Unacceptable Behaviour-an alternative view.
When Mahe and I decided to go ahead with this site,we decided to give people the freedom to express themselves. Posts are rarely deleted,and are never held in moderation awaiting approval from Admin. We also decided to go further than this,to allow the members of the site an opportunity to post the Article of the Day. This has proven to be a success,and today’s guest author is My China fae Carolina,aka FOOL TIME WHISTLE.
No strict liability for SPFL clubs is just a copout for those clubs.
Think about it. A collective shrugging of shoulders by businesses that open their doors & admit the public, at a price, and who especially encourage families to come in & enjoy the experience at their place of business.
At these “family friendly” places, thugs, idiots & morons let off smoke flares, throw coins, throw bottles, damage seats, throw seats at other fans, do their drugs in the toilets, chant disgusting stuff about terminally ill men & aggressively challenge anyone who attempts to talk them out of doing what they’re doing. These places are no longer fit places for families to attend but we’re told that there is no solution other than Big Brother saturation CCTV coverage in some dystopian future world. That’ll make the OBAF seem like a pleasant dream.
When we make excuses for doing nothing by saying that the innocent shouldn’t pay for the crimes of these criminals, then we are missing the point completely. The innocent are already paying for their crimes – they either attend & have to run the risk of missiles or smoke or violence or else they just stop going altogether. It seems that that particular excuse for not imposing strict liability should be changed to “it would hurt those that attend but tend to look the other way when these crimes are being committed because it’s all just banter anyway, & besides ye cannae clipe on fellow fans”.
Apart from the Hibs idiot recently, these offences are invariably committed by away fans & usually, but not exclusively, by fans our fans & Newco fans. We all know that away fans show up at other grounds as a critical mass, safe in the knowledge that plod’s strategy when confronted with this is traditionally just to get them into the ground as quickly as possible in the belief that they are better contained in the ground than left outside. No searches or simply cursory or random searches all fail to find the guys that have smoke bombs, bottles or drugs in these circumstances – every week.
Allegedly, the solution is considered too harsh & unthinkable, which really means that those saying this are not at all convinced of the true gravity of the situation OR grasp the danger but shy away from meaningful action for other reasons. Just as racist behaviour, if left unchecked or unchallenged will grow like a virus, so too the casual acceptance/justification of/for a level of violence & obscene chanting becomes a desensitizing agent on people. Songs sung that dehumanize people are part of that.
Alternatively, we are advised that the solution of strict liability is unworkable & could easily be circumvented by fans of another club sneaking in to chuck a bottle while sitting amongst fans of that club. Just to get Celtic in trouble.
Really? Is this meant to be a joke?
These grounds of which we speak are licensed by local authorities acting as agents of central government. A government that spent millions commissioning the Taylor report, then implemented those findings in full. Stadia can easily be rendered unusable for football if their licences are suspended or withdrawn indefinitely.
Clubs are responsible for the safety of everyone inside their grounds – legally & very specifically under this legislation. This is an absolute responsibility for which club’s who fail in it & offered the defence that it wasn’t really their problem would be treated with scorn. There is a growing sense amongst many observers, that clubs have realized that their licences will NEVER be suspended, because the politically correct Police Supt & the careerist Council manager on the Safety Team will do everything to prevent using that nuclear option. When you have a sanction that those to whom it will apply know you will not use, then it is no sanction at all: but, that’s only speculation.
In the past, Clubs complained long and vociferously at having to bear the immense cost of the policing at their matches. They believed that the police invariably recommended inflated numbers of police officers for football matches more on the basis of how many of their staff could get easy overtime money through it than on the actual policing need. So, clubs asked for and were given full responsibility for security & safety inside their grounds. The maxim of “be careful what you wish for” was never more apposite. Now it’s all too much for clubs & their spokes-people. They now give what amounts to an ineffectual shrug when faced with difficult decisions about safeguarding people inside their places of business.
Uefa have no problems enforcing strict liability as Celtic know to their cost. The effect of this is that there is much less idiocy at Uefa competition games than at SPFL games, even from serial idiots. Further, Uefa will impose penalties not just on clubs hosting matches but also on visiting clubs where there is clear evidence that their fans have not behaved properly or been adequately supervised. Perhaps, Celtic don’t like it & perhaps most competing clubs don’t – but they get on with it because they want to be in the competition & earn the cash.
All of the mealy mouthing from football folk in Scotland is a testament to some of what is wrong with the game. Stakeholders in the game are presenting actions & conclusions about a solution to a problem in their game. Action & solutions that actually have the benefit of absolving them of any real responsibility but somehow still managing to leave them with all the control of the game. Mmmm let me think about that.
What are the councils – who approve & review clubs’ Safety Certificates at regular Safety Team meetings – doing about this?
What sensible solutions are the Police coming up with at these meetings?
