Yesterday, as some of you know, I wrote emails to a number of elected officials and to Show Racism The Red Card Scotland in relation to the sectarian and racist incident at Ibrox, which involved either one of their players or an official from the club.
I got a response from one of them which I have to say beggars belief.
The sender of this email tried to say all the right things, but he made a number of statements which took my breath away and which sum up the problem here in simple terms and enhances a point I made during the Kamara matter.
I will tell you that the parliamentarian in question represents the Scottish Government.
That’s all I’m willing to say.
But if anyone from the other major parties thinks they can capitalise on this I want to point out that this guy, at least, got back to me … I’ve heard the sum total of nil from the rest, or from “Scotland’s leading anti-racism charity.”
He gets anonymity because he had the good grace to do what the rest of them didn’t bother to.
Respect to him for that anyway, but on the main points he is absolutely wrong.
As far as my praise goes, that’s as good as it’s going to get I’m afraid.
This is a slightly redacted version of the email; I mentioned a couple of personal things in the early part of it and he responded on those before moving onto the main stuff.
“I am afraid I was not aware of this example of sectarian, racist, or similar behaviour,” he wrote, which is hardly surprising as not one mainstream outlet has bothered to highlight it. “Sadly it is all too common and in many ways it is probably more frequent than black-white racism. Perhaps that is why it does not always get the coverage it deserves.”
The whole point of my emailing this guy was to assure that it does get the coverage that it deserves; one major voice speaking out against this would have guaranteed it the coverage which everyone has gone out of their way to deny it.
“If a player was the subject of racism, be that anti-Irish, anti-black or whatever, then I would expect that the player and his club to be making a complaint to the football authorities. These authorities have the power to take action as they did with the Slavia Prague incident – even if the penalties did not seem to be very severe. They can also go to the police.”
That’s a good point, and the police actually don’t need a complaint from the individuals being abused; any member of the public can submit that complaint, and this offers up a possible avenue to explore later on.
“Another angle to this is the question of strict liability, whereby clubs are held responsible for the behaviour of their players, fans, and everyone else linked to them. Clearly fans are fairly limited in number just now but this is an issue we need to deal with. I understand that so far the clubs in Scotland have resisted strict liability even though it is in place for European competitions.”
This has got damn all to do with strict liability.
That’s a proposed regulation that would punish clubs for the behaviour of fans and there are numerous problems with the version of strict liability he’s talking about.
There are clubs which don’t support it because if it was properly applied they would never be out of trouble and others who don’t support it because they know it would never be properly applied, fairly and across the board.
But so far, all the right stuff. The next part is where it wildly veers in the wrong direction.
“I am certainly willing to condemn all forms of racism whether linked to football or anywhere else. However, what I will not do is take sides between Rangers and Celtic. Both have a hard-line support who go beyond the bounds of reasonableness but which the two clubs do little to curb. They claim these supporters give the stadia atmosphere and I assume they also benefit from the money coming into the clubs from these fans.”
Let’s start from the obvious bit; this incident took place in a stadium where there were no fans present.
Which is how we can say, with total certainty, that it was not a supporter who did it but someone from one of the two clubs in the game.
This is a glaring attempt to circumvent the actual subject and the actual issue at hand by resorting to the reeking standby that this is an example of “two sides of the same coin.”
But this incident had damn all to do with Celtic; we weren’t there, we weren’t one of the teams in the game.
To try to use that as an excuse not to comment on this particular incident is not just wrong, it is cowardly and disgusting and something the writer of that paragraph should be ashamed of.
And since when is this about “taking sides”?
When people do something that crosses the line condemn them.
All of them. Whoever they are. Whatever badge they claim to represent or colours they wear.
This is the excuse people have hidden behind for years; “we can’t condemn this because that means taking the other side.”
There is no other side … this is not about “Rangers-Celtic” as he puts it.
This is about what’s right and what’s wrong and to hide behind “I don’t want to take sides” is unacceptable because it’s precisely the attitude which allows this problem to fester.
