whole schools issue out for starters at least is probably well advised.

  8. george mackin says:

    Religous Apatheid

    for god sake what a load of mince- Catholic schools are crap but they were a response to anti-Irish hatred, which comes in many forms including Uber Liberalism.

  9. ayewecan says:

    Vronsky – so Rangers lose, 3 of their players ( two born abroad) get sent off, the Celtic manager ( born in Ireland) get involved touchline spat, and loads of drink fueled Rangers supporters get arrested so we – abolish catholic schools?

    Agree with you on the McConnell agenda though, and the SNPs attempts to play catch up

  10. Bratach says:

    The sectarian issue is perpetuated by the transmission of selective, duff history. It’s education stupid.
    In the meantime, before the children of the frequenters of Blue Stadium or Green Stadium become fully enlightened, stick up very large posters, across the central belt, of pictures of Bruce and Wallace with the legend, “X was a catholic”, or, “The men who fought for Scotland at Bannockburn were catholics”, suitably positioned. Conversely, the same style posters of Sarsfield, Wolfe Tone and Casement, saying, “These Irish freedom fighters were protestant”. Slightly crass but simple and perhaps, thought provoking. I went to a catholic primary, in the Highlands. I never experienced bigotry, once, from any of my “protestant” friends. Mind you, we never played football either. We played the people’s game, Scotland’s national sport, Shinty.

  11. Observer says:

    Nothing to tackle this problem is going to work as long as percentages of blame are assigned to either side. Celtic are not as bad as Rangers, all that stuff. As soon as you start distinguishing between both teams, saying one is not as bad as the other, then you have lost the ability to make a reasoned objective argument to both sets of fans.

    & you do need both sets of fans to listen.

    Rangers & Celtic are two sides of the same coin, neither team has any more moral right to exist than the other one. It is a joint problem, & for that purpose they should be viewed as the same.

  12. ayewecan says:

    Observer – I sort of agree with you on how any anti sectarian campaign should be presented. No point telling Rangers fans they are worse than their rivals etc.

    But I would like to see some stats on all of this. What team the trouble makers support? Did they have previous? Their age, sex and lots more? In defence of both sides of the old firm, the vast majority ain’t been in any trouble ever, are quite reasonable people.

  13. James Hunter says:

    ” Ug! Don’t poke fire with stick !! Much smoke, be seen for miles !!! Ug, much danger from next village!”

  14. Observer says:

    I am not sure that stats will give a true reflection, as many people are not lifted although they are clearly breaking the law, & I don’t think the motivation of all offenders will be recorded properly – unless it is being recorded as a sectarian incident – in which case it has been reported as a sectarian incident, which in itself tells you something about the perception of the reporter.

    So I am not really convinced that an analysis of stats will paint a true picture. For example, the Woman’s Aid spike at old firm matches – you get the same spike at Christmas & New Year. Is it the old firm or is it drink?

    I think there is a kind of symbiotic relationship between Rangers & Celtic that perpetuates the football related violence. They need each other to fuel it which is why I think it needs to be viewed as a joint problem. & I think you could fly off at loads of different tangents such as the price of alcohol & faith schools which although they may be related in a way to old firm violence, they muddy the waters. I think any action taken needs to be focused on the old firm rivalry & how it makes people behave. You get that with many rival football teams of course – but it seems to go to extremes here.

  15. Vronsky says:


    “so we – abolish catholic schools?”

    Well, yes, I’d have thought so – if what you’re worried about is sectarianism. If on the other hand you’re concerned at soccer hooliganism (which as has been pointed out, is not confined to the Old Firm) then that’s a different matter – let’s not confuse the two. Rowdyism at football matches has many origins, each suggesting a different remedy.

    Well that’s if you think a remedy is needed. I’m not sure how comfortable I am with the idea of rowdyism being curbed – most of the time I feel there’s not enough of it. It’s not the shooting, it’s the rotten aim.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      It’s not ‘rowdiness’ its serious organised sectarian violence, domestic abuse and assault that’s well documented and makes up the focus of the article. Apart from casuals in Aberdeen and Edinburgh – which is pretty much 100% contained within itself – there is no comparable levels of violence than in Glasgow.

  16. Observer says:

    Come on Vronsky – where do you live?

    People get stabbed to death after old firm matches.

    That’s gone beyond being a bit rowdy.

    There’s so much invested in it – on both sides – it’s not natural or normal & needs to be stopped.

  17. Vronsky says:


    “This isn’t a McConnell agenda”

    I mean his persistent and scantily veiled attempts to accuse the SNP of sectarianism. It’s a Labour trope, and has been for years. MacConnell is just a particularly callow advocate of the old divide-and-rule strategy. Anytime the sectarian dog nods off to sleep, MacConnell steps up and gives it a kick. There must be a focus group somewhere telling him that it works. In Ireland the unionists called it ‘playing the orange card’. We’ve seen the results there.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Okay, with you now, absolutely right

  18. James Hunter says:

    I’d like to know how much of the hard-core trouble is ‘imported’ so to speak.
    If it’s significant perhaps a control over ticket allocations could be considered? i.e. no allocations to supporters clubs from outside Scotland.

    I know we have our own home-grown brand of tribalism but at least we’ll know our tax is spent cleaning up our own mess.

    Just a germ of an idea.

    1. Observer says:

      It’s the home grown brand of tribalism that would attract the incomers (& it does) that is the issue.

      The tribalism that besets Rangers & Celtic is poisonous – it’s the poison that needs to be lanced. Unless we can get behind the psychology that actually means that the football team you support is a badge of who you are in all too many cases then it will just go on forever – feeding off each other.

    2. bellacaledonia says:

      Yeah – though well-behaved fans from afar would be punished. I’m never convinced that either the clubs or the police have seriously tried to enforce prosecution for sectarian behaviour, but this is partly because of the weak equivocation from the SPL and SFA only occasionaly punctured by a European intervention where they dont have the same culture of complacency.

      1. Observer says:

        We can’t afford complacency any more. That’s official.

        This is all driven by police cuts & actually by getting a new boss from the Met of all places.

        Stephen House just isn’t going to piss away enormous amounts of money from his budget to police old firm games & orange walks when he has so many other problems at his door.

        He is banging on doors very loudly & good on him.

  19. MacNaughton says:

    Ban Old Firm matches for at least one season, preferrably three or four seasons…the fight against sectarianism is almost totally futile as long as Celtic – Rangers games are still being played. You need a hiatus. There is no way you can reform this fixture without the prospect of a future ban if it all starts up again. The ban should start now in my opinion.

