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Scottish Supporters Network

Supported by:   Supporters Direct Scotland

It’s Right To Repeal The Offensive Behaviour At Football Act

Date: 30th January 2018

By Scott Johnston, Editor of The Footy Blog & DP for Full Time Films.

On January the eighteenth, MSPs recommended the repeal of the now infamous Offensive Behaviour at Football Act.

The repeal will no doubt be seen as a bloody nose for the Scottish government in political terms but your average football fan doesn’t care about the political landscape as much as their freedom to enjoy going to the football.

The Act came into force in 2012 and always seemed rushed after an unsavoury Old Firm touchline incident between Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon. The whole uproar after that saga was pretty ridiculous to be honest because heated exchanges have been known to happen in such fiery encounters.

Just this season both Manchester sides were involved in a heated scuffle after their derby match, yet it wasn’t mentioned in parliament. Celtic captain Scott Brown had a run-in with former Rangers boss Pedro Caixinha earlier in this campaign but it wouldn’t have been discussed in the corridors of Holyrood.

In all honesty, I think the law was poorly written, I believe we already have laws that tackle the same issues and that it specifically targeted football fans which is unfair in this day and age. I think it was a majority SNP government flexing their muscles and that’s why the opposition parties have decided to attack the bill now, as the SNP aren’t as strong as it once was.

When you look at social media, listen to radio phone-ins or read the newspaper letter pages you’ll quickly see that the Act was hated by a fair amount of football supporters. Some supporters have legitimately felt victimised and intimidated by the repercussions of the Bill.

Supporters Direct Scotland did some research on the Act and found that 74% of supporters who voted believed that the Bill should be repealed and 71% of supporters felt that the Bill has been ineffective. When asked if pre-existing criminal legislation was sufficient to deal with any offensive behaviour instead of the 2012 Act, 61% of fans said it was.

When you think about the amount of fans that turn up each and every week to watch the game we love, most aren’t criminals and I’d argue the vast majority aren’t there to abuse fellow supporters in the other stands.

Yes we do have a minority and yes sometimes they do seem to have a louder voice on occasions when it comes to certain disgraceful songs, but these songs weren’t eradicated after 2012. Far from it.

In fairness, you won’t get the police going in and arresting hundreds or thousands of fans singing sectarian tripe, they simply don’t have the resources. Then there’s the issue about what’s sectarian and what’s not? Even judges seem to believe it’s subjective and that the law is sometimes hard to enforce.

What we don’t need is a rushed political policy that is hard to make sense of and seems difficult to enforce.

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