Scottish Football’s Sectarian Stains Will Never Be Washed Away If We Ignore Them.

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I got what I expected yesterday for publishing the Craig Brown piece, which was a lot of stick for sullying the memory of a dead guy. People seem largely ignorant of the fact that I wrote this same stuff about him whilst he was alive, just as Hugh Dallas is alive and John Brown is alive and Maurice Ross is alive and I could go on, but you get the point.

It seems some believe that I should feel bad, or that it reflects poorly on the site, my having brought up a dark period from Brown’s past.

I marvel at the kind of mind that would critique me more for mentioning those songs than recognise that Brown deserves to be condemned for having sung them. Let’s not sugar-coat this; he sang about being up to his knees in fenian blood, a sentiment which would have ended his career had it been expressed about any other ethnic group.

I don’t care whether he did it a week ago, a month ago or that it happened twenty years ago. It happened, and those who want us to forget it can piss off.

Much of this country would prefer it if we did just that, just as they think Kyle Lafferty is a daft boy who could be cured by attending a seminar, just as they believe Hugh Dallas’ anti-Catholic joke was just a wee bit of office banter.

They would all love it if we moved on from this stuff, because that means nobody ever tackles it, nobody ever gets right in their faces and tells them to cut that shit out.

If you do something like that it’s the first thing that should be stamped on your resume and the acknowledged last line in your obituary. Because only when the people who express these dire opinions and sing those reprehensible songs are made to own that act and pay some kind of price for it do we stand of chance of ending this scourge once and for all.

Someone had the cheek to accuse me of lacking compassion.

Another accused me of dog whistling.

What a disgusting allegation to level at me when the whole point of the article is that we should make the people who express sectarian views accountable for them.

As to my compassion, I reserve it for the victims of racism and sectarian hate, whomever they are and however they self-define. I have condemned sections of our own support for their own forays into bigotry; I abhor these people whatever colours they might wear.

There is a line from Tolkein’s The Two Towers, the second book in the Lord of The Rings trilogy, which automatically comes to mind; it’s when Aragorn meets the Riders of Rohan whilst looking for Merry and Pippin and he tells the patrol from the Riddermark; “the servants of Sauron I pursue into whichever lands they go.”

I have a good friend, a member of my supporter’s bus, who has had to sit through “soon there’ll be no Protestant’s at all” lustily sung by brainless halfwits who clearly don’t realise that their ethnic cleansing anthem would have robbed our club of its greatest manager and a lot of others besides.

I reserve my compassion for him, and for everyone who’s ever had to listened to that sort of bile, that sort of dirge, and believe me, I heard a lot of it growing up, directed at me and mine, and I’ve known people who’ve suffered violence as a result of that sort of hatred. I have plenty of compassion, just not enough for the perpetrators.

I think if you’re not part of the solution then if you’re not part of the problem you’re certainly one of the people holding us back from coming out the other side of this.

Craig Brown wasn’t the point of yesterday’s piece. I couldn’t give a toss if he was a good man who did a remarkably stupid and bigoted thing or if he was a closet sectarian loon the whole time … he wasn’t even the issue. He was the subject, but he wasn’t the point.

The point was that tolerance of this stuff comes in many forms, and for years this game has treated this issue as something to be ignored, a grubby little secret shame, something that we don’t seem to want to tackle, perhaps because to do so would mean telling the truth about any number of other allegedly “gentlemen of football” … but this is bigger than football, but football allows it and so how is the rest of society supposed to get real about it?

It was Ela Wheeler Wilcox who said “To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men.” It was Edmund Burke who said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And Craig Brown, whilst he was the manager of the Scottish national team, sang about being up to his knees in fenian blood.

And he kept his job, with the support of the Scottish media, and all of football in this country rallied round him. A different time, some will tell you, but really?

It’s not ten years since Dallas’ emails. He’s still feted by the Scottish media to this day.

It’s just over two years since, whilst coaching at Notts County, Maurice Ross aimed a racial slur at one of his own players … he’s been a guest on numerous radio programs and the media loves to get his take on events in our game.

Last season, Kyle Lafferty got a ten match ban for a sectarian-racist slur against one of our fans and he kept his job as well, and his club rallied round him and the SFA let him play games whilst his ban was under appeal.

His manager, Derek McInness, threw him into the cup semi-final against Celtic fresh from his ban, after making statements to the media which made it sound like Lafferty was the real victim, and not the guy who got exactly what he deserved.

“It’s been torture for him missing out. For any player, you can accept and have to deal with it if you’re missing for months with injury, but Kyle hasn’t been injured. He’s been fit and running about in training.”

As part of his punishment, they sent him to awareness training, as if the guy who played all those years at Ibrox wasn’t aware of what his words meant.

Listen, I make no apology for bringing up Brown’s past.

It’s not in Scottish football’s interests that we airbrush this stuff out of the discourse or pretend that it never happened, or that his keeping his job after that wasn’t an insult to the Catholics of this country, and basically anyone who is offended by this kind of loutish, bigoted behaviour.

That he did it was bad enough.

That there were no consequences for it was worse, and that was the point, and that people want it to be forgotten when it should never be forgotten was the point, because sadly this is who we are, as a country, and some people might not care but they should care and some people might not want to act but some feel they have to because they don’t want their kids being brought up surrounded by this sort of poison.

We’re either going to get our act together or this is just going to go on and on and on …

And I don’t think that’s the kind of country any of us wants this to be.

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  • Gerard McKeown says:

    Is there light at the end of the tunnel? During the Ayr United-PTFC playoff I nearly fell off my chair when the BBC commentator apologised for the swearing at the end of one our chants (quite right by the way). A complete contrast to praising sectarian chants at other grounds as a marvellous atmosphere. Somehow I don’t think so! We’re just a small club that can be called out with no repercussions.

  • John S says:

    It sounds like you’ve angered the intolerant, which isn’t difficult, that being their default position in any case.
    When they teach their children and grandchildren this filth they’re sentencing both society and their own to a good measure of unhappiness.

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