(Mind you after the debacle of the police advised fan access & egress changes at the first O** F*** game at Celtic Park of this season, maybe they should offer silence as their best solution.)
What real power to Stadium Managers/Clubs’ Heads of Security wield in these forums?
Are club employees been advised to focus profit more than the safety of patrons?
Do CEOs & owners prevail upon Stadium Safety officers so that the least costly options are always preferred solutions, regardless of safety concerns?
Are these Safety Team meetings anything other than a cosy get together for them all once a month?
Then, we’re told it is a societal problem & football is not to blame.
Well excuse me for being obtuse, but within the clubs’ stadia, entry to which they control strictly on condition of payment of an entry fee & a promise of appropriate behaviour by the paying patron, it is very much their problem & theirs alone. This level of criminality at large attendance outdoor events is unique to football grounds in Scotland. In addition, these same companies, who complain that it’s a societal problem & who take your money are ignoring the rather large elephant in the stadium. They are legally obliged & compelled to safeguard the wellbeing of all people inside the stadium – staff, police, players, coaches, paying guests etc. Ostensibly, their licence to stage events & take your money depends on their ability to demonstrate consistently they are able to do so. The clubs get the money & the clubs have the licence – not society.
Imagine if a nightclub or pub (think Bairds Bar) continued to be the centre of violence (allegedly) every night or at least too frequently when it was open for business. How sympathetic would the Magistrate & Police be when the licensee in his defence stated that he was actually not to blame at all – but rather it was really all the fault of society? When they all stopped laughing they’d take his licence away in a flash & recommend that he lie down in a dark room. The concept is identical, but somehow we have allowed ourselves to be persuaded that it isn’t.
Clubs are responsible – end of story. If away fans are the problem, then have no away fans at all. For a while at least. Neither Celtic fans nor Newco fans would like that. Neither too would the owners of the other clubs who regard a visit from these two clubs as their best business days of the season. Once again, those who know what the answer to this problem really is, reveal themselves to be compromised when a real decision has to be made. Oh and if there were no Hearts fans allowed into Celtic Park for example & one sneaked in & chucked a bottle, how long do you think his true colours would remain a secret & how long before he was being identified by outraged Celtic fans around him?
Add to that the fact that we already have “strict liability” for away fans in operation in football in Scotland. You don’t believe me? Think about it – Three times recently we were told that seats/toilets being damaged at away grounds by fans of the two Glasgow clubs. We were also advised in tabloid prose that the bill for repairing or replacing those seats or toilets would be met by the away fans’ clubs. The significance of this arrangement & it being repeatedly mentioned seemed to be lost on most people. This “arrangement” is nothing more than a protocol of “strict liability” that the footballing authorities & clubs have signed up to because it suits them all.
It’s the Morcambe & Wise or Monty Python version of strict liability though: instead of identifying the criminals involved, or instead of banning the away fans from those clubs who cause this damage every time they are at that ground, so that the criminality might stop – the clubs hush it all up & say nothing. It only becomes topical when Steve Clarke tells everyone that the “sectarianism is a thing of the past” emperor in Scotland is actually very naked. It’s a nod and a wink between the clubs, the footballing authorities and the Police, just to square it all up internally.
The reality of this protocol of “Strict Liability” is that Away Day fans are being given a very clear message. In effect they are being told “You are allowed to smash up seats at away grounds & we won’t do anything to stop you.” Not surprisingly, when you tell people who destroy seats at football grounds that they will get away with it, it’s a fairly logical for them to assume that the other things they do will treated in an identical manner. Thus for them, throwing the seats must be permissible too, otherwise why would stewards & police allow them free rein to damage them in the first place. I’m certain that if you asked the clubs why they have this arrangement & what exactly is the clubs’ logic behind it – you’ll be met with a shuffling of feet & a mumbling of unconvincing platitudes.
So let’s hear no more of “Strict Liability” won’t work. It certainly won’t work if there is no will for it to work. It works with all Uefa tournament games & it works with the scourge of damaged seats that you & I and our clubs ultimately pay for: another message that those who damage the seats receive loud & clear – “You cost the rest of the us fans money when the club has to pay for the damage you do, but we won’t do anything to stop you.”
In the past gormless legislation criminalized thousands of people and made no appreciable impression on the behaviour of the determined troublemakers at football grounds. But, that legislation was more preferable to those in power than actually discussing ways to implement an effective solution to a very real problem.
The solution is very simple but there is no will to implement it for spurious reasons of liberty, entitlement & the good of the game. Whose liberty & what is the good of the game to which they refer?
Until we have all reached the end of our tolerance for this criminality it will continue to blight our game as will the re-cycling of blame & responsibility amongst those who should be taking the lead in ensuring that the only talking point inside football grounds is the football itself.
Our grateful thanks,FOOL TIME WHISTLE,for the time and effort put into the above. A cogent argument,indeed.
It can be your turn to put your thoughts across,simply by mailing Mahe on