    These days, with live TV, 24/7 media attention, the Old Firm are no longer a by-product of sectarianism – as they once were – they are the source of it. There is nothing out there in society with the same profile as an Old Firm match to remind everybody about “them” and “us”., to perpetuate mindless machoism, violence, and wha’s like us…the peace process in Ireland puts Celtic and Rangers on centre stage. We need our own peace process in Scotland – of a different sort obviously, but this is still sectarian violence.

    How many times have we been here? Scottish football has consistently failed to take this issue seriously – because there are so many people complicit with the Old Firm, so many who are ambivalent about it. It’s time to take it the matter out of the hands of Scottish football I would say.

    The Spanish newspapers describe Celtic as “El equipo católico” and Rangers as “el equipo protestante”… as a matter of course…what kind of image is that of Scotland and Scottish football? It’s just pathetic, embarrassing, an anacharonism. And neither team is any good these days either…

    1. James Hunter says:

      I’m just back from Lisburn and Belfast and trust me the peace isn’t as rosy as it seems.

      I first went over in 1998 to see a girlfriend and it was way more relaxed than I’d envisioned after watching the horror since my birth in 1969.

      Of course that was just after the Good Friday agreement and there was hope in the air.
      But things are slowly slipping back and with the current recession it’s going to get worse. Lots of events are being hushed by the media for the sake of the peace. It’s a shame our media can’t take note and stop whipping up the fever here too. Maybe a blanket ban on all media coverage on old firm games could be a way forward.

      If you want to know the score ask someone who was there.

      1. James Hunter says:

        Maybe have games re-enacted ala crimewatch and Smith and Lennons voices dubbed by actors

  20. James Hunter says:

    I know our home grown sectarian villages and the odd seaside Ayrshire hotels do provide ‘bolt-holes’ for extremists but surely the prospect of only watching it on a 42″ plasma surrounded by fellow knuckle-draggers would perhaps make them think about about saving the £70 air/ferry fare.

    Okay then,
    How about this for a suggestion for Old firm games?
    Rangers home game to be played at Stamford Bridge, Celtic home game at Aviva Stadium.

  21. ayewecan says:

    Observer – you are close to the mark in saying “This is all driven by police cuts & actually by getting a new boss from the Met of all places”. I’m just kind of wary of this – people with agendas. That is why I’d like to see some stats beyond the spin , a spin all magnified many many times by a willing media.

    As a football match, in terms of 3 sendings off and the half time and full time bust ups, it was pretty unsavory and needs serious looking at. But the in stadium “mayhem” and post match civil strife across Glasgow any beyond? I’d like to see the stats, the charges, the fans involved, the areas involved. No one was killed, was anyone even seriously injured? Who has been charged, and with what? What property was damaged? Then divide it all by the 60,000 at the match and the half million or so actively watching on TV, and what do we actually have here? Edinburgh’s Hogmany?

    I’ve seen seriously football violence – at past old firm games, in Manchester at the UEFA cup final in 2007, in Italy, Serbia you name it – just search “football violence” on YouTube. Last Tuesday’s Old firm match? Did it come close?

    On field bust up (bad, but Ive seen much worse, three or four at this years Six Nations Rugby already) ) – media hype – Plods with an agenda keen to fuel it – politicians jumping in – lobby groups ( often worthwhile ones) jumping in …… Real hard facts, almost zero.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      It being driven by police cuts doesnt mean it either wont happen or shouldnt happpen. Ayewecan i think you underestimate the seriousness of the scale of problems across the city. I will compile for your benefit? This isn’t ‘all made up.’

    2. Observer says:

      You are right – there hasn’t been any more mayhem than there has always been. It’s just that budgets are being cut & we have a guy at the top of Strathclyde’s finest who looks at all this with a fresh eye & thinks it is bonkers.

      To see ourselves as others see us is perhaps a valuable lesson. We just accept this, it’s the way it is. It shouldn’t be the way it is & I support any challenge against that, as long as it is even handed & doesn’t just blame one side of the old firm, which is an agenda in itself.

  22. ayewecan says:

    I’m am sure it aint made up – id just like some stats to put it in perspective. I only half jest when I asked Edinburgh Hogmany = 100,000 on Princess street, another 100,00o boozing round the city. I’d be surprised if there were not 200 or so event related arrests on the night. T in the Park? I am sure an Old firm game is worse than these events, but how much worse? Or a Hibs v Hearts game. once the lower attendance and overall interest levels are factored in. Aberdeen v Dundee Utd?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Much worse, here’s why: http://www.philmacgiollabhain.com/neil-lennon/#more-919

      None of these things you mention have organised paramilitary organisations involved with all the hangers on an headbangers that go with that. I dont think social services and hospitals are in on a conspiracy to overstate the reality of OF impact

  23. Celtic fans are killed every time.

    After the game on wednesday some of the rangers message boards were full of revenge stuff. Celtic message boards were full of “get home safely and don’t get picked off”.

    A very different tone.

    Still, it’s an “old firm problem”

    Insiders say that…and i might be paraphrasing a bit but not much…

    “celtic (as an institution) have a hardcore of about 400 to 700 fans that they would like to get rid of”

    “some of the people that control rangers want to get rid of that element for them too. however, they believe that number is about half of their season ticket holders so it is not financially possible for them to do so”

    still, it is an “old firm problem”

    a retweet from today…

    “Celtic v Rangers, 78% of the arrests made from the away support, representing 12% of attendees. Not an #OldFirm problem, a Rangers problem”

  24. Ok it is the Daily Mail but Celtic manager may quit after latest threat….


    I know the exact area of Glasgow where that was painted. I grew up about 300 metres away from there and it is not an area of glasgow where you have many social problems. People deliberately went there to do that sign.

  25. David MacGille-Mhuire says:

    I would be inclined to ban them both.

  26. Edmond Dantès says:

    Firstly, as someone who only recently discovered this blog, I’d like to compliment you on your hard work and thought provoking articles.

    I too would like to see a proper analysis of the stats, both current and historic. I have a healthy scepticism for people (re Les Gray) who suddenly take on a prominent role in the media, generating a lot of publicity with very limited data. And no, I don’t trust the Scottish media to ask the right questions, to interrogate the data and report it accurately.

    Are we better or worse off now than we have been in the past? What are the trends over the last couple of decades, how does this year compare to last, how much do the ‘normal’ figures spike around these matches, do kick off days/times make an impact, are there particular match events/outcomes that cause the figures to spike more than at other times?

