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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Nearly half of Scottish football fans subjected to sectarian abuse, poll finds

Nearly half of Scottish football fans have been subjected to sectarian abuse at matches but only two-thirds said they would report it to authorities, according to a recent supporters’ poll.

Results from the 2018/19 Scottish Football Supporters Survey, which quizzed 6,041 fans from around the country about their experiences attending games, found that 41 per cent of respondents said they had been subject to sectarianism and 16 per cent physical abuse, with 34 per cent admitting that they would not report it at all.

Meanwhile, 85 per cent of supporters revealed they had witnessed sectarianism compared with racism (58 per cent), physical abuse (52 per cent) and homophobia (51 per cent).

Supporters Direct Scotland revealed the results of the first of three surveys that they are conducting up to 2020 as part of a partnership with the Scottish FA and SPFL.

Commenting on the results of this first survey, Alan Russell, Supporters Direct Scotland’s chief executive, admitted that “respect issues should still be a major concern for Scottish football”.

“Most supporters have witnessed discrimination in and around football stadia in Scotland; and many supporters have been victims of abuse, particularly sectarianism,” he said. “Worryingly, a third of fans say they would not report discrimination if they witnessed it or were subjected to it.”

The findings come as Scotland’s justice minister, Humza Yousaf, warned clubs that if they fail to stamp out sectarianism, the Scottish Government has the right to step in to rid football of the “vile cancer”.

“Our preferred solution has always been that football steps up to address this long-standing problem with meaningful solutions,” Mr Yousaf told MSPs in Holyrood.

“It is important for football to demonstrate leadership on this issue, but if action is not taken we reserve the right to act to rid this vile cancer from our national game.”

Mr Yousaf also revealed that implementing measures such as the role of strict liability and the licensing of football stadiums were being considered.

Under strict liability rules, a club is held responsible for the conduct of its fans, with sanctions including fines, annulment of match results, closure of sections of stadiums or playing matches behind closed doors.

Clubs are ruled under strict liability in European competitions, but not in the domestic game. Scottish Professional Football League members voted overwhelmingly against such a proposal in 2013.

The serious issue of sectarianism in Scottish football has been highlighted in recent weeks following the anti-Catholic abuse Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke received during his team’s recent Scottish Cup replay defeat at Ibrox last month.

Neil McCann, a Catholic and former Rangers player, has also opened up about anti-Protestant abuse he received from Celtic fans during his time as Dundee manager.

This weekend’s Scottish Premiership fixtures:

Saturday 9th March

Celtic v Aberdeen – 3:00pm
Dundee v Heart of Midlothian – 3:00pm
Livingston v St Johnstone – 3:00pm
Motherwell v Hamilton Academical – 3:00pm

Monday 11th March

St Mirren v Kilmarnock – 7:45pm

This weekend’s English Premier League fixtures:

Saturday 9th March

Crystal Palace v Brighton & Hove Albion – 12:30pm
Cardiff City v West Ham United – 3:00pm
Huddersfield Town v AFC Bournemouth – 3:00pm
Leicester City v Fulham – 3:00pm
Newcastle United v Everton – 3:00pm
Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur – 3:00pm
Manchester City v Watford – 5:30pm

Sunday 10th March

Liverpool v Burnley – 12:00pm
Chelsea v Wolverhampton Wanderers – 2:05pm
Arsenal v Manchester United – 4:30pm

Picture: Rangers fans taunt Celtic fans prior to an Old Firm derby at Celtic Park, Glasgow on Sunday 2nd September 2018. (Ian Rutherford/PA).