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Sectarianism in Scotland - The Simpleton's Solace


Frankie

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I apologise for the length of this article but I think the subject has to be covered properly as opposed to restricted.

Sectarianism in Scotland - The Simpleton's Solace

When Rangers beat Celtic (or progress in Europe for that matter), the reaction from some quarters is always easy to predict. Either blame the referee or if that isn't possible when the light blue's were clearly hard done by, then place the focus on to what songs the Rangers fans sung.

Let's be clear from the outset and do something that these dangerous people refuse to consider and be objective. Some songs Rangers fans sing are offensive. Moreover, I can also understand that other dirges such as 'No Pope of Rome' or imbibing hitherto harmless ones with stuff like 'FTP' could be seen as less than tolerant. Ergo, I personally feel that using chants like this has nothing to do with supporting Rangers and only gives credence to the flawed opposing argument that only one club have a serious problem with such issues.

However, when discussing this subject I think it is also important to highlight that, while people may find offence at any specific term/song/chant, absolutely none are banned in this country per se.

More than two weeks ago a summit was held within the Scottish Parliament to discuss the issue along with the broader subject of Old Firm associated troubles. In addition, once again the SNP Government promised funds of over half a million pounds to deal with said topic. When one considers that the previous Scottish Labour government also spent millions on combating sectarianism, one must ask where this money is actually going given a solution seems no less near than ever before? Furthermore, dialogue with football supporters in respect of the sport's contribution to this wider social disease remains minimal. You or I weren't invited to any summit; just talked down to instead of with once again.

To that end, when the summit findings were announced, I took the liberty of contacting all the neutral authorities involved in the matter - the First Minister, the Justice Secretary, Strathclyde Police, ACPOS, the SFA, the SPL and the Leader of the Opposition in Scotland - Iain Gray. In my letter I specifically requested a list of proscribed songs/terms/chants which could be applied under the 'Unacceptable Conduct' rules oft quoted by the footballing organisations and with respect to racially/sectarian aggravated breach of the peace laws oft quoted during the extremely minimal prosecutions we hear about.

It won't surprise many to hear that despite the promises made at the summit the replies received were inconsistent with each other, made excuses, were patronising, didn't answer my clear questions or in the case of serving MSPs (Iain Gray aside) or footballing authorities didn't even reply within the two week time-frame requested. Yes, these organisations really are serious about the issue!

Nevertheless, one conclusion was clear from those that did reply: there was no available list of banned songs/terms/chants because no-one really had the courage to say what was acceptable and what wasn't. In many ways, when you then examine the number of arrests we see at football games (and in Scotland generally) for hate-related crimes, this wasn't a surprise. The problem is greatly exaggerated and quite simply generally only exists in the minds of people who harbour a grudge.

This grudge has been clearly visible since Rangers' fine win over Celtic on Sunday afternoon. Instead of examining an excellent display from the Ibrox men or the poor performance of the match officials (this time arguably in favour of Celtic), the usual suspects have declared they once again find religious offence. Be it less than official online bloggers, official Celtic fan groups or discredited journalists for 'The Times'; the organised planning of their reaction has been immediate. Coordinated articles in broadsheets, complaints to the government and emails to UEFA is the usual MO and the recent resurgence of 'The Billy Boys' apparently the main source of their faux annoyance.

In 2006, this song was allegedly banned by UEFA and Rangers fined twice since for 'discriminatory' chanting - be it using terms like fen*an and/or adding FTP to otherwise non-problematic songs. The fact Rangers were also given a 5 year probationary period is also meaningful as this runs out in May which may explain why a dead issue is suddenly valuable to a few people again. Nonetheless, at the time, our club and support acted quickly and the songs/terms involved almost disappeared overnight.

Unfortunately, in the intervening time the same principles haven't been applied to other clubs and supports. Disgraceful songs (and behaviour which is formally illegal) in glorifying outlawed terrorist groups; chants urging 'h*ns' to go home (directed any anyone with a perceived Protestant background - be it Rangers, Hearts, Dundee or match officials); regular club-sanctioned displays in support of the IRA; approved banners of Ibrox on fire; songs about Walter Smith being a 'sad orange b**tard'; all amidst an overall anti-British sentiment which makes a mockery of Celtic FC's inclusive policy. Yet we hear next to no criticism of this.