    I have my own theory as to why this season may seem worse (if it actually is), but I have no idea if the figures would support it. Hint: it relates to the link to Phil’s article. And no, it’s not Neil Lennon’s aggressive haircut, playing style, or some such nonsense.

    Not that this means we shouldn’t be doing everything we can to eradicate sectarianism. Just looking for the full context so that we can properly understand/address the issues and direct solutions to the correct areas

    In a broader sense, this is a centuries old problem and there are few quick fixes (unless we go down the draconian route).

    Heavy fines/points deductions (more the latter) would quite quickly lead to an ‘improved’ atmosphere within the grounds – though first of all they would have to define what is and is not acceptable. However, for the SFA/SPL this is the nuclear option. Are they prepared to dock Rangers points? This is the most likely outcome of adopting such a policy.

    Dealing with the problem beyond the confines of the stadium is a different issue altogether. It’s a much longer term solution (if there is to be one) and I think we have to be realistic in what we can expect Celtic and Rangers to be able to achieve.

    For example, Celtic, Rangers, Nil by Mouth have all been operating their own anti bigotry campaigns for quite some time (I believe there is some overlap/cooperation between Celtic and Rangers on this). Do they work? How do we measure them? (again getting back to the police data question) What results can we reasonably expect to see and when?

    If you wished to be unfair, then given this week’s headlines you might conclude that they have produced no real improvement in behaviour and that there’s little merit in putting additional resources towards them.

    As I say, this would be unfair, but I just wanted to make the point that work has been ongoing in this area and I think we need to appreciate that sectarianism and the related crime is part of a wider malaise in our society (even if Celtic and Rangers appear to be the conduits). A malaise that involves religion, education, alcohol, parenting, poverty etc etc – many of the usual factors in anti social behaviour.

    Re. a couple of other points mentioned in your article that relate to each other. You say:

    Finally, and though it seems trivial it’s absolutely necessary to enable all of this, the media needs to stand up and be counted and stop it’s role as a cosy, fawning cheerleader for these clubs. With a few notable exceptions the print and broadcast media has let the Old Firm off with an easy ride.

    There may be examples out there that I have missed, so perhaps you can point me in the direction of some of this media fawning cheerleading towards Celtic? It doesn’t seem to be particularly apparent this season, or come to think of it, any other season that I can remember.

    In fact, I would suggest that the summit should involve senior representatives of the print/broadcast media and they should be reminded of their own role in this; of the responsible positions they hold in society, their obligations to accurately report the facts, that they shouldn’t fall back on lazy/disingenuous/out of date labels, that they should take care not to incite/inflame.

    I agree with point #4 of your plan.

    Lastly, I hope that this most recent threat (in what is becoming a lengthy list) against Neil Lennon receives condemnation which is commensurate with the reaction of the media, parts of our police and some of our parliamentarians to Wednesday’s game.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Thanks for posting Edmond. I agree with you that heavy fines/points are the way. I also agree with you that ‘Dealing with the problem beyond the confines of the stadium is a different issue altogether. It’s a much longer term solution (if there is to be one) and I think we have to be realistic in what we can expect Celtic and Rangers to be able to achieve.’

      On the media I think we’d need to distinguish between the tabloids, other press and broadcast media and then also between commercial and public broadcasters. No doubt the establishment is still centred around RFC but with an ex Cabinet Minister amongst your directors and multi-millionaires keeping the ship afloat CFC are hardly poor souls despite the PR.

      Tabloids will swing one way or other to keep sales up, that’s what they’re about. I don’t believe there is a media conspiracy against Celtic, though I do accept that Lennon has been badly treated.
      I think the tv across Scotland fawns at big football clubs, and that’s partly to do with our attitudes to big business.

  27. David Singj says:

    Let’s ban Friday nights, T in the Park, well anything that costs money to police. As for two football teams being the source of all evil in Scotland. A bit naive. They are a mirror on Scottish society not the driver of it. As for Nil By Mouth, don’t get started ………

  28. bellacaledonia says:

    On media, see Caledonia Mercury here on Graham Speirs, very good:


  29. bellacaledonia says:

    For those wanting stats or – scoffing like David,

    “There is a serious side to this breaching of the peace by thousands of Rangers fans.
    How often is this malevolent voice-choir the warm-up act to serious violence after the match? This week, as a panellist on Clyde 1 Super scoreboard, Graham Spiers related a conversation he had recently with a senior Strathclyde police officer. The copper told Spiers that over the last 20 years there had been “15 to 20 Old Firm-related murders in Glasgow”.

    Will fact-check and get back to you – but how many would be shocked if this was true?

    1. ayewecan says:

      Do get some stats. But 15-20 Old firm related murders in 20 years. Shocking and tragic for those involved, but less than one a year, and I suspect the trend is a diminishing one. (when was the last one?) And how many general gang related murders in the same period. sex related murders, drug related murders, race related ones – or even non old firm related football murders in the same period?. Only with stats such as these can we get a perspective on the Old firm problem. And there is one.

  30. ayewecan says:

    Or indeed, lets ban the Royal Wedding! Think of the police costs, that all day bevying, that provocative unionist imagery.

    Seriously, Id like to see the crime stats on that day and then compare them to those of an average old firm match. I suspect that any occasion when loads of folks are drinking all day in communal areas there is a rise in such stats. I say this not to let the Old firm of the hook but to try and bring some perspective on the problem, or indeed problems.

    Because there is certainly still a problem with sectarianism in this country – though Id contend a much diminishing on due to the secularisation of society and the positive work mentioned in Edmund Dantes post). There is also a very specific problem of the targeting of Northern Ireland born Catholics who play for Celtic by hardcore UDA types, many based in NI. And here – to defend Celtic and even its unsavory provo rump, I know of no equivilent targeting of Northern Ireland protestants playing for Rangers – of whom there are currently many.

    But as Ive said and will say again lets get some hard facts and base our actions on these.

    And as for the “ban the match” call – this strikes me as collective punishment more associated with the Israeli Defence Forces than as serious policy for modern day Scotland. And “play behind closed doors?” Surely this would make the problem worse as the 60,000 hard core supporters headed for the pubs rather than the booze free stadiums?. And given the numbers involved and the passions on display, if you look at the stats the number of arrest at the grounds and incredibly low. In this regard the club’s themseleves , are doing rather well. Light years from the ugly 80s. And the clubs do ban fans vigorously and quickly – life bans for even minor indiscressions being common place. More efficient and effective and sensible targeted than the judicial and political systems which many here seem to be calling upon to “do something”

    Sometimes the state and our political classes cant “do something”, if they do its worse than useless. Remember our political class and system spent the best part of four year deliberating over as modest and sensible a proposal of minimum pricing on alcohol and ended up doing SFA. But we all know access to all day cheap drink is a big cause of Old firm violence – indeed, I’d suggest the biggest.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      I didnt advocate banning anything, but I agree banning the royal wedding is a great idea!