I also want to know what this reference to a “hard-line” element of our support refers to.
Does he mean the politically minded section that runs foodbanks, gives money to charities, reaches out across the expanse of the globe to promote campaigns of self-determination and helped Celtic secure a number of awards and commendations?
A lot of them vote for his party, as if that needs spelling out.
Perhaps the reason Celtic don’t drive this element out of the club has less to do with the money they bring in and more to do with their being fabulous ambassadors for what we’re meant to represent?
We’re not talking here about the knuckle dragging dregs of the far-right.
The comparison between our supporters and theirs is, and continues to be, staggeringly offensive and it is not just a lazy characterisation but a brazenly dishonest one.
If the writer of that email cannot tell the difference, then he’s too stupid to hold elected office and if he can tell the differences and chooses to write that anyway then he’s a charlatan.
Celtic, by the way, has done plenty to curb unsavoury elements and I’m sure that the club itself will not welcome the suggestion, by an elected official, that it puts money before doing the right thing in this area.
It’s a good job I don’t put this individual’s name in this article as I’m fairly certain that someone from Parkhead would want a word with him over that allegation.
“The Scottish Government attempted to tackle this kind of behaviour at football under the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. However, the other political parties joined up to defeat this Act. Sadly this sent out the signal that people can behave as they want at football and will get away with it. We now have a new Hate Crime Act but I am not sure if it would make much difference in this kind of situation.”
The reference to the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act was expected, but is no less embarrassing because I knew it was coming.
We’re talking here about a law which made no distinction between hate speech and political expression, a law that criminalises in a football context that which would be legal anywhere else.
A law that was condemned by judges, by left wing commentators, by right wing commentators, by free speech advocates and which the SNP’s own political allies in the Green Party refused to support.
It is one of the most dreadful pieces of legislation ever devised by a government which thinks of itself as liberally minded.
It was a disgraceful thing to put through a legislature.
The idea that its abolition means people at football matches can “behave as they want” is ludicrous when you consider the public order offences which existed before, during and after the passage of the Offensive Behaviour Act as well as the new legislation he’s talking about.
“Because of the big crowds (normally) at Rangers and Celtic games, it is difficult for the police to pinpoint individuals who are being racist or expressing hatred in other ways. At smaller clubs it is easier for the police to identify the culprits. Therefore, in my opinion, Rangers and Celtic fans get away with much worse behaviour than at other clubs.”
One would think that pinpointing the guilty person in this case would be fairly straightforward as there weren’t that many people there at the time, and even fewer who speak in broad Scottish accents … but that would require somebody looking into this matter, which the parliamentarian who sent this clearly has no interest in doing.
Honestly you despair reading that.
The tired, hoary old argument that we are somehow partially responsible for what happens across the city is just one of the reasons this kind of thing is not tackled properly. The writer talks about not wanting to take sides … Jesus Christ.
Where is the moral courage of these people?
Some of us do speak up against “our own”, by making it clear that if you consider racism or sectarianism or homophobia or anything like it to be acceptable inside Celtic Park that you most certainly don’t belong there.
One of the reasons our club rarely has to speak out against this stuff is that we self-police.
In the aftermath of the Glen Kamara incident, everyone who was anyone was rushing to a microphone to condemn the racism of the Slavia player, even before it was definitely determined that he had done anything wrong.
Here, we have an example of sectarianism and racist language, with a Scottish accent, coming from someone affiliated with Ibrox.
And nobody wants to know.
I said that a lot of the criticism being lobbed not only at the player who abused Kamara but the club he plays for sounded an awful lot like racism itself, a kind of UK exceptionalism that “our” players just don’t do that in spite of the evidence that some of them do.
Why the reluctance here?
Is it because it involved Ibrox or that it wasn’t something we could palm off on Johnny Foreigner?
A case of us not minding poking the shitty end of the stick at someone in another country, but being afraid to direct the anger closer to home?
Either way, this is everything that’s wrong with this debate summed up in a single email, and from an elected official as well.
If you wonder why this problem never goes away, well you can stop wondering now.