1.3.05

I am not a criminal


March already! Where are all the days going? This morning I thought that I'd pay a tribute to Lisa by imitating her Liverpool scarf image of a couple of days ago. After doing that, I began to think about the Panorama documentary on sectarianism in the west of Scotland that was broadcast on Sunday night. I don't know if it was shown down south, but if it was, it gave a highly sensationalised account of the problem, and seemed to imply that all supporters of Rangers and Celtic are sectarian bigots who are brought up on a diet of anti-Catholicism or anti-Protestantism from birth. You could have been forgiven for thinking that we are all either members of the Ulster Defence Association or the IRA, and that we like nothing better to do than to go about shouting religious slogans into each other's faces - preferably before we smash the bottle into them. As a Celtic supporter, and as someone who was brought up in the Church of Scotland, I resent this. I am not going to deny that there is a problem with a minority of both sets of supporters. Nevertheless, it is hard to see how the constant scapegoating of the two clubs and the vast majority of their supporters - who are just ordinary, decent, law-abiding people - will help solve the problem, which is, in the final analysis, a social problem - and not a sporting one. There is only so much the clubs can do, and it is simply unrealistic, not to mention unreasonable, to ban people from the grounds for singing The Fields of Athenry or The Sash My Father Wore - which is basically what is being suggested. It is not helpful interviewing convicted criminals, who just happen to support either Rangers or Celtic, and give the impression that this is what a typical Old Firm supporter is like, and how they think, and then imply that if you scratch the surface of any Old Firm fan, you will find that they have more in common with the convict than they care to admit. There is no conspiracy here. The Old Firm have a problem with some of their supporters, and that problem is sectarian in nature. Chelsea and Millwall have a problem with some of their supporters, and that is racist in nature. Yet, when it comes to the Old Firm, the media wants to have us believe that all the fans are sectarian - not just a small minority. We are all sectarian because we sing songs at the game - and that means that we must be closet thugs. It won't wash, and the BBC should not be allowed to get away with it. Sectarianism may be Scotland's secret shame, but the public shame is that they are labelling us all. To compensate for their inability to resolve the social and economic problems that fuel sectarianism in the west of Scotland (just as they fuel racism in Bradford and Leeds) they are content to try and make us ashamed of supporting either Celtic or Rangers. It's a cop out, and well they know it. I for one will not be criminalised by proxy, and I will not stop supporting Celtic. And no, I don't think all Rangers' fans have two heads either. (Tried to make this look like a photo from a newspaper.)

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