Date: 3rd November 2023
The Inevitable and Very Welcome Slide to Strict Liability
I was not surprised at the headlines this week from Celtic banning just over 200 of their supporters.
We all saw that what looked like the whole ground had flown Palestine flags in a well-coordinated display, but it seems only 200ish from the faction known as the Green Brigade were blamed for that and other stuff that was thrown in as a makeweight too in what will probably become a battle for the perceived soul of the club.
Nor was I surprised by reports of the unpleasant build-up and coordinated nonsense by Rangers fans at Dens Park.
For weeks we had smelled trouble potentially brewing generally because we have been in private dialogue with several clubs on behalf of some of our SFSA members about the growing ‘disrespect’ that ‘Ultra’ type fan groups and clubs are showing to their very own.
To their own fans, and clubs are slow to act!
It is not just about Pyros at matches which are dangerous, illegal, and plain daft, but about behaviour patterns with an inherent aggression stemming from a kind of self-righteousness and a misplaced belief of superiority.
And in some instances racist chants and songs aplenty.
Stuff our game is better off without.
All of what is happening needs fixed.
And to do that needs proper open discussion between all stakeholders and believe it or not, input and sign-up by all parties or it will just fester and get worse.
And if that happens then everyone loses out.
I had been invited today on to David Currie’s report on lunchtime Radio Scotland to discuss the pyros problem.
It was following up Wednesday’s madness and badness while also looking forward to this weekend’s Hamden semis, where more badness and madness might just be ‘coordinated’, because coordinated it all is.
Make no mistake about this.
This is not a few guys buying a packet of Astra bangers and Jumping Jacks to set off at their local match.
As it happens, I got stood down because a different story angle was breaking, but ahead of the slot I had thought about just what is happening and more importantly what to suggest is done about it.
Ignoring it will just see it get worse in nasty hops, steps, and jumps.
It doesn’t take the wisdom of Solomon to see that coming to and agreeing and implementing solutions that might work needs to go beyond the age old knee-jerk nonsense and start with a real, honest and open round-table discussion.
That will take macro thinking unheard of in Scottish football to combat the very hard fact that whether it is the SFA or SPFL, football in Scotland is categorically in a straightjacket, run by clubs for clubs and managing a decline.
That means despite both the SPFL and SFA having many good people that the self-interest by their dominant club members comes to play in every decision and policy.
And Machiavelli, I have been told, cut his very teeth in Scottish football.
Ok that is not true, but the good guys running our game are oft being told what to do by the self-interested tail, i.e. ‘Our way or the highway’.
None of this is ever published or discussed and there are no records open to the fans.
Ask yourself why?
Internal decisions, all made to avoid any questioning or scrutiny.
And somehow backed by constant recourse to the public purse if/when things go wrong.
How can there be this kind of zero accountability when there is substantial government money flowing into Scottish football?
Money from discussions with no available records.
And also, believe it or not, nobody either knows how much it adds up to or has been previously and where no one wants the number publicly known or discussed.
That is plain wrong.
And by the way this wee piece will conclude with the only long term macro solution that is right for our country and all the clubs in it, and not just those which currently dominate the decisions and the decision making processes.
That is Strict Liability.
Scottish Football Needs Strict Liability.
Consider the ongoing contradiction.
Our big clubs all sign up for it gladly in Europe but guess what happens when they see that it will mean they have to become responsible for their own fans in domestic situations as well?
They don’t want that.
If I was a politician signing off the public money flowing into football I’d like to know why clubs don’t think they should be responsible for their own fans in football related situations.
Like the Pyro display that lit up Dens Park and nearly led to a match abandonment.
What is even worse.
Clubs also collectively currently hide behind a ‘self-created wall’ that says if a club has tried its very bestest to be good, and trouble still happened, then there can be no blame and no punishment.
That’s not a good enough recipe for genuine club and fan behaviour control.
There has to be a statute downside for bad fan behaviour, just like with Uefa competitions, (where it’s not even controversial).
Our lives are lived by rules with downsides if we don’t agree.
I know if I drive at 100 miles an hour to Glasgow tonight, or if I go to Sainsbury and clear the cheeky little chardonnay’s from the fridge into my back pack without paying that there will be consequences.
