If you haven’t been following the story lately, there are growing concerns about the behaviour of a segment of the Hearts support, one that is becoming increasingly sectarian and right wing. It didn’t start at the beginning of this campaign with footage of them singing bigoted songs, but that was the moment it blipped on the radar outside of Edinburgh.
Shockingly, the issue was dismissed by a journalist who instead of confronting it preferred to take a shot at Celtic and Sevco fans and branded sectarianism a “West of Scotland problem.” I wonder how he feels about it now, because since then a number of high profile incidents has revealed that it’s bigger than that. Much bigger.
The recent Edinburgh derby was played out in an atmosphere that the word “poisonous” barely does justice to, and Lennon was subjected to a torrent of bile even before being hit by a coin.
Throughout all of it, Hearts fans sang songs that the crazier section of the Sevco support would have found very familiar, and of course video footage from earlier in the season proves that this is not an isolated incident.
But even more worryingly, there are now pictures of a Hearts supporters club chanting the name of an EDL goon whilst wearing masks of his face.
(Is it just me who actually shudders at the thought and the mentality of anyone who would do such a thing? This guy is a national embarrassment, and they treat him like a folk hero. If you’re raking through the gutter for people to admire you have issues, big ones.)
The Scotsman has tried hard to play this down as a minor matter – talking about he attended an Airdrie game and has pledged allegiance to Ibrox – but this is typical of the East Coast media pretending there are no problems out their way.
The truth is, there is a real one and it is getting worse instead of better.
Crucially though, there is one key difference in the way Hearts fans as a whole have reacted and the way the Sevco fans do whenever their supporters are embroiled in a scandal.
Over the Remembrance weekend, even as they were crowing about how staunch they are, Sevco fans had a banner called Motherwell fans “grasses” because a handful of them gave evidence in a court case against a Union Bears hooligan who drove his car at a group of their supporters.
They have been raising money for this guy behind the scenes for months.
The section of the Sevco support which is prone to violence and consumed by hate are not generally confronted by the majority of the fan-base. But there are Hearts fans, including one online group, who are grievously concerned about what’s going on in their support and they are determined to drive it out of the Tynecastle stands.
And for that they should be applauded, and all of Scottish football should be lending them their backing.
They know this is the last sort of element they want taking root. They have tried hard to get the Edinburgh based media interested in it, but they are clearly not taking the problem terribly seriously. The club itself is frantic with worry though, as you might expect, and they too want this dealt with.
Another difference between them and the Ibrox club.
The far-right has a foothold in football south of the border.
Scottish fans need to be well aware of the danger here.
Clubs like Hearts and Sevco – which pride themselves on honouring the war dead and “supporting the troops” – should want miles between them and the sort of people whose version of “British values” has more in common with Oswald Mosley than with Winston Churchill.
You can’t support one and the other.
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