Last night I witnessed a sweeping-under-the-carpet of pro IRA chanting by Lothian and Borders Police. Whilst waiting with a friend on Easter Road, Edinburgh before the Scottish Communities League Cup quarter-final, we saw a group of twenty or thirty Celtic fans indulging in distasteful and offensive songs.
The set of supporters were clearly seen revelling in chants and songs that glorified the IRA, and could be heard and seen easily from our position and most probably in a few hundred yard radius. As they neared where we stood, on the corner of Bothwell St, we thought that the four Policemen near us, who had been casting a ‘watchful’ gaze over the group, would react in one way or another. However as the group passed our position and made their way to the stadium we were astounded at the lack of activity and response from them, they did nothing.
About half a minute elapsed before a man with his young son went out of his way to talk to the Policeman. We could see that he was articulating himself in away that was calm and concise. I heard him asking if any action, at the time or retrospectively, would be taken against the fans. The response he got was frosty. One of the Policemen declared that ‘there was nothing doing, and that they should move on’. The man, who was holding onto his son’s hand, was visibly shocked by the laid back and rather blasé mindset of the men on duty. When the man then proceeded to ask them if they had heard the chants, he got an equally cold response, with the same Policeman repeating that he and his son should ‘move on’.
The way in which the Policemen essentially ignored the inflammatory and hateful actions of a minority of the Celtic support was shocking. It was clear to anyone that was in the surrounding area that these fans were not singing in a way that was purely motivated by a footballing perspective. They were not chanting in support of their teams, its players or its manager. They were infact chanting in support of a terrorist organisation, and the police did absolutely nothing about it. ACC Campbell Corrigan of Strathclyde Police comments on the ‘Tough New Laws Tackling Sectarianism and Offensive Behaviour’,
“We all understand that football clubs have traditions and that groups of fans feel strongly about them. However, football should be about football. Nothing else. That should be the message to the fans and to the wider world.”
He recognises that football should be about football, without the religious or political influences that tarnish sections of our game. However it is ironic that they say they are attempting to clamp down on the sort of behaviour that we witnessed last night, but in reality when the problem is right in front of them, they do absolutely nothing about it. Perhaps it’s unfair to judge the whole picture on this particular case, but regardless of that they should not be picking and choosing in the fashion in which they did before kick off last night. Either way it was lazy, lazy policing from the men on duty.
Alex Salmond is absolutely set on trying to stamp out provocative, offensive and vile behaviour from football fans, but if at a basic level it is not even being challenged when it is blatantly in front of the Police, what hope will he have in clearing out the hatred in Scottish football?
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