  31. bellacaledonia says:

    As far as the Ugly Sisters go if the footballing authorities seriously want to challenge sectarianism at football grounds then dock them points. Its the only language either understand. This is supposed to be on the statute book but as anyone who has had to endure the jolly song repertiore from the knuckeldragging bigots who masquerade as Glasgow Rangers away support will testify the Scottish football authorities are craven cowards and do SFA.

    There’s little point holding our breath waiting for the Scottish Football authorities to actually do anything. Its a bit like asking the London Met to conduct their own inquiries into the murders of Charles de Mendez or Ian Tomlinson. Same rules apply sadly.

    If England wont take them punt them both to the Norn Ireland league where they’d both be happier.


  32. ayewecan says:

    Lets start a spoof campaign – get folks going! See if we can get the police federations support

  33. ayewecan says:

    On the Royal wedding I mean. – drain on police resources. all day drinking, provocation of the republican minority, billions lost to exports due to public holiday

    It could take off !!!!

  34. James Hunter says:

    A super injunction on all media reporting on Old firm games.

    If only for the reason that it’s just getting so damned boring and predictable.

  35. MacNaughton says:

    What’s the big deal with no playing the fixture for a couple of seasons? The managers can’t behave, the players can’t behave, and there is violence at least every year…something which has been going on for decades….if you banned the game, you’d get an improvement almost for sure.

    There’s an alternative, which is just to stop talking about it every time it happens and just accept low-grade sectarian violence is part of Scottish life….

  36. James Hunter says:

    Scotland is in Groundhog year,

    We wake up every year with Jackie Bird, Eddi Reader, Phil & Ally trudging through their tedious schtick ” And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught, For auld lang syne” ,

    Oh Christ not again … and then it’s shortbread, oatmeal and heroin, domestic abuse, buckfast, green and blue, cooncil sleaze, moan and whinge, till we decide to just get pished again.

    Wha’s like us indeed?

  37. Bratach says:

    Good citizens, “low-grade sectarian viloence” isn’t a feature of Scottish life; it is, in the central belt. The only sectarianism I’ve experienced, in the Highlands, is that imported by former inhabitants of “the belt”. Education, etc. A few questions should be asked of Lord McConnell. He could start by answering, as to why his beloved British state doesn’t allow a catholic, as its head. Dealing with institutionilised sectarianism, would be a good first step toward its eradication.

  38. MacNaughton says:

    Groundhog year? Exactly….it’s like Jimmy Joyce said about Ireland “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake…”

    …it’s the same nightmare, and it goes on and on and on. The SFA and SPL will never do anything about, nor will the clubs. The press love it, the TV stations rub their hands at it, the publicans love it. It’s great business, and as Graeme Spiers said, it is a spectacle. But the again, so was public hanging…. it’s ultimately an ethical question.

    Is a fitba match, any fitba match, worth anybody dying? Nae game is worth the mayhem Celtic and Rangers unleash on the rest of Glasgow four or five times a year.

  39. The main area of contention (of which the Celtic / Rangers paranoia is but a magnifying glass) is the rank corruption at the heart of Glasgow and the West of Scotland’s Tammany Hall politics.

    Why should Rangers or Celtic fans come into the real world where whether you are a ‘Right’ or ‘Left’ fitter is unimportant when the whole of Glasgow’s political machinations are based on such hegemony?

    Lord McConnell of Numtyville is a stirrer, ‘yon birkie ca’d a lord’ only interested in his own back pocket (serial breeches of PPER 2000 that were air brushed over by the Electoral Commission), who is happy to sell his own nation down the river for a fur lined jacket and a further chance to fleece taxpayers with a new expenses scam .

    The problem will not be solved until the corruption and nepotism that is endemic within West of Scotland politics – and especially Labour, the councils direct links with Glasgow’s Organised crime (Strathclyde Police are on record as saying West of Scotland councils are pouring millions of pounds of tax payers money into Glasgow Crime front companies every year) and a serious number of councillors who are organised crime placemen or have direct links to crime families are weeded out this outburst of ill feeling will continue to scar Glasgow and by default – Scotland.

    Glasgow is now only Scotland’s most important city for all that is bad in Scotland; violent knife crime, drugs, poverty, drunkenness, poor health and the rest ….

    Sectarianism is just an outward sign of all that is wrong in Glasgow.

    1. ayewecan says:

      You really do hate prejudice Mad Dog!

      I loath Scottish Labour, which as you say is at its worst in Glasgow. But the originators and perpetrators on sectarianism in the city and beyond do not come from their ranks.

    2. Observer says:

      Goodness me, I didn’t realise that I lived in the Scottish equivalent of Capone’s Chicago. I think you make some good points, but exaggerate just a tad.

  40. Donald Adamson says:

    I’m surprised, given the title of Mike’s piece, that no-one has addressed one of the other glaring issues here, i.e. masculinity. There are female bigots of course, just as there are some male victims of domestic violence, but it’s largely a male issue.

    Like most middle-aged heterosexual Scottish males, I instinctively cringe at the very mention of the term masculinity, it conjures up images of lost souls sitting in a circle confessing their guilt. This instinct is itself part of the problem. We just don’t talk about it, we prefer not to think about it. Not talking about it and not thinking about it means that, as a young Scottish male, you’re on your own son. I’m not advocating the ‘talking cure’ here, though it will take more than some fancy post-Foucauldian footwork to persuade me that there isn’t something to be said for projecting the issue of Scottish masculinity into the public domain. Many of us learn to cope with this silence but, for a variety of reasons, many don’t. Bigotry and systemic violence, whether of the heavy-duty or low-level variety, will happily fill the void.

    Of course, there’s more to it than that. For example, we live in societies where hard-pressed fathers don’t have enough time to talk to and listen to their sons. Do a straw poll with your male friends and relatives (who are fathers) next week. Ask them this question: how much time have you spent this week helping your son with his homework, talking to him about school, his friends, his interests or just listening to him? Even this barely scratches the surface of the problem, a problem that’s much too complex, of course, to be satisfactorily addressed in a blog.

