Thursday, 15 December 2011

MSPs questions security arrangements for FAC visit

Today, two MSPs have written to the SNP-appointed Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick to question security arrangements for Fans Against Criminalisation's visit to the Scottish Parliament yesterday.

High Henry, MSP for Renfrewshire South, is questioning Marwick on why we were refused entry to the debating chamber for the heinous crime of wearing t-shirts with letters on them, particularly when other groups have been allowed inside the chamber under similar circumstances.

Michael McMahon, MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill has aslo written to Marwick, asking why special security measures were taken for our group. As we went through the security scans at the entrance to the Parliament, McMahon was approached by the Head of Security and informed that FAC would not be permitted to enter the Garden Lobby (we had no plans to, in any case). McMahon is questioning why every other group who visits Parliament can access the Garden Lobby but football supporters are not allowed to, and asking who gave these orders. He is further asking if it is standard practice for the Head of Security to oversee the entrance of a visiting group, and if the large security presence in Parliament yesterday was laid on specially for the FAC delegation - both appear to be highly unusual.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Today, the SNP-appointed Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick instructed Parliamentary security to prevent members of FAC entering the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament. We intended to do no more than wear t-shirts spelling out the message 'FANS NOT CRIMINALS'.

This illustrates what FAC has long argued - that the SNP government are not listening to football fans and to the country. FAC, along with every other group in Scottish civic society, has pointed out the flaws in the SNP's anti-Football Bill, not least how it restricts football fans' freedom of expression.

The SNP government's refusal to even let us hear their passing of the anti-Football Bill mery emphasises why the Bill has been described as the most illiberal piece of legislation ever seen in the 'People's Parliament'.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Fans Against Criminalisation protest at Parliament

FAC will be protesting outside the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, ahead of the final vote on the Anti-Football Bill. We would encourage all who can make it to come along and make your voice heard from 12.45pm.

There are limited spaces on transport from Glasgow - if you are interested, please email us on

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Q&A with Motherwell's Heavy Hands Empty Stands Campaign

FAC recently caught up with a spokesperson from Motherwell fans' campaign Heavy Hands Empty Stands and asked them some questions about their campaign. We may not fully agree with what they say, but it's food for thought for politicians pushing the anti-Football Bill.

What are your views on the legislation?
The Heavy Hands Empty Stands campaign believe that the Scottish Government’s proposed legislation to tackle "sectarianism" will not make any difference.  There is already sufficient legislation which if properly enforced already covers all aspects of improper conduct by football fans both at and near stadiums.
Legislation, like this one, which is hastily derived for what is perceived as a current major problem is invariably rushed, ill-founded and not properly thought out and does not achieve the desired result.  Indeed such legislation inevitably fails and will criminalise many people whilst not actually addressing the supposed fundamental underlying issues.
Can you tell us a bit moreabout Heavy Hands, Empty Stands? 
The name Heavy Hands Empty Stands was taken from a banner displayed by Motherwell fans earlier in the season at Tannadice when a group of around 50 travelling supporters were knocked back from the stadium without any real reason. The Motherwell supporters involved in this campaign believe that treatment like such will kill Scottish football and this bill could be one of the final nails in the coffin. 
The government and media are portraying the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill as being ‘anti-sectarian’.We feel it has little to do with sectarianism and is actually anti-football. What are your thoughts?
As Motherwell fans we have witnessed and endured the sectarianism of the Old Firm for decades with very little done to address it. We should not however be tarred with the same brush and these laws if implemented will simply cause for football fans immeasurable problems due to the vagueness and draconian nature of the bill. 

