At the first home game of the season I took the usual trip via Dalmarnock station. On my journey home I left the overcrowded platform and sat next to a (mid 50’s lady) on the way home from town with her daughter. The conversation went as follows;
Woman – “Do they not let everyone on the train in case there’s trouble?”
Me – “No, there’s various routes go through here so this probably wasn’t their train”
Woman – “I see there’s police on the platform. Is that for all the trouble?”
Me – “No it’s because they refurbished the station & it can’t cope with a Celtic Matchday”
Woman – “so was there any trouble at the game today?”
Me – “Ehhh No. I’ve not seen trouble inside Celtic Park for about 30 years”
Woman – “Really?”
What struck me about that conversation was the assumption, even expectation, that there is trouble at every football game. I wouldn’t have said the woman appeared particularly aloof or detached from common pursuits in life, that she wouldn’t know football fans, yet her perception was of a game where supporters were needing controlled. Her obvious perception that football fans are always on the verge of “kicking off” got me thinking of the discussion Grant Russell and I had about football needing to take control of the narrative.
Scottish football always appears to be reacting – reacting to Rangers liquidation when it was coming for months. Reacting to that liquidation triggering a termination clause in the tv contract when again their demise was coming for months and reacting, but doing nothing, to failure after failure on the park by the national team.
My conversation with this lady made me specifically think about the Offensive Behaviour At Football Act. In customer services a common phrase is that perception becomes reality. The narrative around the songs sung and the need for this law is that there is behavior at football that is unacceptable in 21st Century Scotland. That football is incapable of rooting this out and so the politicians have to step in. The perception that football fans behave in a manner that necessitates a law which singles them out as a special problem has become a reality for that lady.
The reality however is quite different. Football is a fantastic economic driver in Scotland and the colour and emotion that football generates is one of the essential elements of Scottish society. Football economically adds more to our society than theatre, music or film. It is THE success story of Scotland and for a variety of reasons you’d never know it.
Last week I wrote about the £12m spent on Dalmarnock station. It’s used approximately 25 times a season by countless football fans accessing Celtic Park (and it is countless as I’ve asked Scotrail and they don’t know) but the £12m was ONLY spent when the Commonwealth Games meant visitors to Celtic Park and the Emirates would be using it for 10 days.
This article and the one on Dalmarnock are the first in a few I will write about the lack of support football receives, the fact that football deserves £millions from the Scottish government to help it thrive and how football only has itself to blame for losing control of the narrative.
Next in this series will be the response when I asked Stewart Regan for the value football brings…”Why would we gather that info?”