    Most of us who were brought up in central Scotland all have our stories to tell about our experiences of anti-Catholicism or anti-Protestantism. Those of us brought up in ‘mixed’ religious families could add many a twist to this familiar tale. As a child I can remember my Catholic mother, one beautiful summer evening, having to scramble out of the bathroom window to get to chapel because my Protestant father had locked all the doors and windows in the house to prevent her going – in an unguarded moment he’d forgotten that the bathroom window was the only window in the house that didn’t have a lock.

    At the risk of over-simplification and without claiming any ‘scientific’ evidence for this, in my experience there are three broad categories of religious bigot.

    Category one is the hard-core bigot. He’s the most intractable case, the one least likely to be rehabilitated. He’s consumed with hatred, a hatred which may seem ‘irrational’ to an outsider but he will take his hatred to the grave nevertheless. He’s the one who will disseminate much of the bigotry to the other categories which is why he is such a problem and why we need to find ways to minimise his pernicious influence.

    The second broad category is the situational bigot. He may have a predisposition to bigotry (if it wasn’t religion it would be something else). Whether he does or doesn’t have this predisposition, he will exercise his bigotry in certain situations like, for example, when Celtic play Rangers or when the Pope/Queen visits or at an Orange march. The intensity of his hatred may, when in these situations, equal that of category one but it feeds on the oxygen of these situations and, away from them, it is less intense and therefore less of a problem, or at least less of a problem than category one.

    The third broad category is the opportunist bigot. This category takes a perverse pleasure out of being associated with the bigotry of the first two categories. It’s as if there’s a kudos to be gained from hearing themselves utter phrases like ‘Ya fenian bastard’ or ‘King Billy wis a poof’. For this category, bigotry isn’t so much pathological (as it is in category one), it’s more a means of self-edification. This category is a problem because it adds weight of numbers to the bigotry of category one, amplifying a relatively small problem into a bigger social problem. At the same time, this category is the one that, in the right conditions, can be weaned off or socialised out of its ‘bigotry’.

    But that takes time and resources. We need to keep educating our young people of course and we need to allocate more resources to that than we currently do. That’s the boring and uninspiring answer but no less true for that. But the real education revolution we need is in adult education. Unfortunately, for that revolution to occur in any meaningful sense, we need a different type of society, a society that values people more than it values the objects they produce.

    Celtic and Rangers and the associated bigotry can be seen as a metaphor for the devalorization of people in our society. Religious bigotry in Scotland existed long before Celtic and Rangers did, of course, and even if it were possible to come up with a ‘solution’ to this problem it would only re-emerge somewhere else. As has been pointed out, this is a social problem and Celtic and Rangers are two (as well as too!) convenient receptacles for religious bigotry. The problem is that, for some time now, this has been systemic and both clubs are seen as being tolerant of bigotry whatever they may say and do in public.

    It would be much too simplistic to attribute this problem solely to the pathology of hatred, low self-esteem, self-edification or even masculinity. It’s all of these things and a lot more and it’s a problem that cuts across different classes. That’s why there’s no simple solution because the causes of the problem are complicated. There’s not much point in looking to the Scottish Parliament for a solution. A parliament that can’t even bring itself to support a modest proposal to increase the price of alcohol isn’t going to come up with a solution to a problem as deeply-embedded as this.

    Mike’s five point plan is not only sensible, it’s enlightened. But there’s the rub. Such an enlightened plan is more likely to be met with inertia or, at best, lip-service, by the vested interests that it targets, because the costs of reproducing their present actions and behaviour are so much less than the costs of adopting this plan, social costs not being part of their calculus.

    One of the things I like about the plan though, is that it’s based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, it underlines the social costs and it makes the ‘polluters’ responsible for them. That’s what needs to happen but we mustn’t believe that this will provide a ‘solution’ to the social problem. Having said that, Celtic and Rangers are, above all, two businesses, the language of profit and loss is the language that they understand. Hit them there and they’ll soon lose their tolerance of the bigots, in private as well as in public, and it may even force many of the opportunistic bigots to reappraise their behaviour as well. That would be a start.

    I haven’t watched an old firm game for almost a decade now because I enjoy football too much. Even if you paid me I wouldn’t watch them. What James Hunter said of the press coverage of old firm football applies to old firm matches as well – “they’re so damned boring and predictable”, the very antithesis of football. I doubt if much has changed in the last ten years. Maybe the SFA, the SPL (excluding you know who) could be persuaded to sponsor an enlightened advertising campaign to back up Mike’s five point plan: ‘Love football, hate Celtic and Rangers’.

    1. Observer says:

      Just to address one aspect of your post -women are just as likely to buy in to the tribal attachment as men are, if they are perhaps less likely to chib someone. Although not always.

      It’s the tribal attachment that I think is the problem. Mainly I think that we need to make people feel stupid for having that.

  41. Donald Adamson says:


    Capone’s Chicago? Not quite. But I thought that I was playing down some of the issues! Surely you must have encountered, if not first-hand then at least indirectly, a lot worse than this?

    I agree that women can be as tribal as men, I did imply this, but one of my points was that it’s largely, though obviously not exclusively, a male phenomenon. Having said that, I think that recourse to tribalism is a wee bit lazy (no offence), it’s a description rather than an explanation. Tribalism doesn’t really help us to explain domestic violence, to take one obvious example, but I’m not sure that it’s particularly helpful even with more ostensibly obvious examples like gang culture or collective demonstrations of bigotry or even political affiliation. People, particularly males, join and remain in gangs for all kinds of reasons of which tribal attachment may be one.

    The main issue I was trying to raise was related to masculinity, particularly heterosexual masculinity. This isn’t just a Scottish issue of course, but my understanding of it is largely based on Scottish experience and, given the context of Mike’s piece, it was that I was responding to. Incidentally, I would re-title the piece to ‘Mad Men’ as I think the bigger problem to be addressed is to try to understand the connections between heterosexual masculinity, misogyny, aggression and a heightened capacity to hate others.

    As for making people “feel stupid”, I know what you mean, though I wouldn’t put it like that myself (some might take you literally and that wouldn’t be clever). But I’m afraid I disagree with you. I mean, if that’s all that was needed Mike would have been better to have kept his powder dry and so, for that matter, would everyone else on this thread.

  42. Gerry Hassan has a concise take on Scotland’s perrenial problem.


  43. Donald Adamson says:

    Mark MacLachlan,

    Many thanks for the link. This is really interesting, in fact, it’s getting more interesting. I agree with much of what Gerry Hassan says – brilliant demolition of the nonsense from the Guardian’s Kevin McKenna, among other things, illustrating, yet again, that the Guardian is still light years away from ‘getting’ Scotland. Long may it continue I say, it’s a constant source of cheap entertainment.

