Unacceptable conduct an answer by Arthur Bell

Date: 27th April 2019

Unacceptable conduct an answer by Arthur Bell


Like all sane people, I condemn in the strongest possible terms the spate of incidents this season involving unacceptable conduct in Scottish football. The behaviour is completely unacceptable and simply has no place in football, or Scottish society.

However, I do not believe that strict liability for football clubs is the answer. I do not believe that we should stigmatise a large section of our society based on what they do for leisure. While the same regulations aren’t applicable for other events e.g. other sports events, concerts, cinema, nightclubs, demonstrations, protests etc.

If we allow a discourse where football fans are seen or perceived to be deserving of more stringent treatment from police and authorities, then incidents will become more likely not less. Without complete transparency and consistency from all agencies then it will be a very difficult, if not impossible, task.

In my opinion, education and rehabilitation are the major strands to successfully dealing with these issues and not criminalisation. Some of the recent events are criminal offences and the perpetrators should be dealt with using the full force of the laws already in place. However, I have grave concerns about young fans perhaps having their futures jeopardised because of stupid behaviour e.g. having an offensive banner. Surely a compulsory re-education and rehabilitation course along with community service would be more effect in the long term. Community service could have a football aspect, working at local pitches, junior grounds, coaching, helping local clubs etc.

I am aware that there are many excellent projects by the SFA and others focussing on using football to prevent offending. However, I am not aware of similar projects that specifically target offenders and inmates. I would be interested to know how many of the fans causing these issues are first time offenders and how many are previous offenders with little to lose by a short-term sentence.

I also, believe that most of this aggressive, abusive behaviour is learned and that most of this behaviour is learned at home or from peers. Therefore, part of a strategy to break the cycle must include re-education of parents, young adults, young offenders, offenders and anyone at risk. That is go into their environment and work with them.

Most of the prisoners in the system will most likely one day be released back into the community and I feel it is essential that we all do, all that we can to try and break the habits and patterns of behaviour that led them there.

Increasingly we see evidence of issues and behaviour in and around football that cause great concern. These are not caused by football; however, they can manifest themselves in football. Stress, depression, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, suicide, sex abuse, bullying, mental health etc. These can also be aggravated by people in football, sometimes without any realisation, I could give personal experiences, even some involving SFA staff.

Football does pay back society in a plethora of areas and ways e.g. Health, Social, Cashback for Communities, My School of Football, My Volunteer and Inspire Project, My Inclusive Community etc. If an offender is never an ex-offender there is no second chance, there is a vital resource not being tapped, experience, potential, workforce, volunteers, etc. A lot of offenders are football fans, a lot of offenders feel that they have nothing to lose, with low self-esteem. Of course, it requires a complex solution there is no easy fix. If we are truly serious about confronting and tackling the issue, it will take an amalgamated, consolidated approach. All agencies, all stakeholders, with a clear plan, and more importantly responsibility and accountability.

I have also, with the use of bullet points, suggested a possible approach. Very much a skeleton of an idea that would need much fleshing out as I noted these over the course of one evening. Many of the agencies and staff are already working in the justice system. To confirm need and viability the programme would need to be fully scoped, determining and documenting a list of specific programme goals, deliverables, tasks, costs, deadlines, terms of reference and boundaries of the programme.

If Barton, Cantona, Penant, Adams, Jones, Ferguson, Kluivert, Best, Lennon, Gascoigne, King, Maradona, Deeney, Ranger, Thomson, Goodwillie, McGowan, Lithgow, Martindale, Hughes, Molby, Wilkins and Wright were given a second chance then so should “Angus Og”.

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