I might not like it but the rules are collective as are the downsides.
The 100% certain fact is football club owners and fans sign up to collective and individual responsibilities every day in every way.
So back to Pyros.
They are illegal and why should their use not lead to a downside for individuals and clubs?
If Celtic had beaten Feyenoord and had the points deducted because that was the rule then that was the rule.
Likewise if Dundee were awarded a 3-0 victory.
Two simple awards that would stop this problem virtually overnight.
A severe and sharp learning to the pyro perpetrators and the innocent fans too that collective bad behaviour carries a horrible downside.
But Pyros are only part of the story we’re hearing from unhappy fans.
There are also other things like stealing allocated seats at away games, bad behaviour on public transport, outside the grounds and during the entry process, and general superiority-driven aggression to those not in the self-proclaimed ‘clubs within clubs’.
Pyros and Other Stuff Needs Honest and Open Discussions.
My starting point in any discussions is you can judge any organisation by how it treats its weakest members and I think football has been out of kilter for a long time.
Those who shout loudest get most.
That’s just plain wrong.
Anyway back to Pyros, again, and this week’s developments.
First we were told that to solve the issue there is going to be “A Summit”, later this month.
When I heard that I immediately thought of very ridiculous mind worm of ”The Knights Who Say Ni” demanding “A Shrubbery”.
Bear with me and to be fair it would probably deliver a better solution.
Anyway, again, “The Summit”, would be held later this month and would be between, SFA, SFSA, The Scottish Government and Polis Scotland”.
Immediately that rang alarm bells.
Plans for “A Shrubbery”, type ridiculous dialogue, with No fans, no fan groups pro-Pyro, no individual, or fans groups agin.
A meeting to talk and spout platitudes and blame everyone else while collectively hoping the problem goes away.
Then, just this afternoon, a ‘wee bird’ told me that this was not actually a new summit but was just a sleight of hand hijack of the “AGM of League Safety Officers”, possibly enhanced, possibly something close, probably neither.
So those who run our game are saying: “No to a real thought-through Summit”, “No to Shrubberies”, “No to listening to fans” and “No to workable solutions” that change the status quo.
The usual nonsense and in its own way equally Pythonesque.
And as usual no public records for the fans, or the MSPs.
Aside from learning about ‘The Summit’, I also happened to catch the BBC Scotland news programme, ‘The Nine” last night which featured our SFSA’s very own Stuart Murphy who is Dundee’s ex-chairman and who had also been at the game.
He was appearing along with Derek Watson, a fan member of ‘The Well Society’.
Stuart was obviously invited on to be ‘against pyros’ and Derek to talk of his support ‘for pyros’ but things are never that simple.
It sort of ran that way but both concluded that pyros need proper discussion and to some fans Pyros, legal or not, do add value.
Let me say, I personally would just about accept them once a year on a special occasion, coordinated before the match like at Murrayfield but would be far happier without any.
But I am one person, one voice, and I accept that some fans do like them and at Brondby they now have ‘Non-Heat Pyros’, i.e. no burning and less chance of danger.
Our SFSA research backs up that there is a substantial body of support who want proper discussion, but it wouldn’t ever happen at a Summit about the usual kind of Shrubberies, that somehow repeat and reappear when shit happens in Scottish football, even if the Black Knight has regrown his arms and legs.
We should actually be asking, nay demanding a Summit to discuss Strict Liability as a way to eradicate the current Pyro threat to innocent fans.
And in quick time thereafter a ‘Summit’, to discuss how football can free itself of the shackles of member self-interest and instead a focus on common good, i.e. the total business.
A Game Run For Clubs rather than By Clubs.
I’d be in favour of that.
That’s it for this week
Feedback input and wee stories welcome as always.
Andy’s Album(s) of the Week
This week it is Roseanne Cash and ‘The List’.
Given her Fife Roots, I wonder if she is a Raith, Pars, Kelty, Blue Brazil, St Johnstone, Dundee or Dundee United fan?
Does anyone know.
Anyway a fine album featuring the secret list of the only tracks her dad thought were worthy of her time.