It’s been a shocking few days for Rangers football club and its supporters. Sadly, it could end up impacting Celtic and the rest of Scottish football.
Police officers have said Saturday’s events in Glasgow involving Rangers fans was the worst violence they had dealt with in 20 years. [STV]
Organisations such as Show Racism The Red Card have condemned the anti-Irish and anti-Catholic hatred on display.
The perpetrators have also been chastised by politicians and authorities extensively over the last few days.
Now, the Scottish Government are again raising the possibility of strict liability being enforced in Scottish football, which could result in Celtic and all other clubs being punished for the actions of supporters, much like in UEFA competitions.
Fines and event points deductions could be on the cards, even if clubs take steps to mitigate the behaviour of their fans.
Justice secretary Humza Yousaf told The Daily Record: “Strict liability has to be considered, no ifs no buts. It’s clearly a matter that has to be discussed and considered.
“What I would say though, having engaged with football clubs right across the Premiership and in the lower divisions over the years, this is a significant problem but not for all clubs. Therefore, actually, most clubs shouldn’t have anything to fear when it comes to strict liability.
“So, yes, those conversations will go ahead. It’s just such a shame that it requires that stick. It shouldn’t require that stick to try to get people at football clubs into line here.
“What we want to see from Rangers football club in this instance is really hard action against those fans who engaged in the shameful scenes over the weekend. That means banning them from Ibrox for their entire lives because if that reverberates around other fans, that will probably have more impact than a court fine for example.”
Celtic have in the past been fully opposed to the concept of strict liability. They once officially responded to a Scottish Parliament consultation on the matter.
The club said [Celtic Star]: “Celtic Football Club is fully opposed to the proposal to introduce strict liability for football clubs in Scotland for the behaviour of supporters at football matches.
“While Celtic recognises the importance of the issues raised in the consultation, and does not in any way seek to trivialise, accept or justify the nature and impact of some of the behaviour experienced in Scotland, it believes that those individuals who engage in unacceptable conduct at football matches represent a tiny minority of those that support football in Scotland.”
Critics of strict liability would note that bigotry and sectarianism in Scotland go well beyond the realm of football.
Proponents of the idea would consider it to be an effective way of holding supporters to account for their actions in a way that is meaningful to them.
It’s an issue and debate that looks to now be firmly back on the table for good or ill.
It’s something we’ll dig into, educate ourselves and look to explore on 67 Hail Hail in the coming weeks and months.