Interestingly, the recent promotions of Neil Lennon firstly to Celtic captain then manager as well as the signing of Paddy McCourt have led to increasingly large elements of the Celtic support celebrating their Irish Republican 'heritage' more vocally than ever before. 'Like me and you he's a Provo too', 'Soon there will be no Protestants at all' and 'Paddy McCourt's Fen*an Army' are sung (or displayed via banners) with gusto. Therefore, it's not a surprise that some Rangers fans have saw fit to retaliate to this provocative banter in kind given excuses are made for Celtic fans. This has seen 'The Billy Boys' return of late but of course the usual hypocrites immediately complain about the same 'f' word being used.

First of all, I don't think there is any doubt some people use the word fen*an in an bigoted manner. However, no more than those who use literally similar h*n in the exactly the same way. The fact that Celtic fans now use fen*an more than ever to describe themselves is also extremely relevant to any debate. The authorities I contacted above spoke about difficulties in banning specific songs/terms/chants because of context. I'd suggest that both sets of supporters being happy to use one word to describe the ugly anti-British, Republican nature of sections of the Celtic fan-base is exactly what they mean and why we've seen minimal arrests or action despite 'TBB' returning at some games.

Of course Celtic fans then attempt to apply a flawed 'n*gger' analogy but this is clearly erroneous given the disgusting 'n' word isn't an adjective than can ever be used simply to describe people of a certain colour. Fen*an though can be used to describe people who celebrate the IRA and are anti-British. Indeed, that is its literal meaning. As a result, by increasing the celebration of their Irishness in such an offensive manner, they only give validity to the Rangers fans' behaviour they hypocritically complain about.

Evidently what we have is a complex issue and one which can't be discussed easily in an article such as this or in a one-off summit between parties who all have their own motive. This is also true for people who use such a controversial matter to score points or, even worse, to make money from. Be it unemployed people whose very existence is to blog daily anti-Rangers lunacy or members of the Fourth Estate who choose to deliberately skew their own simplistic coverage, these people only serve to make the problem worse than actually offer genuine solutions for what is an age old social challenge.

To sum up these people don't discuss a complicated matter like sectarianism because they have more morals than you or I. Nor do they convene 'summits' because they genuinely think a few small charities and a chin-wag will solve an issue that has blighted parts of Scotland for over a 100 years.

Quite simply, the over-exaggerated and laughably biased outlooks we've read over the last few days are for nothing more than for financial or political gain. Now that really is Scotland's Secret Shame.

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Great piece of writing as usual, Frankie, and one that should be sent to every organisation that attended that summit.

If there was one member of this forum that disagreed with what was written, I think that admin would be in their rights to question his allegiance to Rangers FC.

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Until such times as people in Politics and the Media grow a set of balls and speak up then articles like this will simply be dismissed as arrogantly as your relevant questions.

In a nutshell this problem only exists because we are seen as isolated and no one will dare speak up in public about defending such songs.

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Great piece of writing as usual, Frankie, and one that should be sent to every organisation that attended that summit.

If there was one member of this forum that disagreed with what was written, I think that admin would be in their rights to question his allegiance to Rangers FC.

To be fair everyone is entitled to their opinion which is exactly why the less than consistent approach of those who push the issue need to be engaged with.

While I believe the issue is greatly exaggerated and mainly based on banter (albeit offensive banter), football clubs and supporters do have their part to play in helping address societal issues that can cause problems in our country.

All the more reason for fans to be involved in summits as opposed to being ignored.

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Until such times as people in Politics and the Media grow a set of balls and speak up then articles like this will simply be dismissed as arrogantly as your relevant questions.

In a nutshell this problem only exists because we are seen as isolated and no one will dare speak up in public about defending such songs.

I think the silence of most parties (as well as the praise we've read from the likes of MacAskill about Sunday) suggests people do realise the issue isn't as simple (or one-sided) as the likes of Spiers et al like to portray.

Celtic fans may think they're pulling the trigger on Rangers but in effect they're also committing political suicide by attempting to suggest they are innocent.

There is quite simply no way any credible organisation can punish clubs for naughty songs when the argument is so unclear. That lack of clarity is deliberate to ensure the subject remains one for folk to pay lip service to without actually offering genuine solutions.

