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

Sport bosses, politicians and police must work side by side to keep down crime rates, says chaplain

It is imperative that sport authorities, politicians and the police work together in order to keep crime rates down, the Westminster Diocesan Chaplain for Sport has stated.

Pondering the many reasons for the existence of sport – ranging from entertainment and profit to building communities – Mgr Vladimir Felzmann insisted that it should not bring about crime.

“Sport should not foster tribalism and violence,” Mgr Felzmann told The Catholic Universe.

His statement came in response to the Scottish Professional Football League’s (SPFL) decision to change plans which would have seen both Scottish League Cup semi-finals played at Hampden Park on the same day.

The SPFL confirmed that Hearts and Celtic will now play at BT Murrayfield in Edinburgh at 1.30pm on Sunday 28th October, while Aberdeen face Rangers in Glasgow later in the day at 4.30pm.

The initial plan, which would have seen Aberdeen vs Rangers played at 12.00noon and Hearts vs Celtic at 7.45pm received widespread criticism by clubs, supporters, politicians and transport bosses.

The fixture issue arose because both Celtic and Rangers are playing in the Europa League meaning both had to play the League Cup matches on the Sunday.

Police Scotland had initially approved the plan but Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins called for further talks with the SPFL after police federation officials came out strongly against the proposal.

A petition, demanding that the matches either be played in different locations, or on a different day, was also set up by James Morris, a Heart’s fan.

Mr Morris warned that staging both fixtures at the south Glasgow venue within a matter of hours would result in ‘violence on an industrial scale’.

His petition gained support from fans across all four clubs and further afield and, while welcoming the SPFL’s announcement to change the fixtures, he insisted that there should now be a ‘full and frank explanation’ into why the decision was initially made.

Meanwhile, Mgr Felzmann, who is also CEO of the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, pointed out that violence in Glasgow had dropped in the past number of years and stressed that sporting events should not become catalysts for further problems.

“In 2005 the World Health Organisation branded Glasgow the murder capital of Europe but since then, knife crime has plummeted,” he said.

“The number of people admitted to the city’s hospitals for slashes and stab wounds fell by 65 per cent between 2004-05 and 2016-17. These days, the trauma surgeon at Glasgow’s facial-surgery unit has so much spare time that he spends some of it removing wisdom teeth.

“With Rangers back in the top tier, there with Celtic, the police, sporting authorities and politicians need to work together to keep crime dropping down rather than creeping up,” he added.

Picture: Police officers patrol outside Hampden Park, Glasgow. (Richard Sellers/EMPICS Sport).