Football supporters threw police tape onto the pitch as part of an anti-criminalisation protest at Celtic’s match against Motherwell
The protest took place at the SPFL top flight match at Fir Park, Motherwell, on Saturday 17 October, which Celtic won 1-0. Both sets of fans took part in the demonstration in which banners were raised and dozens of rolls of police tape launched on the side of the patch.
Celtic fans began chanting “All Celtic fans against the bill” and raised a banner saying “stop disrupting fans’ lives”. The Motherwell contingent also held up banners and threw police crime scene tape onto the pitch. The demonstration was the latest protest against the Scottish Government’s anti-bigotry legislation, the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act, which many believe discriminates against football fans.
A statement from Police Scotland said: “We are aware of these items being thrown onto the pitch today. Nobody was injured. These incidents will be reviewed. No arrests have been made in connection with this.” Police also confirmed two men were arrested in connection with a disturbance in the stadium, but this was not related to the protest.
Celtic supporters’ group, Fans Against Criminalisation, said in a statement: “We hope that this protest will help to highlight the issues we have been campaigning on for some time. Every single mainstream opposition party in Scotland opposes this Act, as do many notable lawyers, sheriffs, political commentators and Celtic Football Club.
“We call on the Scottish Government to accept that this legislation has achieved nothing other than to criminalise ordinary football fans and to repeal it as a matter of urgency. The Scottish Government cannot reasonably expect football fans to meekly accept the harassment they face nor the attacks on their rights to freedom of speech.”
Green Brigade statement 17-10-15
The Green Brigade today worked in unison with the ‘Heavy Hands, Empty Stands’ campaign of Motherwell supporters to highlight our shared concern regarding the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. The SNP have reneged on their promise to fully review the OBAF Act whilst Police Scotland have actively sought to prevent dissent against it, however this is merely the beginning of a renewed campaign for the immediate repeal of this legislation.
Whilst we would rather that all fans could watch a match and support their team without disruption, a very slight delay to clear some tennis balls and police tape pales in significance with the disruption that has been caused to fan’s lives without due justification. The fact that there has been a unified action from two clubs against this Act highlights that this is an issue which affects all football supporters. This is perhaps the first time that rival supporters have cooperated in this way over a political issue since Celtic and Dundee Utd supporters demonstrated their opposition to Margaret Thatcher and the Poll Tax during the Scottish Cup Final in 1988.
Whilst the SNP have been actively attempting to portray themselves as a defender of Human Rights, this legislation and the policing culture which has encompassed it is tangible proof that they do not believe that civil liberties should extend to football supporters.
This Act remains unreasonable and unworkable, illiberal and illogical. The embarrassingly low conviction rate is a damning reflection of the inherent flaws within this legislation yet even that does not tell the whole story. Even those fans who have been found not guilty have had their lives turned upside down with multiple court dates, their names sullied in the national press and sometimes their livelihoods lost.
Regrettably, we were able to predict the consequences of this legislation before it became law yet our key concerns remain the same. No legislation should create an offence which applies only to one stigmatised section of society, as the OBAF Act does with football supporters. It is both dangerous and ridiculous in equal measure to outlaw something as flagrantly subjective as offensiveness and fans should not lose their basic right to hold or express political opinion upon purchasing a match ticket.
This weekend the SNP are holding their annual party conference where the treatment of football fans is not a genuine concern but we would like to make it clear to them that we will not allow this issue to be dismissed. We will continue to campaign as a member group of Fans Against Criminalisation to fight this legislation until it is repealed.