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To be fair everyone is entitled to their opinion which is exactly why the less than consistent approach of those who push the issue need to be engaged with.

While I believe the issue is greatly exaggerated and mainly based on banter (albeit offensive banter), football clubs and supporters do have their part to play in helping address societal issues that can cause problems in our country.

All the more reason for fans to be involved in summits as opposed to being ignored.

Of course fans should be involved in summits, but the reason they are not is because the powers that be know fine well that if (fair minded) fans were allowed to say their piece at a summit, the politicians arguements abour sectarianism and bigotry would be blown clean out of the water.

The politicians only stick their head above the parapets when they sense a bit of publicity that makes them seem that they are doing their civic duty...Talk about fuckin smoke and mirrors! :angry:

They make me sick.

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For me you go to a football ground expecting to hear industrial language and unsavoury songs and chants.

Trying to clean up football and make it like a US baseball day will never work here.

Yes there are chants and songs i would say do us no favours but until such times as all clubs and all fans are subjected to the same criticisms and punishments then i can understand why so many fans still sing them.

You simply cannot enter in to any summit or debate and point the finger at one side of the divide and expect results to happen instantly. The natural reaction to this is to feel aggrieved and ask "what is the point in doing what they say when others can do what they want"

It is blatantly clear anti sectarian initiatives are directed at Rangers fans and Rangers fans only and until such times as this imblance is addressed then nothing will change.

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I think the silence of most parties (as well as the praise we've read from the likes of MacAskill about Sunday) suggests people do realise the issue isn't as simple (or one-sided) as the likes of Spiers et al like to portray.

Frankie to pick up on this little bit from one of your posts. The police, Mckaskill and a few others all commented on a "wonderful" atmosphere and praised the fans, so i would agree with you there.

Its a can of worms id imagine UEFA wished they had never opened

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For me you go to a football ground expecting to hear industrial language and unsavoury songs and chants.

Trying to clean up football and make it like a US baseball day will never work here.

Yes there are chants and songs i would say do us no favours but until such times as all clubs and all fans are subjected to the same criticisms and punishments then i can understand why so many fans still sing them.

You simply cannot enter in to any summit or debate and point the finger at one side of the divide and expect results to happen instantly. The natural reaction to this is to feel aggrieved and ask "what is the point in doing what they say when others can do what they want"

It is blatantly clear anti sectarian initiatives are directed at Rangers fans and Rangers fans only and until such times as this imblance is addressed then nothing will change.

Agreed.

One of the more interesting terms to be used of late is 'Whataboutery'. Rangers fans and their behaviour have rightly or wrongly been debated to death for at least 5 years now. Yet as soon as we attempt to widen the debate and ask if this argument applies to others, this new term is used to laugh off our valid questions.

I don't doubt the relevant people are more than aware of how impossible it is to sanitise any one football club (or the game generally) but as we seen in 2006, Rangers fans must be on their guard to ensure that once again we're not treated as scapegoats for a social phenomenon.

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I think the silence of most parties (as well as the praise we've read from the likes of MacAskill about Sunday) suggests people do realise the issue isn't as simple (or one-sided) as the likes of Spiers et al like to portray.

Celtic fans may think they're pulling the trigger on Rangers but in effect they're also committing political suicide by attempting to suggest they are innocent.

There is quite simply no way any credible organisation can punish clubs for naughty songs when the argument is so unclear. That lack of clarity is deliberate to ensure the subject remains one for folk to pay lip service to without actually offering genuine solutions.

If their fans chiefs and media wan*ers had any sense they would simply let this issue die away.

I don't give a monkeys fu*k what they sing or any other fans for that matter (within reason of course)

I go to a football match expecting abuse from the opposition fans and i expect to give it as well as singing in support of my team.

What these idiots clearly do not realise is that by moaning and complainig about our songs they are forcing the authorities to implement a sanitising of our game that affects ALL fans not just Rangers. Although it's clear to see we are taking the brunt of the criticisms.

However i return to my main point and that is the fact that NO ONE will speak up and either defend us or point out the blatant hypocrisy and one sided nature of this campaign.

You only have to look at what Trish Godman MSP was wearing yesterday on the last day of the Scottish Parliament to see what i mean.