    It looks like we can now add a points deduction to the mix of proposals but I also think that Gerry is on to something with UEFA’s role. For that to happen though, there has to be more of a clamour (maybe a coordinated campaign, any takers?) within Scotland. The only downside though, as far as I’m concerned anyway, is that if (joy of joys!) Celtic and Rangers were booted out of Europe, the way things are going this season, that would mean Hearts playing in the Champions League, oops – mind you, Hibs are on a roll right now!

    Realistically though, who’s going to be the first to bite the hand that feeds? That’s one of the reasons why the Scottish ‘authorities’ (including the Scottish government) can’t be entrusted with the responsibility of sorting this out. They all have a vested interest in keeping the Old Firm on its perch. This is something that’s going to have to be done by fans and Scottish society (maybe this could be the start of our bottom-up blue revolution – the long march to independence).

    I hope that the issue of Scottish masculinity stays on the agenda, as Gerry Hassan concludes:

    “And let’s start talking – as Scottish men – about the problems some Scottish men pose to all of our society”.

    Reading Mike’s and Gerry’s excellent articles suggests to me that maybe it’s time to deploy Hegel’s Owl of Minerva gambit to the Old Firm:


    Now if only Alex Salmond had hard copies of Mike’s and Gerry’s articles on his desk this week…

  44. ayewecan says:

    Donald – the Old Firm being booted out of Europe? For what? You not liking them?

    And the Guardian “not getting” Scotland. Do you get football at all? Hotspots for football related violence? – near all the previous soviet block, countries former Yugoslavia and Italy. Just google it. Scotland is barely on UEFA’s radar. Celtic fans won UEFA’s fair play award in 2004 and the club’s record home and away in Europe is exemplary. Rangers less so, but still a trouble making minnow in European terms

  45. bellacaledonia says:

    Ayewecan, just a quick factcheck, Scotland and Rangers are on radar. After Manchester they would have to be, and were fined in 2009, 2007 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/r/rangers/6564745.stm) and 2006 (http://news.scotsman.com/footballhooligans/Rangers-warn-fans-as-UEFA.2778484.jp): http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11945_5691487,00.html

    I’m sure someone else will give the full horrendous history of Rangers in Europe, but that’s for starters.

  46. DougtheDug says:

    The terms sectarianism and bigotry to describe the conflict between the Old Firm fans is to pussyfoot over the problem which is more political conflict than religious. I doubt that many are regular church goers on either side and despite the Old Firm being called things like Scotland’s shame the conflict is rooted very much in Glasgow where both nationalist and unionist immigrants arrived from Northern Ireland in the late 18th and early 19th century and kicked the whole thing off.

    What we’ve got with the Old Firm is a replay of the conflict in Northern Ireland between the nationalists and the unionists not catholics and protestants. Celtic supporters wave Tri-colours and Rangers fans wave Union Jacks just like in Belfast. The traditions, loyalties and songs of both teams are rooted in Northern Ireland but Scotland is left to pick up the pieces and both these clubs would fit more naturally into Northern Ireland than Scotland.

    The five points are good as a starting point but I don’t think the Old Firm problems will ever be truly sorted until the conflict in Northern Ireland is sorted because both issues are linked at the hip. Making the Clubs pay for any extra policing costs both inside and outside the ground on match days and also charging them for any NHS costs would be a good starting point. Both clubs have built up massive fan bases over the years because they are associated with the conflict in Northern Ireland not despite it and to put it quite bluntly they haven’t suffered financially for having a cause to attract supporters. However both are businesses and nothing works like red ink on the balance sheet.

  47. Donald Adamson says:


    I’ll admit to not liking Celtic and Rangers and to that dislike being long-standing (for personal and football reasons), but if you think that’s the reason I’d like to see them out of Europe for a while you’re mistaken.

    I’m not convinced by the line that you seem to be taking on this. Things are much worse in Italy and Eastern Europe (you can add Latin America to that list, particularly Argentina) therefore, let’s keep a sense of perspective on this, after all the statistics don’t lie. There are a number of reasons why I’m a wee bit sceptical of this argument, here are just a few.

    First, I don’t know what the data on these other countries is but have you done a comparison on per capita terms? Given that most of these countries have significantly larger populations than Scotland you’d need to provide this data to persuade anyone that the Old Firm are “minnows” in European terms.

    Second, while I agree with the argument that you’ve been consistently putting, that we need more data on the Old Firm, we also need to exercise caution with this data. As you know, the data that is provided is based on those incidents that are reported. By definition, we never hear about the unreported incidents. As I’m sure you also know, there are various reasons why people won’t report incidents, e.g. they have their own reasons for not involving the police or they don’t trust/have faith in the police, or, in the case of domestic violence, many women fear recrimination or, again, they don’t have faith in the police. I’m not putting a ‘tip of the iceberg’ argument here (with reference to the reported data), I’m just suggesting that the reported incidents won’t necessarily tell the whole story and that we need to bear this in mind before citing any data.

    Third, the argument that things aren’t as bad in Scotland as they are in the former Soviet block or Argentina is hardly a ringing endorsement of Scotland is it? How about comparing Scotland to Sweden or Belgium or Austria, wouldn’t they provide more appropriate comparisons?

    Fourth, your argument strikes me as an example of the “special pleading” for the Old Firm that Gerry Hasssan referred to in his piece. You may disagree with him, I appreciate that, but I do find his arguments convincing.

    But there’s a much more important reason why I’m sceptical of your argument. It tells us nothing about the social, not to mention the economic costs of Old Firmitis. Not just the costs of crowd control, police time dealing with incidents, the costs to the NHS, the damage to persons and property but the numerous other ‘externalities’ that spill over into society. Here, I’ll give the Guardian its due:


    As for me not “getting football”, I’m not claiming any expertise or specialist knowledge. I hope that one thing that we can agree on is that no-one has a monopoly of wisdom on this issue. I did play the game for almost thirty years, albeit at amateur as well as recreational levels, I was a tasty attacking midfield player if you’re asking. I’ve also been watching the game at various levels for the best part of forty-five years, both through the turnstile as well as on TV, including top-flight football in Scotland and England. And as a teenager I was what used to be called a ‘football hooligan’, and that entailed, among other things, a number of run-ins with both Celtic and Rangers fans, particularly the latter, but that has nothing to do with my dislike of the Old Firm.

  48. ayewecan says:


    Sorry for challenging your football credentials which sound much more credible than my own Thanks also for the link to the Guardian article, which is extensive and quite fair I think.

