There has been a lot of focus over the past week – actually, over the past few days – about sectarianism in Scottish football. It’s a subject close to my heart and the hearts of everyone who reads this blog. The writing team has talked about it often enough. There’s nothing like being on the end of vile comments expressing doubts about your parentage or hearing people sing about being up to their knees in your blood to give you an appreciation of the finer points.
There are people who’s exposure to this is limited to hearing things on the telly that they don’t like; you have to live it to get it and I wonder if half of our commentariat knows the first thing they are talking about when it comes to these matters.
I know, because I’ve been there. I have friends who’ve been assaulted, a couple who’ve been stabbed, I know people close to folk who’ve been murdered. Nobody needs to tell me what sectarianism is because I’ve seen it close up. I’ve had it right in my face.
So, if Scottish football is seriously going to take this issue on, then those responsible have a friend in this site and allies in the wider Celtic support. It is long overdue. There have been times in the past few years when it’s felt like we were talking to a brick wall trying to get people to do something about this. Action is to be applauded, if it’s meaningful.
But see, I doubt very much that anybody is serious about this. I think people talk a good game, but the idea of actually taking action scares the Hell out of them. There’s also a problem with a lot of the inherent contradictions in the debate, and for want of “balance” nobody is prepared to take those on either.
For example, media hacks who decry The Boys of The Old Brigade would have no problem at all singing The Flower Of Scotland.
It depends which company you’re in whether you find both offensive or pick one to suit yourself.
I personally have no problem with either, or the Ibrox dirge about Derry’s Walls. I couldn’t care less about any of the political songs; the day we start worrying about those we’ll be banning half the national anthems during internationals.
So any attempt to equate those songs with sectarianism simply cannot be treated with anything other than contempt. Furthermore, if we adopt so-called “zero tolerance” policies towards political songs as well as sectarian ones then that leaves an awful lot of ground that we’re not covering and which we probably should be.
Do we allow paedophile chants? Is it okay to sing about songs wishing death on people?
Because that’s been in the news today and the shameful hypocrisy of the media focussing on a handful of guys in a pub when vile songs about the Lisbon Lions and Jay Beatty and other major figures in Celtic have been getting belted out on a regular basis all the way through the season.
UEFA fined Celtic for a fan banner that expressed a sentiment about them which they didn’t like; the Ibrox fans sang the same thing about the SFA even as a linesman was being treated for a head-wound courtesy of some in the ranks. Will that be an offence which merits a points deduction or just one that results in a fine? Isn’t it simply an exercise in free speech? Should Scottish football really be trying to regulate that? Is that the business it’s in?
What about songs which slag rival players? For being too fat, too slow, too old or just plain crap? Are we still allowed to sing those, or is every little snowflake going to protected until all you can do at the football is meekly applaud when your team scores a goal?
All this under the rubric of “tackling sectarianism.”
And where does sectarianism come from in the first place? It’s certainly not football stadiums, as it can be found in workplaces up and down the land. And whatever some people think, it doesn’t come from the schools either.
Here’s a fact to which there’s no argument; you don’t find sectarian abuse being shouted across Catholic school playgrounds, and hating others isn’t part of the curriculum.
The schools exist because, and again this is something people tend to forget, we live in a theocratic state at the head of which is the Church of England.
In short, when you put your gun down – abolish the monarchy, the crown, end the “supremacy” of the church and its Scottish offshoot and stop its adherents turning our streets into Halloween every July – then I’ll put down mine.
Until then, you don’t get to lecture Catholic parents for making that choice, and you certainly don’t get to remove that choice from them.
The simple fact, as I’ve repeated over and over again, is that certain songs are already criminal, certain acts are against the law, and football regulations already exist to tackle both of those things whenever they rear their heads in the grounds.
We do not need a new law or new rules to deal with them; if the SFA grows a set we can start putting these things to bed right now.
So yes, Celtic fans are delighted that these issues are finally being taken seriously and finally faced up to. We’re happy to support any measure that removes the bile that’s in the stands … but no such measure is being proposed, nor is one ever likely to be, because the people who’d be responsible for enforcing it have the power to put a stop to all this already and they haven’t bothered their backsides to even try. My view is that they never will.
Songs of hate are very easy to identify. They always have been. But hate has been allowed to become the mood music of the game here, and one of the groups most responsible for that is the media that continually feeds the beast, that continually stirs the soup.
You want to know what measure Celtic fans proposed, years ago, that would have ended much of this and restored some sanity? Ditch the Old Firm tag. Stop using it. Stop trying to bind the two clubs together; they are nothing alike and should be treated as separate.
It confuses and complicates an issue which is really quite simple.
This is long overdue, and would do more good in a generation than all the stupid summits and lectures and rule changes … all this referring to it as the “world’s greatest rivalry” … it doesn’t impress anyone outside of Scotland, it doesn’t convince anyone but those already sold on it.
Even if one half of it wasn’t already dead and gone, it’s a ridiculous model to build the game around because the only selling point that rivalry ever had was hate and everybody knows it and Celtic fans have long lamented it.
As long as the media continues to promote it I will not, I cannot, take them seriously either when they drone on and on about wanting an end to the poison.
They sound hypocritical at best.
A measure of how earnestly they’re committed to doing their part was broadcast on the telly last night, over at STV; they wheeled Craig Brown out to lecture us on the matter. Yes, the same Craig Brown who whilst Scotland manager was taped singing sectarian songs down a phone to his bird and who the media defended and who the SFA let keep his job.
Perhaps what I’m trying to say is that we’ll take this seriously when they start to.
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