Old Firm’s dirty money talks

Is there any point in adding my own ruminations on the parcel bomb incidents this week?  In fulminating against something so heinous and incredulous, it is almost beyond comprehension?  Especially when others have and will condemn more articulately than I could ever manage.

But the point is this.  By staying silent, we condone.  By pretending we see, hear – and heaven forfend – speak no evil, by turning the other cheek while muttering not in our name, not in our ken, not in our neck of the woods, we allow sectarianism and bigotry, and its erstwhile partners, alcohol abuse and violence,  to continue unchecked and untrammelled.  Not relevant to us and how we choose to live our lives, see?  Oh, but it is.  For this is how ithers see us and it’s time we all saw Scotland in the entirety of its inglorious multi-coloured hues.

The very idea that someone could be moved to try to maim and kill others because they hate with every ounce of their being someone else’s religious and footballing affiliation – in 21st Century Scotland no less – requires all of us to make and take a stand.

As a football fan, I have experienced the deprivations of both sides of the Old Firm fan divide.  I’ve watched them urinate in people’s gardens, throw locals out of their pre-match pub in order to indulge in their vile, evil chanting, seen them drink in public and then smash the bottles in front of police horses, witnessed them vomiting over children in a fast food restaurant, been intimidated by sexual threat and innuendo while in the company of my own small child, watched a grown man lead songs of hate while carrying a toddler in his arms, and removed my terrified child from his season ticket seat when the torrents of abuse from interlopers became too much for him to bear.

And on each and every occasion, I have complained to the authorities.  To management, to stewards, to police.  And each and every time, my complaint was met with a shrug of the shoulders.  Not my problem, what can we do.  They think they are untouchable because they are.

Indeed, for years, a policy of containment and appeasement has applied.  Why has it taken UEFA to act when the SFA had powers aplenty to step in and tackle the clubs’ unwillingness and inability to address sectarian acts and activities by its fans?  Why has the SFA bowed to media and legal pressure to rescind punishments on players and club officials who have indulged in inappropriate conduct?  Why has it taken the police years to speak up and speak out about the horror show of violence played out in communities and homes on the occasion of every Old Firm fixture?  Why have licensing boards continued to allow premises that condone and encourage sectarian violence and hate crime to trade?  Why have internet forums, whose stock in trade is bile, been allowed to flourish?  And why oh why, have politicians – on all sides – waited until an election to say something, anything about any of it?

Because money- dirty money – talks. 

We have allowed the fear and loathing that constitutes supporting the Old Firm to expand into the monster it has so clearly become, because lots of people have made money out of it.  The clubs themselves, of course, rely on “impassioned fans” buying season tickets and all the tops and tat, following cup runs from beginning to end, and rampaging through Europe, at least until Christmas.  Pubs and clubs – at home and away – rub their hands with glee at the prospect of an Old Firm derby or of the visit of one half to their sleepy hollow.  The SFA when faced with top dollar legal representation whose fees enable them to drive a coach and horses through arcane procedure, have crumbled and fumbled every time.

Do you think those 1000 police officers on duty this Easter Sunday – however much they wish they were anywhere else – are doing it out of the goodness of their hearts?  Did newspaper proprietors groan or grin at the prospect of seven Old Firm fixtures in a season?

In fact, the only ones who haven’t heard the kerching of Old Firm hatred and violence are the politicians.  But what we have had in the last four years is a Parliament of fearties.  Feart to rock the boat, feart to upset one side or the other, feart to do the job we pay them handsomely to do.

There is absolutely no doubt that Alex Salmond has been at his most statesmanlike in the last week.  The tone, the content, the pledges have all been completely on the button.  He has vowed to free our country of bigotry and yes, it will take more than “one match, one season and one year”.

But the time for talking and summits is past, and now we must act.  We must all stop standing by and allowing a culture of sectarianism to flourish.  We must challenge the questioner when asked what school we went to.  We must shut down the forums of hate and prosecute the perpetrators and the facilitators.  We must start applying the aggravated offence of sectarian hate crime to every act of violence committed before, during and after an Old Firm match.  We must close down the hostelries that have built a trade on bigotry.  We must protect those families whose lives are blighted and bruised – literally – by every losing score.  We must end the public cash flow to footballing authorities and clubs which refuse to meet their obligations.  We must educate our children on tolerance and inclusion and inculcate a sense of pride in shared communities and faiths. 

We must launder this dirty money right out of our economy and we must remove this stain from our society for good.

8 thoughts on “Old Firm’s dirty money talks

  1. Perhaps I’m fortunate in the area where I live that my family and I can blithely conduct our lives completely untouched/unaffected by sectarianism. Indeed the first time religion was mentioned to our kids was when the older daughter was five and enquired why her best friend would not be attending the same school. We had to try to explain that at the age of five, arithmetic, reading, writing languages and art ceased to be an ecumenical matter and would be denominational henceforth.