    My own football supprting history is that My father was a Rangers supporter and it was going there as 10 year old that put me off them – then the bigotry was toxic – ths was the early 70s . Indeed the turning point for me was when Ranger showed Alex Feguson the door – no reason given, but pretty certainly because he married a catholic. A few year later, living in Paisley I started actively following St Mirren under Fergie, home and away and saw a fair bit of violence. Worst places to visit for me? Tyncastle, Greenock and Ayr, but near everywhere the threat of violence was never far away , Re St Mirren against Old firm matches, I encountered very little hassle – good segregation I suppose, But I alsways sensed a qualitively better atmosphere at Celtic Park and in pubs in and around the ground I dared to venture on occasions. Rangers always scary and threatening I found, just distasteful More recently workwise I was invited on several occassions to top end hospitality boxes at Ibrox on quite a few occasions and here I developed an even greater dislike of Rangers as I witnessed first hand the prejudices and bile of the well healed Ranger fan close up. These were no 17 year old neds who knew no better. Celtic park, I had no such problems. Close up most folks – on the terraces or in the boxes were all quite friendly, football rivalries aside. I began to like Celtic fans as a whole, though they too have their hard core trouble makers, (ironically not the hard core provo types, who tend to steer clear of any thuggery!)

    This is why I have grown to appreciate, that whilst there is an Old firm problem, its mainly a Rangers driven one. Celtic’s main problem is they are Ranger main rival , share the same city and are perceived as catholic by Ranger supporting bigots. Rangers fans seem to have loads of problems with lots of folk from Aberdeen to Barcelona. The only team they seem to have an affinity with is Chelsea – enough said.

    I wander, but however bad Ranger remain, they are unreconnisably better that the 1970s when I first encounteed them. I just dont get the “we have reached breaking point” perspective of folks on the left like Mike and Gerry with whom I usually agree.
    Hibs and Dundee Utd, I think they support .

    Is this my blind spot, not their’s? I obviously don’t think so. Its a big world out there and Rangers and Celtic are two huge teams for a country the size of Scotland. I largely regard what we have now is just occupational hazard. It really ain’t that bad – there trouble becuse both sets of fans care, play each other too often in crunch matches. A nd of course there are lots of them. 200 – 300 arrests on a match day, most never charged, given the numbers involved just ain’t a crisis, ain’t even close. And I suspect its not far off the same folks arrested very game

    The big new differnce from the 70s, is not the institutions or the ticket paying fans, but the all day drinking culture that has developed , particularly around events. And football wise Old firm matches are the event, now they are all shown live on TV – and at times to suit the pubs and Sky TV. This does need seriously looking at.

    And its the all day drinking that fuels domestic abuse. But that is about where the link starts and ends I suspect. The deep and often very disturbing reasons men abuse their own partners and families I think have near nothing to do with the team they support or sports they follow.

  49. Donald Adamson says:


    You demonstrate something that I referred to earlier, those of us brought up in central Scotland all have our (interesting) stories to tell. Maybe this is one way to respond to Gerry’s appeal in the conclusion to his article? We should tell our stories. It occurs to me that something else you’ve added to the mix here is the east-west division, including a critical difference in perspective.

    As for credentialism, as someone once said (it might have been me!), credentialism, in all its forms, is the equivalent of watching neanderthal males compare the size of their genitals. I don’t read football blogs as a rule, as I have this vision of their authors having a convenient (six inch) ruler to hand! Having said that, I do like Wyn Grant’s blog (he provides some useful stats, among other things). I discovered him initially through the route of political economy and stumbled upon his football blog. He provides some interesting summary data on Rangers – check out the decline in staff numbers and the corresponding decline in wages as a proportion of turnover up to 2007-08 compared to the heady days of the early noughties:


    My own perspective on the Old Firm has been blighted by an irreconcilable family division in history – a paternal grandfather who fought for the British (Gordon Highlanders) round about the same time as a (maternal) great uncle was fighting for the IRA, in the days when they were a “real army” as he used to say. That, too, is a story that many Scots could tell but, inevitably, it has been transmitted through the generations. My father and many in his family were die-hard Rangers fans and many of my mother’s family were die-hard Celtic fans. Still, although I didn’t take on my father’s Scottish football affiliation (I’m a Hibs supporter) I’m eternally grateful to him for imparting to me a soft spot for Spurs – now that’s how football should be played. Like many working class Scots he followed the work to England and, when he worked in London, his Saturdays were taken care of by spending the afternoon at White Hart Lane and the night at White City – now the home of the BBC, proving that the BBC literally has gone to the dogs (ho-ho)!

    I agree with you that Rangers fans or, let’s reaffirm you and Gerry Hassan’s important qualification, “some” Rangers fans, seem to have a greater capacity to hate than some Celtic fans. It’s not that the latter lack this capacity, clearly they don’t, but I think that there’s something in the nature of Protestantism as well as Loyalism (and even unionism) that’s intrinsically defensive and introspective, fertile territory for latent aggression. I’m reminded here of one of the most chilling passages in Max Weber’s classic, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Describing the effects of the austerity of Calvin’s doctrine of predestination, the Reformation (Calvinist) Protestant, stripped of the psychological supports of the sacraments, the confession, the priest etc, must have endured,

    “… a feeling of unprecedented inner loneliness of the single individual. In what was for the man of the age of the Reformation the most important thing in his life, eternal salvation, he was forced to follow his path alone, to meet a destiny which had been decreed for him from eternity. No one could help him. No priest…No sacraments…No church…Finally, even no God…”

    Of course, we must be careful, as Weber was, not to casually conflate a protestant sect with (more moderate) Protestantism or, for that matter, idealise Catholicism, as Weber’s critics still point out to this day. Nor should we overstate the residual influence of this on the ideology of Protestantism but, arguably, its psychological traces are still discernible, and not only in the work ethic.

    Blind spots or different perspectives? I’d say the latter. Isn’t this one of the many things that’s so fascinating about football itself? Everyone has their own opinion, and there’s very rarely any single ‘correct’ answer to any of the questions that we ask of the game and its participants. Tiresome for non-football fans but enthralling for the rest of us. The issue you raise – you do ask a lot of searching questions! – is important though.