As fans of a non-Glasgow club, how do you think you could be affected by the new law?
These proposals will affect all football fans and should be resisted by us all. As a club with a small fan base it easier for us to be targeted. Police officers often dont want to wade into a crowd of 3000 travelling supporters to arrest someone for something they may find "offensive" but when you find yourself with only 300 supporters they may see it as an easy opportunity. 
There was a recent incident at Pittodrie involving the police and Motherwell fans – can you tell us what happened? 
The whole incident was to do with heavy handed stewarding in relation to a group of Motherwell supporters who were standing up but that opens another debate. If your looking for any quotes on the incident there was a very accurate blog which can be found here:  One quote from the article states "Motherwell’s singing section had been standing, singing and generating an atmosphere. Soon after the Aberdeen goal, the stewards moved in towards the group and began to remove members of the group. This proved to be a flash point and the following half an hour saw more fans removed and a collection of ugly scenes between the Stewards and Motherwell fans. Fans were dragged up the stairs towards the top of the stands and one younger member was pulled by the chest and neck to the front of the stand and pulled out"

The Scottish Parliament votes on the Bill next week, what would you say to any MSPs reading in?
I think the majority of MSPs have voiced their opinion against the bill but to all those SNP members out there, we would urge you to rethink your decision. In a time where they have a majority government this could be a serious issue of losing votes in the next election. The laws are already in place, there is no need for this to pass. 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Meeting between FAC and Humza Yousuf MSP

On Tuesday 29 November, FAC met with Humza Yousuf, the Glasgow list SNP MSP at his request.  Mr Yousuf indicated that he wished to enter into discussions with us re amendments to the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill.  The meeting was held in St Mary’s hall and the discussion took place over a couple of hours.

The FAC members present reiterated the reason behind our opposition to the Bill ie
  • No case has been made for separate legislation which only applies to football
  • It is unnecessary in that existing legislation covers all the types of behaviour which the Bill is intended to cover
  • It is unworkable in that it is not clearly written and the guidelines to the Police are no clearer
  • It lacks legal certainty in that it is not clear what types of behaviour would be criminalised

We also indicated our grave concerns about how the Bill has developed and highlighted our view that the destruction of the data relating to the existing legislation (Section 74) has not been adequately explained.  We raised the issue of the credibility of the Convenor of the Justice Committee, Christine Grahame who has been accused of holding anti-Catholic views and who, to our knowledge, has yet to deny this;  and who is also currently under investigation by the Police for matters concerning election expenses.

Mr Yousuf responded at length. He indicated that the Bill was not perfect; that there was no consensus around it; and that legitimate negative points had been raised in relation to the Bill.  However, he argued that the Bill could be amended to make it better and that it was only one strand in an overall Government strategy to deal with sectarianism.  He stressed the issue of public disorder and argued that this was key to understanding how the Bill would be applied.  He asked for interested parties like ourselves to put forward amendments which he could look at as we are now at a stage when only Justice Committee members can put forward amendments. 

In response, we pointed out that there is no significant issue of public disorder in Scottish football to which Mr Yousuf replied that this was due to the high levels of policing.  We did not accept this point and told him that the level of policing of even the Glasgow derby is nothing compared to the levels of policing in other countries.  Even with the levels of policing there are at games, there is no evidence that the police struggle to maintain order.

Mr Yousuf said that he thought one area in which the Bill could be usefully amended was in relation to the part of the Bill relating to the notion of offensiveness.  This is the most unclear and broadly drafted section.  He also stated that previous amendments relating to freedom of speech are likely to be accepted.

Mr Yousuf agreed to follow up our concerns regarding the Section 74 data and the matter of Christine Grahame and her failure to deny the accusations against her.

He asked again for us to forward to him any amendments which we thought might strengthen the Bill.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Keep up the pressure - only weeks to go!

Just to keep people up to speed, the timetable for the Bill is as follows:

the Justice Committee will be debating the amendments which consist of some tidying up from Roseanna Cunningham, the inclusion of 'support for Terrorist organisations' and 'glorifying or celebrating events involving loss of life or serious injury' together with some detail on the review period from David McLetchie and matters relating to the review period; clarification on the nature of transgenderism; replacing ‘stirring up hatred against’ with ‘malice and ill will towards’ and replacing causing ‘fear and alarm’ with causing ‘
a reasonable person to believe that the threatened or incited act, given the circumstances, was likely to be carried out’ from Patrick Harvie.

