Following extraordinary events in the Old Firm last year—including bomb scares at Celtic—Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond called an emergency summit on the supposed “scourge of sectarianism” in football. The outcome, of course, was always going to be more rules and regulations. The Scottish Parliament made a contemptuous and anti-democratic attempt to pass the newly-drafted Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill in the space of two weeks, in order to catch the upcoming football season.
The Bill was, rightly, delayed because of pressure from opponents, and is still being discussed and debated now. If passed, it could mean up to five years in prison for supporters convicted of singing offensive songs, or songs which “incite violence in others” (whatever that means). Its reach would extend beyond the football ground: similar sentences could be handed out for football-related online offences.
Take a Liberty (Scotland), an organisation I founded, has launched a campaign against the Bill. We have started a petition, which has nearly 3,500 signatures to date, to combat the criminalisation of fans and to argue for free speech in football.