February 28 2018
In our latest ‘Opinion’ blog as the Scottish Parliament prepares to repeal the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act Nil by Mouth Campaign Director Dave Scott asks ‘what happens next’?
Beyond the OBF Act – What Happens Next?
The Offensive Behaviour at Football Act has proved highly controversial and now, following a vote in the Scottish Parliament, looks likely to be repealed next month. It’s supporters see it as a much needed weapon in the battle to banish bigotry from the stands, while its opponents see it as poorly crafted legislation which has created more problems than it has solved. As Holyrood prepares to formally repeal the Act the question being asked is ‘what next? Because just as passing the Act didn’t make a very real problem go away nor will repealing it see sectarianism disappear into the ether.
Firstly, it’s critical that fans don’t view repeal as the ‘green light’ to indulge in sectarian or racist behaviour at games- they can still be prosecuted under other laws, including section 74 of the Criminal Justice Scotland Act 2003 (which Nil by Mouth successfully campaigned for).
Secondly, Scottish football must be made to finally face up to the problem it has spent decades running away from. We still see large groups of supporters spouting bile during games. If we are serious about tackling this problem we need politicians, from all parties, to force the SFA and SPFL to introduce UEFA’s ‘Strict Liability’ guidelines into the Scottish game. These see clubs held directly accountable for their repeated failure to tackle bigotry and face financial and sporting sanctions if they fail to get tough on the problem. Scottish teams have been sanctioned under this system whilst competing in European competition and the high level of transparency involved in the investigations shames Scottish football’s opaque, antiquated and, quite frankly, wholly unfit for purpose system of self-regulation.
Finally, prevention is better – and cheaper – than cure. We need to ensure the grassroots works of groups such as Nil by Mouth, Sense over Sectarianism and Supporters Direct can continue to be funded beyond the end of March. This support allows us all to challenge attitudes, build bridges and use education as our most potent weapon to win hearts and minds. There has been great strides made in challenging sectarianism in the last twenty years. Let’s not stop now.
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