BY Ian Dunn | April 5 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Sectarianism bigger than an Old Firm fixture

Leading expert on bigotry warns Scotland’s football authorities after Edinburgh derby

A leading expert on sectarianism has warned Scotland’s football authorities that measures to tackle bigotry should not just focus on the Old Firm, after describing the behaviour of fans at the Edinburgh derby last weekend. as ‘completely unacceptable.’

Dr John Kelly (above left), a specialist in sport and sectarianism at Edinburgh University, said he could clearly hear the singing of offensive chants by both Hibs and Hearts supporters during the match at Easter Road.

“The latest Hibs-Hearts derby at Easter Road exposed the bigoted, intolerant and inflammatory behaviour of some Edinburgh fans that seems to have escaped scrutiny from the police and media alike,” Dr Kelly said. “Tackling ethno-religious bigotry requires all guilty parties are held culpable if genuine solutions are to be found.”

A total of 10 fans were thrown out of the stadium for ‘unruly behaviour’ by police or stewards, with a further three arrested for alleged drunkenness and encroaching on to the pitch. These figures compared to six arrests at the recent Old Firm cup final and 34 at the previous Celtic-Rangers encounter at Parkhead that triggered a Scottish Government investigation into bigotry and violence problems in the game.

The Edinburgh derby trouble flared just days after Richie Towell (above right), on loan at Hibs from Celtic, said he had met more hostility at Tynecastle than at Ibrox as an Irish Catholic.

“When you go to Ibrox you realise how big the Old Firm rivalry is, but even when we went to play against Hearts you could see how their fans are and how they react to Celtic players,” Mr Towell, a 19-year-old from Dublin said. “Especially as I’m an Irish boy, and a Catholic as well. I think they’ll take it out a bit more on me, so I’ll have to be on my guard against that.”

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