Sectarianism in Scottish Football: It’s time to make a stand

Nobody likes talking about it. It’s a horrible issue, one I even try to avoid on Twitter altogether because it opens up a can of worms you’ll struggle to close for quite a while after. Sometimes though, it’s hard not to want to speak up. Steve Clarke did so this week, but the points he was trying to make are at risk of being ignored and forgotten. We can’t allow that to happen. Whether anyone likes to admit it or not, sectarianism is still a massive problem in certain parts of Scottish Football. We cannot bury our heads in the sand any longer.

When Clarke made his comments about the abuse he’d received and the problems facing Scottish society, much of the reaction was worrying. Many mocked him for attempting to “deflect” from the hammering Kilmarnock had received that evening, and the comments made about referees just before meant some interpreted it as a man desperately trying to take attention off of his team. Thankfully though, many saw the other side of it. They saw a man, angry and a bit bewildered, who appeared to have finally been pushed to the edge by behaviour that belongs in the dark ages.

Another stick used to beat Clarke with was the fact similar comments weren’t made after their game against Celtic, in which Kris Boyd was the victim of sectarian abuse and coin-throwing. It is a fair question, and perhaps more condemnation was required from Clarke, but he has obviously harboured these feelings for decades now. The combination of his team losing an important game 5-0 and sectarian abuse being hurled at him appears to have tipped him over the edge. How we arrived here though isn’t important, and we cannot let whataboutery once again derail discussions that should’ve occurred long before now.

Like many others, I’ve never been able to understand it. The normalisation and the acceptance of it. We watch every week, as televised games are routinely accompanied by a soundtrack of songs about murdering Catholics and glorifying terrorist groups. We watch as near 50,000 people bellow about being “up to their knees in f****n blood” without Sky or BT Sports even attempting to mute it. It’s all part of the spectacle. It is 2019, how in the hell is this still happening?

“It’s just a song though, who cares?” is one of the worst arguments going, as if people can’t take offence to it because it rhymes. It falls into this weird justification for offensive singing of simply being banter, and a laugh. That doesn’t work. Abusing someone for their religion is no different to abusing someone for their race. You know where you’d be if you sung about wanting to kill black people on the streets? Rightly, in jail. It is truly staggering the amount of people that can’t seem to comprehend that.

Thankfully, it’s at least highly unlikely the majority of those signing about a religious group harbour legitimate resentment towards them, we have made significant strides since the 80s in that regard. However, as said above, that still doesn’t make it alright. However deeply you might feel about it Is irrelevant, by joining in you’re damaging your club’s reputation whilst entertaining the actual bigots as a result.

I’ve never particularly understood why it’s so hard to go to a game of football and, you know…just not be a bigot? There’s thousands like me that are capable of going to support their team and not throw religiously fuelled hatred at opposing fans, and that includes fans of the clubs constantly being dragged down by association. There are PLENTY of things for football fans in Scotland to have a go at each other for that don’t fall under bigotry. Why not just stick to that?

You can have whatever opinions you want on the IRA, UVF etc, but is it really that difficult just to keep them at home? Everyone is welcome to free speech, but when you bring it into a football arena where there’s a reasonably high chance of it being a contentious issue, you’re not exercising any rights at that point, you’re just being a bit of an arse.

There are quite obviously still issues deep-rooted in Scottish society that will take decades to rid ourselves of. Important discussions are required by the government about education and possible legislation. Before that though, our footballing authorities could be doing more. Whether that is fines, closure of stands, banning of supporters, or even more extreme than that, something finally needs done. Scottish Football has enough issues without presenting itself on the national stage as intolerant and backwards. Sectarianism isn’t normal, and no longer should it be treated as such.

By Evan McFarlane (@EvanMcFarlane)

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