Oooh Behave!

Date: 17th March 2024

Oooh Behave!

British “classic” TV and film would always showcase the double entendre of the likes of Kenneth Williams as entertainment when they drawled out a word to make it sound, risqué.  That he appealed to people who suspected his proclivities, illegal at the time, and such a torment to him, was an irony worth relishing as he would use his customary campness to make an entrance or have such a startling effect on people. He was adored.

I was much taken by that reminiscence when reading all about Hibs taking steps to limit visiting fan numbers due to unruly behaviour. In a pretty honest and bold move, they did not find themselves being all high and mighty as they agreed that their own fans suffered from some of the effects of misbehaviour that have been witnessed in Leith form their visitors. Those that did not behave were to be less than welcome. In fact, they were attempting to discourage them by limiting their opportunities to attend.

As a fans based organisation, you might think that we at the Scottish Football Supporter’s Association (SFSA) would be in the mix screaming unfair, and not helpful and the likes.

Not a bit of it.

In 2019, we began a process where strict liability and how it could be administered was a pathway down which we wished to take Scottish fitba. Within that, we recognised that Strict Liability (SL) had success in some areas, especially on the continent around homophobia and racism but that it may have had less success in other areas.

In 2019, we agreed, at Board level, that “something has to be done soon and that we would much prefer a solution that is created and endorsed by football and regulated through the Club Licensing rather than legislation.”

In light of the failure of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, by the Scottish Government, which at least was an attempt to resolve matters, the SFA seem as far away from implementing SL as ever.

Hibs were forced to act after abhorrent chanting at the Cup tie with Rangers. But they are not alone over the years, as the carnage after a visit by Celtic fans at Motherwell was a few years ago and much documented.

Unfortunately, for both Glasgow clubs, their influence and might, gathered in the massive numbers of people who watch them loyally weekly, means that, as well as getting the lion’s share of any mainstream media coverage that they also get the back pages when they are misbehaving. Why? Because they have the volume.

I have little doubt that there are fans of other clubs just as guilty, and Hibs recognise that by making it a ban or partial limitation for almost all fans.  Giving their announcement the title of “Enough is Enough” indicates strength of sentiment but what they also appear to lack is national action from a national body. Widely reported, the SFA have indicated that they want Hibs to advise on unacceptable fan conduct to a committee which looks at rule changes.

The language that Hibs have used in their statement includes describing this intolerable behaviour as rife. They have called on other clubs to do the same as they have and are now open to SL because of this. The SFA have indicated that they want Hibs to advise on unacceptable fan conduct to a committee which looks at rule changes.

Currently Scottish clubs can avoid being punished because of the behaviour of their support if they have taken steps to prevent such incidents. Interestingly, Hearts are exempt from the Hibs ban at Easter Road, directly opposite from what Rangers and Celtic seem to have done to each other. This comes despite the number of missiles thrown at Lawrence Shankland during a recent derby which ended with a mid-match meal provided for him as he caught a pie, took a bite and threw it safely away.

The issue of pyrotechnics has also evaded proper discussion and debate to find a solution to the nagging fingers at young supporters and the throwing of them onto a pitch has therefore evaded action.

Everything tried has failed.

But as Chris McLaughlin at the BBC reported during the week, “The Scottish FA has asked Hibernian to present its views on unacceptable fan behaviour to a committee that looks at rule changes within football.”

I have no words. The chants were broadcasted. The missiles were photographed and widely circulated. You can see plenty of images and videos on social media sites of flares – they make a pretty picture. It would appear at the top we have the administrative equivalent of King Canute and Emperor Nero.

I am in favour of SL, but also of radical change to make sure that when you have seen something, you accept that you cannot unsee it and therefore take action which does not include a committee, nor include a report, working group or consultation exercise around a handpicked table…

But who am I to suggest such a thing…

Just a somebody like legions of fans who are fed up with bad behaviour, physical threats and neanderthal chanting. And such civilised change needs to be led and implemented by people at the top who can smell the fire r know that the tide is turning…

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