The way in which non-football supporters hold football responsible for the behaviour of fans is peculiar. I have long felt it impossible for clubs to be held responsible for the people who may latch on to them. How can any football club be a liable and responsible for the direct actions of random people? In some ways this is a little different to me being held liable for the actions of someone who follows me on Twitter, I didn’t choose for them to follow me, so why should I be responsible for their actions?
Of course, football clubs do have some responsibility in the same way that a McDonald’s or a pub is expected to exert some control in the immediate environs for the behaviour of their customers, with McDonald’s sending out teams to tidy up some of the litter in the vicinity and the pubs being expected to request their customers keep noise levels down upon exiting, but once they are well away away from their premises, their level of liability falls off a cliff. If there was a group going on a spree of assaults in one of our major cities who also happened to shop in Tesco’s, the supermarket brand would never be held responsible for that group’s actions, even if, they ate a Tesco meal deal lunch prior to undertaking every assault. I have therefore never thought strict liability for clubs is viable.
This feeds into the weekend’s antics and whether Rangers Football Club can be held culpable for all the actions of their supporters.
It is not unreasonable to expect that Rangers make strong statements on judging against the activity of the supporters, but more specifically they should condemn the supporter behaviour in the immediate aftermath. What occurred, however, is more emblematic of a problem in Scottish civil society. It is about an attitude that exists in Scotland. It was a culture, attitude and behaviour that was never dealt with by civic society as Scotland became more sophisticated and they decided to deal with it by ignoring and then using the “both sides” argument.
The sophisticated working class jobs like senior police officers and other industries retain that anti-Irish/anti-Catholic culture. It goes largely unseen because it has been kept behind closed doors, but once in a while (every marching season or Manchester or a league win), the curtain is pulled back and the underclass are let off the leash. The behaviour is permitted and excused in the same way that casual sexism has been allowed for decades “it’s locker room chat” or “boys will be boys”.
Rangers are not the cause of this problem, but for decades, they have happily harnessed the power of this bigotry for pounds in their pockets.
The issues at George Square of an entitled underclass, who parade their “superiority” and who are allowed to celebrate their “culture” every marching season in a way that is repulsive, offensive and abusive to Scotland’s Catholic community and the way that that has been permitted, is a constant stain on Scottish society.
Whilst Rangers cannot be held responsible for all the actions, it does not absolve them of responsibility. Every time Celtic fans stay period of line the club make a statement and apology and criticise those supporters. Whilst for some (and on occasion for many) Celtic have been too quick to meet these statements, it indicates an amount of self-awareness and level of social responsibility. The silence from Rangers has been deafening, and the lack of criticism for decades from Scottish civil society of anti-Catholic/anti Irish bigotry and their hope that it just eventually ‘goes away’ and the allowance of this bigotry and the acceptance of the behaviour by the bigots during ‘marching season’ is a permanent stain on Scottish civil society and something that, for many of us, is a challenge to the concept of an egalitarian independent Scotland.
We can no longer allow this bigotry to be “football’s problem.” The false comparisons, the “two cheeks of the same arse” defence will no longer be accepted. Whilst it’s great to see that finally anti-Catholic/anti-Irish bigotry and prejudice is being called out it cannot be just about this weekend. We can no longer allow this issue to be swept under the carpet, the “locker room banter” defence will not wash. Scotland has a problem. It needs to own it and it needs to deal with it. Saturday must become the line in the sand for Scottish Society.