Old Firm rivals need ‘clarity’ over new laws

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Local fans of Rangers and Celtic have called for clarity on the Scottish Government’s new anti-sectarian legislation amid continuing problems relating to religion within football.

The chiefs of Hawick’s Rangers and Celtic supporters clubs have asked for officials to publish a list of acceptable terminology and songs after Holyrood lawmakers outlined a new act that outlaws both inflammatory behaviour at football stadiums and the communication of threats intended to provoke religious hatred.

Michael Hook, secretary of Hawick Rangers Supporters Club, says Old Firm fans are often unfairly criticised for stoking a healthy rivalry. “We need to get it clear as day so people aren’t getting involved in stuff that can lead to prosecution, particularly if it’s down to a lack of knowledge,” said Hook. “I always think Rangers and Celtic fans get a hard time because this sort of thing goes on at all events. And it’s the same at Scotland v England, Hibs v Hearts, Hawick v Gala, but Old Firm fans seem to be criticised more for it.”

Scott Richardson, secretary of the Hawick Shamrock Celtic Supporters’ Club, echoed Mr Hook’s sentiments, adding: “We need clarity over exactly what songs are and aren’t offensive. Various supporters groups have asked for a list, but the government still can’t produce such a document.

“There’s a lot that is wrong in football and society in general, and it’s only right that sectarianism is being dealt with robustly. But it’s also about finding a way forward so we don’t take away the passion from the Old Firm.”

Holyrood’s community safety and legal affairs minister Roseanna Cunningham, said “The overwhelming majority of football fans who have been supporting their teams in the true spirit of the game for years have absolutely nothing to fear from this legislation. It will have no impact on the banter and passion that goes hand-in-hand with supporting football teams.”