Leadership, politics and football

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by Mark Irvine

First Minister – Alex Salmond – announced yesterday that new legislation to tackle sectarianism is to be put before the Scottish cabinet next week.

The aim is to pass the legislation before the new football season gets underway in July and government plans could see the maximum jail term for sectarian hate crimes – rising from six months to five years. The Scottish government is also considering ways to outlaw sectarian displays at during football matches and how to outlaw sectarian blog sites that encourage religious hatred and/or make death threats over the Internet.

The First Minister told the BBC yesterday:

“We’ve got a particular problem attaching itself like a parasite to our great game of football and that is now going to be eradicated, it’s over, it’s finished.”

‘Good for him’, is all I can say to that.

And it’s welcome to see the Scottish government putting its money where its mouth is – so soon after the general election.

Sadly what I can’t read or hear anywhere are all the naysayers and deniers who were so very vocal before the Scottish elections – with their doom-laden predictions and strident calls to keep politics out of football.

Surprisingly, they all seem to have disappeared like snow off a dyke.

Now the Scottish government can’t solve the problem by waving a magic wand, but it can show leadership galvanise others into action – and that’s exactly what it’s doing.

So I was heartened by a report I read last week about a Celtic fan who was jailed recently for hurling racial abuse at a Rangers player during an Old Firm match.

Not just because he was dealt with severely by the courts which is what you would expect.

But because he was identified and effectively handed over to Strathclyde Police by other Celtic fans – disgusted at his behaviour.

Now that’s what I call community action.