    In the town where I work, The one end of the High St has an Masonic Temple and there’s an Orange Lodge nearby. The other has a flourishing Celtic club and there are two chapels not far away. Again, unless I’m missing something, on a day to day basis, I witness a level of sectarianism which consistently hovers just above the square root of hee-haw. Oh, customers wander in and out with football tops (mainly Celtic, sometimes Rangers) as their choice of casual wear and whilst I wish they supported their local team it doesn’t worry me in the least beyond mild incredulity.

    The Old Firm on match day is the continuity rump of what was a significant societal problem in previous generations. But I actually resent the Scotland’s shame label. It’s not my shame as a liberal atheist Scotnat, nor is it the shame of the vast majority of the people I encounter on a daily basis. I feel sorry for anyone who does suffer from sectarian abuse but lets not over hype something which simply isn’t borne out by the facts and figures.

    Why should the whole country wring its hands because some unidentified crackpots have sent nail bombs to people? For a start we don’t even know if these idiots ARE actually Scottish.

    As for Neil Lennon cupping his hands, it’s ridiculous that this requires police intervention but the precedent has already been set by previous eejits playing imaginary flutes in front of the masses (sic) and blessing themselves in exaggerated animation for the benefit of the baying beasts of no surrender.

    There are two contrasting views on the sectarian debate which I’ve listened to/read in the last week. One is by Professor Tom Devine who seems to support the RC church view that there isn’t really a sectarian problem at all so much as anti catholicism http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b010gkzj Tom it was who got the singer of some charming ditty about the IRA off in court recently. The other is by Steve Bruce in Sunday’s Observer/Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/apr/24/scotland-sectarianism-research-data
    While Bruce perhaps seems a little too expert in his knowledge of protestant paramilitaries and conveniently ignores the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire hotbeds, I’d agree pretty much with his article.

    The bottom line is, if people are committing criminal acts they should be subject to the due process of the law and it’s encouraging that these eejits who spout nonsense on internet forums are being rounded up.

    Anyone who wishes to attend a completely non sectarian football experience should note that 40 other clubs are available.

    • But it does tar us all with it, Rab, that is the point. And all the powers at be have conspired to allow it to do so.

      Otherwise I agree wholeheartedly with all that you say. I do support a non Old Firm team but when they come calling….

  2. There is a lot of people in Glasgow and Scotland living in fear not all have 24/7 protection, not making those who provide the protection job anymore difficult is common sense, the comparison of one manager to another ? I am concerned you might have missed my point.

  3. Well put. Its worth reflecting on what the response from the authorities had ‘Uncle Walter had viable threats against his life by a republican group?

    The response would have been swift, massive and, I suspect, draconian. Instead we get media condemnation for Neil Lennon cupping his ear as the Ibrox massive sings ‘what’s it like to live in fear?’

    Extraordinary. Still, many will roll-out the Union Jack this weekend in dutiful harmony.

  4. Well said!

    I have watched with dismay this season as the sectarian divide seems to have worsened from both sides.

    Most sad is when one tribe or another tries to pull other Scots into their petty arguments.

    The quasi religous hatred seems to evolving into more a nationalist v loyalist argument but it is tribal sectarianism from both sides and it is Scotland’s shame!!

    It would be pathetic if it wasn’t so dangerous at times.

  5. Maturity Responsibility Common Sense

    I think it is doing the two clubs favours, season ticket uptake falling and investment lacking, now the clubs are on TV 24/7 lets see if that trend changes.
    It’s not doing Scotland or society any good, and it not just a problem of stereotypical drunks and thugs uneducated or deprived from certain areas or pubs that’s just a symptom.
    Football, and it is a Football problem in Glasgow, and your funding the clubs indirectly fan or not, is used as a platform, for sectarianism, racism discrimination and hate which freely flows not just at games, but through all suited professional organisation not just football, equal silent partners, arrogant and detached from reality, confident and comfortable their educated hate, is less corrosive to equality in society.
    They are wrong; they are no different from someone intimidating kids in a fast-food place because a football games on.

    A group both teams equally meet periodically in uniform to exchange and exercise superior hate, attached to religion 1950 Alabama, no, old firm games.

  6. Splendidly put.

    For some reason football supporters seem to enjoy a collective immunity from reason, law and frequently human decency. I would say that the levels of violence have diminished over the years – Gorgie Road or Starks Park in the 70’s and early 80’s spring to mind.

    Levels of quasi-religious nonsense are still fairly high amongst all too many followers of the two larger Glasgow Clubs. I think there is a growing recognition that it’s not doing the Clubs any favours and ultimately that’s the answer in terms of supporters’ behaviour. Stiffen them – please.

    On the wider one of how to address quasi-religious nonsense from the rest of the population – just look at them as if they’re daft. They are.

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