The detail of the amendments can be found at

29/11/11 time set aside to finish the above debate if necessary

December  Then the process moves to Stage 3 which is consists entirely of the debate in full Parliament with a vote taken.  There is no date set for this but it is likely to be in December.  We plan to have a presence outside Parliament that day and possibly have a delegation going inside to see MSPs beforehand.  As soon as we have the date we will sort out numbers and transport.

It is vitally important that you contact your MSPs as soon as possible.  Please keep pressuring them to ensure that they realise that this Bill must not be passed.  If they are already opposed to the Bill then please ask them about the Section 74 data that were destroyed and the issue of the allegations against Christine Grahame, Convenor of the Justice Committee which have still not been denied.  There are template letters available on the Celtic Trust site at:

And the details of the allegations against Christine Grahame are on

Keep up the pressure – we will not be criminalised

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Green Brigade Response To Campbell Corrigan

Over the past few days, Strathclyde Police have orchestrated a media campaign to tarnish our group as bigots, as justification for their power-grabbing and the Scottish Government's new anti-Football Bill - a Bill that criminalises football fans and the Celtic support in particular. Realising they face a challenge from fans opposed to the Bill, the politicians and police need a scapegoat and they've decided that we fit the bill. Lurid headlines about our supposed 'songs of hate' have been followed up with a demand from Assistant Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan for us to meet him for a dressing-down - a demand made on the back page of a tabloid newspaper. 

We have yet to be formally invited to meet Corrigan but we are happy to respond to his public offer with a public response, and to tell him in the firmest possible terms that we have no intention of meeting him and letting him wag his finger in our face. Corrigan's police force have spent hugely disproportionate resources on policing and gathering intelligence on the Celtic support, and ourselves in particular, including constant video surveillance at matches and a range of petty harassment. 

Out of concern with the policing of football fans and the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill we, alongside the other established Celtic fan organisations, formed Fans Against Criminalisation. On October 29th, we held a peaceful and very successful demonstration in George Square to oppose the SNP's anti-Football Bill. In what seems like a direct response, Corrigan's police force have since acted against us and the Celtic support. At the match v Hibs that afternoon the police, with no regard for fan safety, waded into our section of the ground in an attempt to make arrests of unknown fans. Match commander Eddie Smith then made a complaint to the SPL about offensive chants and after the subsequent match with Rennes in the Europa League he made a similar complaint to UEFA. Such a complaint is unprecedented. 

Following the demonstration and those two matches, several fans have been arrested. In a dawn raid on Friday, the police arrested a 17 year-old boy for a breach of the peace. He has no previous convictions but despite this, he was remanded in custody for 7 weeks on Monday morning, for singing a song that Alex Salmond, Campbell Corrigan and co don't like. Earlier that morning a man accused of attempted murder was granted bail. The young fan was released last night after the intervention of the Lord Advocate. The Lord Advocate, one of the Bill's main cheerleaders, must have realised the potential political damage such a case, illustrating the Crown's attack on fans, would have had on the Bill. 

Campbell Corrigan has today been on radio shows, further scapegoating our group. We note that he is also insisting that he will be meeting Celtic fan organisations to tell us all how to behave. After the police's attack on Celtic fans following the Fans Against Criminalisation demonstration, two Celtic fan organisations asked them for a meeting to discuss their behaviour. The match commander Eddie Smith refused to meet them and his superior, Wayne Mawson, refused to speak of the events of that day. Rather than giving Campbell Corrigan free reign to scapegoat our group for his own ends, perhaps the media should be questioning him on his own force's political policing.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Green Brigade Statement

Green Brigade Statement

On the 29th of October, 2000 Celtic fans came together in Glasgow’s George Square to hold a very successful and peaceful rally against the SNP’s anti-Football Bill. They listened to speakers from the Fans Against Criminalisation campaign detail how the Bill criminalises football fans and the Celtic support, and how dangerous it would be to extend the law to give even more powers to the police.