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Excellent read Frankie.

I wouldn't mind having a read through the e-mail responses from the people you attempted to speak to.

It does seem like these people are all mouth and no trousers, just like so many predicted.

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You want to say sectarianism's a big problem in Scotland? Well, although two thirds of the country think that sectarianism is a real issue, fewer than 1% have been a direct victim of sectarian abuse.

What about the thousands dying on an annual basis because of heart disease?

What about the 844 alleged rapes in Scotland last year, where only 41 were convicted?

What about drink driving, youth violence, hospital waiting times, factories closing down, the continued inequality between rich and poor? You know, things that actually matter?

Sure, it looks good to talk about 'ending discrimination', and to have 'emergency summits', but at the end of the day, other than just stopping a couple of people getting offended, what are you actually achieving?

You could also point to the two most recent keynote speeches by Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Cameron pointing out the flaws in the utopian mulit-culturalist societies Germany and Britian have tried to create.

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If their fans chiefs and media wan*ers had any sense they would simply let this issue die away.

I don't give a monkeys fu*k what they sing or any other fans for that matter (within reason of course)

I go to a football match expecting abuse from the opposition fans and i expect to give it as well as singing in support of my team.

What these idiots clearly do not realise is that by moaning and complainig about our songs they are forcing the authorities to implement a sanitising of our game that affects ALL fans not just Rangers. Although it's clear to see we are taking the brunt of the criticisms.

However i return to my main point and that is the fact that NO ONE will speak up and either defend us or point out the blatant hypocrisy and one sided nature of this campaign.

You only have to look at what Trish Godman MSP was wearing yesterday on the last day of the Scottish Parliament to see what i mean.

Football stadia have never been a place for the faint-hearted. Yet, we all religiously attend every week from a wide range of backgrouds - be us male, female, old, young, black, white, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, unemployed, company directors, police officers, MPs, clergymen and many more.

If people were so offended why is the game still so damn popular in this country? Why do Old Firm matches remain the sole selling point of a declining Scottish game?

Instead of asking pointless questions about a few bad words why not ask why our game is struggling financially and lobby UEFA for fairer financial incentives as opposed to moaning about oppositions fans calling you a naughty name?

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Interesting to see Spiers comment after being forwarded the article by another bear:

@GrahamSpiers There is a lot in that article that is quite meaningful. Who wrote it? It's actually quite good.

Not sure he read it properly given many of the criticisms are applied directly at him... ;)

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Haha. It's not even a case of reading between the lines. It couldn't have been more obvious if the computer screen flew forwards, smashed him on the head and shouted "they're talking about you, you cretin!"

Excellent read, Frankie. Hopefully this will get the attention it deserves outside this forum!

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Haha. It's not even a case of reading between the lines. It couldn't have been more obvious if the computer screen flew forwards, smashed him on the head and shouted "they're talking about you, you cretin!"

Excellent read, Frankie. Hopefully this will get the attention it deserves outside this forum!

Unfortunately, the attention on this subject only happens when it suits the those who have the power to bring it into the public eye.

Rangers fans have been asking the questions in the first post for 3 years and got the same answers then as we've been given now. Nothing other than prevarication and patronisation.

I attach my 2008 report into the subject here:

http://www.gersnetonline.co.uk/archived/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=670&Itemid=54

The exact same conclusions I reached then apply now. It is quite incredible no-one points this out when this tedious debates rears its head in the media.

The simple fact is there is no solution because those than can facilitate it are not genuinely interested.

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Great article Frankie, ive been following Rangers 35 years and the so called Sectarian Issue isn't any better or worse and no doubt it will carry on after the day i die.

In a nutshell mate.

Banter (even offensive banter) is part and parcel of football. Yes, some of it isn't very nice and does some go beyond what is acceptable. But it's largely sticks and stones.

Like you say such songs have existed for decades and for the vast, vast majority, we'd never apply them to our personal lives or the way we treat people generally.

It's the same with the police fallacy that domestic violence is related to football. Nonsense! People are abusive of their partners every day of the week, not just after an Old Firm game. The same for bigots, these people think that way irrespective of what team they support.

Ergo, the way to remove such social diseases isn't to blame one small symptom but to attack the root cause.

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