The Chants are Wrong, but so is the Bill

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The football was not great, but
that is not why Rangers’ 3-1 victory will be forgotten in terms of action on
the pitch. I had to hope to write about a third superb performance in a row, a
sign that this Rangers side had absolutely grasped the league with conviction
and were now strolling towards an (ultimately worthless) Third Division title.
Unfortunately the ugly nonsense off the pitch will gain many more headlines
than it deserves and is a sure sign of the ridiculous backwards and
hypocritical nature of both Scottish law, and Scottish football.
Before I go any further, in no
way do I condone singing about no Popes of Rome, nor do I endorse being up to
our knees in fenian blood or the like. They are songs which represent an ugly
underbelly which has stained the Rangers support for a very long time. The
concepts within them are violent, they are prejudicial, and they are
unacceptable.
They have no place at a football
match, even if those singing them do not ‘mean’ them literally. I doubt any
supporter leaving Shielfield
Park genuinely desired to
kick the head in of Catholics or indeed Celtic fans but merely expressing said
desire, even in ‘jest’ and in the emotional heat of the moment in a football
match, is still unacceptable in this day and age.
These are genuine issues and they
are not going away. No true Rangers fan genuinely condones the content of the
songs, even if most have sung them. However, the paradox within Scottish law is
leaving one group persecuted while others roam about their business immune to
prosecution.
It is clear that at other grounds
in Scottish football, unsavoury songs and chants are generated by various
supporters. It ranges from wishing ailing ex-players of opposition teams to
die, to glorification of terrorism, to, indeed, similar songs as Rangers fans
but without the same punishment.
This is by no means justifying
what Rangers fans sang at Berwick. It was out of order and requires action and
legal consequences. But so do all other vile chants emanating around Scotland. Is
glorifying the acts of terrorists in Northern Ireland genuinely viewed
as far less distasteful than glorifying the acts of a Protestant gang?
The Offensive Behaviour at
Football Bill enacted in February last year covers, among other things:
            “Expressing or inciting religious,
racial or other forms of hatred”
Unfortunately nowhere in its
lexicon does it include promotion of violent murderous groups. Nor are chants
about revelling in ex-players’ deaths covered in any way – in fact looking at
the bill there is no specific offence mentioned, except religious hatred.
Anything else is dismissed as ‘other forms of hatred’ or is in actual fact
entirely acceptable!
            ” The offence
will NOT: Restrict freedom of speech including the right to criticise or
comment on religion or non-religious beliefs, even in harsh terms.”
In blunt terms, glorifying
terrorism, promoting death, and even trivialising the sufferering of child
abuse – none of these are covered. Even blunter? This bill only gives a damn
about sectarianism and religious hate – both disgraceful stains on the fabric
of Scottish society but they are not the only thing sung by fans around the
country. And yet ridiculously anything which is not religious is simply
regarded as a ‘view’ and justified ‘freedom of speech’ – no matter how vile its
intent is.
The bill is a joke, a fabricated
bandwagon apparently designed to give Salmond and his SNP crew more votes. It
seems to pick purely on Rangers and select chants. Which is not to justify
them, but to nitpick at the ridiculous hypocrisy within this bill and Holyrood
which ignores other equally despicable chants. Or, indeed, deems them
acceptable within the law.
This badly requires a rethink –
all offensive chants which demonise or target groups or promote those who have
no place in a football ground should be outlawed.
Not just the easy targets.