After the rally, fans then proceeded on to Celtic Park. Along the way they picked up a heavily-manned police escort, complete with helicopter. Inside the stadium there was a further show of opposition against the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill, with over 100 supporters clubs displaying banners against the Bill and in support of Fans Against Criminalisation.

While the campaign could call on the overwhelming support of Celtic fans, Strathclyde Police clearly were not on message. Fans arriving at the stadium after the protest were greeted with a warning from a senior police officer: ‘you aren’t above the law, we are the law’. During the following 90 minutes and the fortnight since, the police have tried to prove their point. Although we are used to petty harassment from police and constantly being under video surveillance at matches, we were surprised to see a far larger than usual police presence in 111 – there were reportedly 20 officers in and around the stairwell in front of our section.

The match was pretty uneventful – goalless on the park and nothing out of the ordinary off it until the last 7 or 8 minutes of the game. Then, Strathclyde Police made their move. Hand-held cameras in place, they attempted to arrest someone within the section but many fans did not take kindly to their attempts to charge into a crowd and held off police who were pushing and shoving them. The police retreated empty-handed but after the match they again tried to apprehend someone as fans were walking out of the stadium. This time their (again, unsuccessful) attempts saw a young girl barged over and a crush was only narrowly avoided. The operation was clearly pre-planned: it was the first time in two seasons that the police have entered the rows of our section, it happened on the same day as Celtic fans held a successful demonstration against the criminalisation of our support and as we later found out, preceded a police complaint to the SPL delegate about ‘offensive chanting’. It seems that Strathclyde Police are Alex Salmond’s boot boys.

A few days after the Hibs match, reps from the Celtic Supporters Association and Celtic Trust met with Ronnie Hawthorn, Celtic’s Operations Manager, to discuss their concerns about the behaviour of the police. They requested a meeting with Eddie Smith, the match commander who had directed the police’s operation. At previous meetings with Smith (ironically enough, about safety issues), Smith told both the CSA and Trust that he welcomed dialogue with fans. Not this time, however, as Smith refused to meet the fan representatives. The CSA and Trust then wrote to his boss, Chief Superintendent Wayne Mawson, asking for a meeting. Unlike Smith, Mawson said he would be happy to meet but that he would not be willing to discuss the events of the 29th. Unsurprisingly, his offer was turned down.

Since then, Eddie Smith has made official complaints to SPL and UEFA match delegates about ‘offensive chanting’ by the Celtic support at the Hibs game and the subsequent match at home to Rennes. Smith is also the Crown’s main witness in a case against two of our members, both charged with a sectarian breach of the peace for unfurling a banner containing the word ‘huns’ (the only other witness is a member of Celtic’s security staff, himself a former police officer). The SPL and UEFA investigations prompted by his complaints will be conducted while the Scottish Parliament debates and votes on the anti-Football Bill, and will no doubt be covered at length by the media. We doubt this is a coincidence. Already, the propaganda war has begun – today the back page of Glasgow’s local rag carries, under a lurid headline, comments from a publicity-hungry QC close to the Celtic board who calls on us to be banned. It seems he has joined the ranks of the legal establishment who are determined to take a boot at our group and the wider Celtic support.

At 7 am on Friday morning, a 17 year-old fan was arrested on suspicion of a sectarian breach of the peace, and for evading arrest at the Hibs match. He spent the weekend in police cells and yesterday appeared at the Sheriff Court. After the Procurator Fiscal appealed the judge’s decision to grant bail, the young fan was remanded in custody in Polmont Young Offenders Institute until December 23rd. You haven’t misread that – that’s a 17-year-old Celtic fan locked up for allegedly singing a song that Eddie Smith finds offensive.

Celtic fans, and ourselves in particular, are under attack from the government and the police, who are determined to criminalise us for their own ends. We really appreciate the support we have had already, and we will be considering our next actions carefully over the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, we call on all Celtic fans to oppose the criminalisation of our support and to unite behind the Fans Against Criminalisation campaign.

