scottishbillcelticprotest

Dear Members of the Scottish Parliament,

As Football Supporters Europe (FSE), we are hereby writing to you regarding the above legislation.

Football Supporters Europe (FSE) welcomes the willingness of the Scottish government to address the issues of prejudice, sectarianism and hate crimes, both in society in general and as they manifest themselves in football. The number of high-profile incidents of abuse, threats and acts of violence and intimidation over recent months has raised public awareness of the issue, and we believe that the intentions behind the proposed legislation to tackle the problem are to be commended.

 

As an organisation, we remain firmly committed in our opposition to all forms of discrimination within football; rejection of violence and prejudice is a condition of membership of FSE. In particular, we believe that racism, sectarianism and religious prejudice have no place in football.

While we are in favour of positive action to combat sectarianism and other prejudices within Scottish football and society, we do however have serious concerns about some aspects of the legislation currently under consideration by the Scottish Parliament.

We are concerned that the scope of the legislation appears to be very broad. Clauses that refer to "other behaviour that a reasonable person would consider to be offensive" are, we believe, so potentially all-embracing as to be open to abuse, and could have the impact of criminalising broad layers of match-going football fans. There is a real danger that some interpretations of this legislation could turn into a criminal offence the legitimate rivalries between supporters of opposing football teams, or even be used against protest demonstrations by supporters within football stadia.

We are also concerned that some of the definitions in the Bill are unreasonably vague or wide-reaching; for instance, the clause that states, "a person may be regarded as having been on a journey to or from a regulated football match whether or not the person attended or intended to attend the match". We are concerned that the legislation in its focus stigmatises football supporters, and that many of the offences it specifies in a football context are already covered by existing legislation.

Football Supporters Europe believes that crucially important issues such as racism, religious hatred and sectarianism cannot be tackled by legislation alone. These are issues of broader Scottish society, not of football alone; however we recognise that football can play a major role in any campaign to rid Scotland of the scourge of sectarianism.

We would urge the Scottish government to adopt a thorough-going and wide-ranging programme of educational and preventative measures to challenge sectarianism. Anti-sectarianism could be incorporated into the educational curriculum; outside schools, diversionary and preventative projects among young people and particularly among young football fans (potentially along the lines of the German fan projects) could also have a positive impact.

Any successful campaign against sectarianism in football must also start from the recognition that the big majority of supporters are part of the solution, not the problem. Most football supporters in Scotland do not engage in prejudiced behaviour, and have an interest in challenging such attitudes and removing them from the game. Fans' organisations must be involved in genuine dialogue with a view to encouraging self-policing among supporters, leading the isolation of the bigots on both sides of the sectarian divide.

Against this background, even at this late stage, we would therefore urge you to reconsider and we remain hopeful that our concerns can be accommodated.

Kind regards

Football Supporters Europe (FSE)

 

UPDATE:The legislation was passed into law by the Scottish Parliament in the afternoon of 14 December 2011, with a majority of 7 votes.

• Click here to read the bill on Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill

 

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