June 28 2019

The SPFL don’t want this report to be seen outside of Hampden

Nil by Mouth is appealing to the Information Commissioner in an effort to ensure the publication of a report by the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) into sectarianism at matches in Scotland.

The report into ‘unacceptable conduct’ at matches was handed to civil servants at the end of season 2017/18 with the SPFL requesting that the Government did not publish it.  Concerns over the accuracy of this document were raised last April when the BBC uncovered evidence from whistle-blowers within the SPFL’s own ‘match observer network’ highlighting how their reports of sectarian abuse in the stands were routinely ignored and not investigated by the SPFL. Recent Parliamentary Questions from Liam McArthur MSP confirmed the report’s existence and two requests by Nil by Mouth to obtain the document were rebuffed by the Scottish Government’s Health & Sport Department.

The charity has now lodged an appeal to the Information Commissioner in order to ensure that elected members, and the wider public, are given sight of the report and proper scrutiny of it can be undertaken at Holyrood as recommended by the Scottish Government’s Independent Advisor on Sectarianism Prof Duncan Morrow in 2017.

In recent weeks Justice Minister Humza Yousef and the Cross Party Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament have spoken out urging the SPFL to make public this document,

Nil by Mouth Campaign Director Dave Scott said:
Duncan Morrow’s report called for football to be transparent in its dealings on this issue and it’s clear that the SPFL will go to any lengths to ensure this isn’t the case. Government and Parliament can’t allow the SPFL to call the shots and if the commissioner finds in our favour we will be contacting the Justice Committee asking it to undertake an investigation into the report’s findings allowing a cross party group of MSPs to fully question the SPFL in public session.

For too long the SPFL has operated its own system of ‘self-regulation’ where no one is ever held to account and the issue of bigotry is swept under the carpet. As a direct result the problem of sectarianism within the game festers with a third of all Scottish Premier League Managers speaking out in recent months about repeated instances of sectarian abuse toward them at games. The SPFL cannot be allowed to dodge, deflect and deny its way out of its responsibilities the problem and we are confident the Commissioner will rule publication to be firmly in the public interest.’