THE Scottish government has this week launched a campaign to promote new laws designed to reduce sectarianism in football.
The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 came into force last week, creating two new offences covering behaviour at matches and messages sent by post or electronically.
Passed by Holyrood in December, anyone convicted under the new legislation could face a prison sentence of up to five years and an unlimited fine.
Fronting the drive is superintendent David Brand of the Football Coordination Unit for Scotland (FoCUS), which has been touring the cities of Scotland to meet with fans.
Superintendent Brand explained: “We want to educate supporters on what is crossing the line and make them aware of how they can keep each other’s behaviour in check”.
The team have been meeting fans of multiple clubs in a bid to talk about improving the beautiful game, and uphold the reputation of Scottish football supporters as some of the most “passionate” in the world.
The FoCUS spokesman continued: “It’s really a minority of fans associated with Scottish football whose behaviour causes offence. But the minority can ruin it for others.
“Examples of the behaviour we wish to eradicate, from the singing of sectarian and pro-terrorist songs to abusive behaviour, have been broadcast around the world triggering hundreds of complaints, including from Scots living abroad who have been shocked to see what was coming out of their country.
“What I’m pleased to hear and see, however, is that there are clear signs of strong support from fans who have decided they will not stand for this kind of offensive behaviour in football”.
It is hoped that the new legislation will encourage more families to come to matches — and the coordination unit are emphasising the personal responsibility of fans, as well as work needed from clubs and police teams.
Superintendent Brand added: “It’s up to each individual to consider what kind of impact their own behaviour will have, and whether it could be considered offensive by others.
“The new legislation comes at the right time — when we are already going in the right direction. It sends a strong signal that offensive behaviour in football is completely unacceptable.
“It is another tool in our tool box for tackling the issue but we will continue, as we have been, to say to fans — work with us to make football better”.