Is Scottish football still in the “Dark Ages”?

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Credit: Creative Commons

Andrew Quinn
Sports Editor

Kilmarnock have been subjected to sectarian abuse from both sides of the Old Firm in the last couple of weeks. Kris Boyd was hit with a coin and abused by Celtic fans, and Rangers fans called manager Steve Clarke a “Fenian Bastard”. In any other part of the world this would be considered racism, but in the West of Scotland it is a regular occurrence.

Although the clubs and the SFA claim that the abuse is unacceptable, there seems to be little done about it. Ultimately, the onus is on Celtic and Rangers, but is there really much motivation for them to do anything? Many of the people who shout sectarian abuse are paying fans and the fact is that bigotry makes the fans more passionate for their respective teams. The two teams are interdependent, even though they would never admit it. Without bigotry, there is a risk that the dominance of the two clubs would decrease. Many supporters, especially from towns and cities outwith Glasgow, end up backing one team because they don’t want to be part of the other. This means that the support for non-Old Firm teams dwindles. In an odd way, bigotry attracts supporters.

As there is little motivation for the club to do anything, other than their image, which neither team really cares about because they are so self-centred and refuse to believe that their side is as bad as the other, the SFA must step up. If they introduced points deductions, fans would stop sectarian chanting. They care more about being better than their rivals and have bragging rights than abusing them. This would be a radical move but it is necessary. Fines don’t make a difference as the club can always afford to pay up. Even if they couldn’t supporters would chip in because they are so (sometimes admirably) dedicated. Therefore, points deductions are the only solution.

The bigger problem is that sectarianism is fostered in schools. The fact that we have Catholic and non-denominational schools in the 21st century is ridiculous. Even though there are Rangers fans that go to Catholic schools and Celtic fans that go to non-denominational schools, the segregation reinforces bigotry. We know from history that separation doesn’t work and that integration is how people learn. Catholic schools were established in a time when Irish Catholics were discriminated against widely. They are now outdated and are hindering progress.

The biggest shame about this is that in the West of Scotland we tend to quite welcoming people. We pride ourselves in being sociable and inclusive yet we don’t practise what we preach with our fellow Scots. Stevie Clarke said he was glad that he left Scotland to coach at Chelsea and that his children don’t understand sectarianism. He said that the abuse he suffered was something from the “dark ages”. While we have come a long way from the pre-Graeme Souness era in which no Catholics played for Rangers, sectarianism is still rife and we must fight it. Thank God I’m a St Mirren fan.