    Obviously, I’m on the side of Mike and Gerry on this issue. I can’t agree with you that it’s an “occupational hazard”, though I accept that maybe I’m not the most impartial voice here. But I think it’s a lot deeper and more serious than that. We’re not talking about the equivalent of two daft laddies having a rammy, which is how some people prefer to depict it. We’re talking about how we’re coping with the curse of history as well as geographical proximity to Ireland (as Dougthedug rightly draws to our attention), and yes, as you rightly point out, we’re also talking about our relationship to alcohol, our treatment of women, and, sorry to keep banging on about this, Scottish masculinity, among other things.

    Short of recommending that every Scottish male loses himself in the thoughtful works of Jeffrey Weeks (I don’t think that would catch on somehow), if there’s one ‘national conversation’ we need to have, it’s on this. On the issue of the Old Firm, never mind the high-heid yins summit, what about a people’s summit? Or is that what we’re doing here and elsewhere already?

    Thanks for the link to Kenneth Roy. I like his pithy gravitas on this (and other issues). He’s right of course, in that Scottish football managers do have this ability (is it unique?) to show compassion and cruelty. Remember Tommy Docherty’s response to Jock Wallace, when the latter was foolish enough to query Martin Buchan’s selection for Scotland over Tom Forsythe: “You don’t compare a carthorse to a thoroughbred”. We need more thoroughbreds in Scottish football. Look at the outstanding overseas players that Celtic alone have lost to the English Premier League in the last decade. But this is the nature of the modern game, big fish feed on small fish and Murdoch counts the cash. The Old Firm steal Hibs’s and other clubs’ best players and the English Premier League cherry picks from the SPL. I’m fed up with the Old Firm but I’m fed up too with watching Scotland’s international players charging around a football pitch not knowing what to do with the ball when they’ve won it – all passion and no nous. Having said that, I’ll be at the Emirates on March 27th (it’s my birthday). But my thoughts will be with my son, who’ll be sitting next to me. He’s about to enjoy the privilege, as I once enjoyed, of seeing Brazil in the flesh for the first time.

    As ever for us Scots, in so many areas of our lives, but especially fitba, hope springs eternal.

    Mark MacLachlan: brilliance, pure brilliance.

    1. Thanks Donald. It appears we also share a birthday.

  50. Vronsky says:

    Nothing new under the sun. AD 59, Pompeii. Tacitus recounts how fighting broke out between rival fans, Pompeii and Nocera, at gladiatorial games.
    ‘During an exchange of taunts -characteristic of these disorderly country towns – abuse led to stone throwing, and then swords were drawn.’
    Many were killed and injured (there’s a painting of it, it looks as if the gladiatorial games were continuing outside the Amphitheatre ), the Nocerans came off worst and went to Rome to complain. Result: such games banned in Pompeii for ten years and the ringleaders sent into exile.

    1. ayewecan says:

      Nothing can beat that swift Roman justice!

      And it seamed to work……….didn’t it?

  51. Donald Adamson says:

    Nice one Vronsky!

    I wonder also if we might not learn something from rugby, both rugby league and particularly union. Unfortunately, because not many (state) schools have playing fields it’s not practical to propose that our kids take up rugby as well as football and that would require a huge cultural shift anyway. In the ideal world, the next Scottish government could get together with the SRU and other rugby organisations and introduce a national programme to reclaim land for our schools and introduce a rugby programme into state schools.

    I say this for a number of reasons. My own son, who loves football and can play a bit, like other boys – and it was always boys – got involved in arguments and fights at primary school over football. When they weren’t arguing or fighting on the pitch they were arguing or fighting about football at playtime, on the way to the classroom or on the way home, not every single day of course but it would happen quite regularly. He’s lucky to be at a state secondary school that plays rugby and although he loves football, he’s also taken up rugby recently and the difference in the behaviour of the same kids is astonishing. They still have their arguments of course but they seem less intense and involved.

    Like most primary schools, there were few male teachers and I got the impression, along with some other dads, that girls always seemed to receive preferential treatment at primary school. The other thing that struck us was how young many of the primary teachers were and how so few of them had kids of their own. At his secondary school however, the gender ratio of teachers is closer to 50-50, the average age of teachers is older than at primary, more of them have their own kids, and I think this might be something else to add to the mix, particularly for those boys who, for various reasons, aren’t getting a lot of support at home.

    Back to rugby though. Rugby is a much more physical game than football of course, and most football players wouldn’t last long on a rugby pitch. It always amazes me to compare the behaviour of a six foot nine, nineteen stone rugby player with the Napoleon complex of a typical short-arsed football player. There is more money in professional football, more at stake, more to lose and a broader base of support, but I think that there’s also something different in the nature of the games that is reflected in the players’ (and fans’) behaviour. There’ll be over 80,000 rugby fans at Twickenham this Sunday to watch Scotland play England, and several million more watching it on TV, let’s see how many arrests there are.

    Much as I love football, tactically, rugby is a much more interesting game than football and places a different and more varied mix of responsibilities on the players. Professional rugby players do cheat of course and fights break out on the pitch but, rarely, is this repeated off the pitch by the fans. It’s true that rugby union, though not rugby league, has a legacy of being an (upper) middle class game – played by and for the (upper) middle class – but I think that that’s less true today than it’s ever been before. Having said that, the working class hasn’t colonised rugby union to the same extent that the middle class has colonised football.

    Oh, and rugby has the sin bin, a meaningful fourth official and real-time video referrals. The quicker these are introduced into professional football the better. It might also help if our national team weren’t consistently competing with Italy for the wooden spoon in the Six Nations but I think Andy Robinson, among others, is making genuine progress there. Again, hope springs eternal.

  52. MacNaughton says:

    Vtonksy – check out the Blues and the Greens chariot racing teams in the Nika riots in Constantinople which gets a mention in Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”


  53. Vronsky says:

    Anent rugby – my own son was interested in football and played for a wee local team. I went along to watch and was horrified. The kids were about eleven years old but the atmosphere was horribly intense. Substitutes (like my son) simply didn’t get a game – they were changed into their kit but left shivering on the touchline for the duration of the match, unless there were enough injuries that they had to be brought on to make up the numbers. I took him down to the rugby club where every kid gets to play at least a bit of every game, and that was that. He’s still playing. Does something go wrong early in football?

    @MacNaughton: thanks for the Nika link – fascinating.

  54. Indy says:

    If i could just interject one point on Catholic schools. Catholic schools in Scotland are part of the comprehensive system. There seems to be an assumption that if you “abolish” Catholic schools they will cease to exist. I suggest that is not the case. What we would achieve would be to remove Catholic schools from the comprehensive system. We would not remove Catholic schools as many of them would simply become private. Would that really be such a good thing?

  55. Thanks for finally writing about > Bella Caledonia from the hills to the hood < Loved it!

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