FAC Public Meeting

FAC Public Meeting
Saturday 12 November 2011
Whitehill Secondary School, Dennistoun

Due to pressure of activity around this Bill which is only 5 weeks away from implementation, no official account has yet been given of the meeting.  However, there have been a lot of unhelpful and misleading stories around the internet which need to be corrected.  So here are the facts.

  • The meeting was originally booked in to St Mungo’s Secondary School via the lettings section of Glasgow City Council.
  • The let was changed four days before the meeting because the janitor in St Mungo’s didn’t want to do the overtime
  • We accepted the only other let offered to us at such short notice, which was Whitehill.
  • On the Thursday before the meeting, Mark Dingwall (aka Grandmaster Suck from the Follow Follow website) and David Leggat, a blogger and former journalist spread stories that the meeting was about the IRA.
  • By the Friday this had generated a number of complaints to the school who forwarded them to the City Council (school heads have no say in lets outside of school hours).
  • The City Council did not have a problem with our let but advised the police in case there was any trouble.
  • The meeting was due to begin at 1pm but the main speaker, Michael McMahon MSP, was unavoidable detained in his surgery and did not arrive till 1.30.
  • A large (45-50) contingent of mainly young Rangers casuals arrived at the meeting hall around 12.45.
  • They were told that if they were there to discuss opposition to the Bill then they were welcome
  • There was however a very hostile and threatening atmosphere and many people – especially those with young children and some people with disabilities – left the hall.  Some of those people reported being abused by the Rangers crowd.
  • At around 1.30 the police, who were now there in some numbers, asked to speak to the leaders of the Rangers crowd.
  • One of the organisers went to the hall to ask for them to send someone out to speak to the police and they did that.
  • On the basis of assurances that there would be no trouble, the meeting was started.
  • The Chair, Joe O’Rourke from the CSA and FAC outlined how the meeting would proceed:  Kevin Rooney from the Take a Liberty campaign was to speak first; the main speaker Michael McMahon was to speak next; there would then be a Q&A session and then Jeanette Findlay from the Celtic Trust and FAC would sum up and indicate ways in which people could support the campaign.
  • Jeanette Findlay and Michael McMahon had to approach the leaders of the Rangers crowd at one point during the meeting to say that the meeting could not continue if the heckling did not stop.  They were asked to stop by their own people and did so for a while
  • After Kevin Rooney spoke, during which there was a bit of heckling, the Rangers fans were very keen to ask questions and some questions were allowed. 
  • There were very few positive contributions but there were some.
  • However, at that point a large number of Celtic fans left the room on the basis that they felt the meeting had become pointless and was becoming mainly directed towards the Rangers fans rather than a genuine debate about how to oppose the Bill.  At this point there were probably about 100 people left in the room (around 6 from Motherwell, about 47 Rangers and the rest Celtic)
  • Michael McMahon spoke – extremely well – and was well received by all.
  • There was then a number of points made from the hall, including a very good point by a young Motherwell fan (a group of whom had come to take part in the debate) about the heavy and aggressive policing that they are subjected to.
  • At this point the meeting was only 5 minutes from the published end time and the janitor wanted the meeting to end on time.
  • Jeanette Findlay stood up to indicate the timeline for the Bill and the sorts of activities that we were trying to organise, however, as soon as she started speaking the Rangers crowd were led out by the people who seemed to be speaking for them, indicating that they did not wish to hear anything she had to say.
  • The meeting ended a few minutes later.

This meeting did not achieve the aims that were intended and, on that basis, was not a positive experience.  It was particularly distressing for those who felt unable to come into the room and it was unfortunate that the young Motherwell fans were not able to see the kind of purposeful meeting that would have taken place in other circumstances.

The Bill is only 5 weeks from implementation and we do not intend to waste any further time picking over this meeting.  We will be publishing a number of events and activities soon.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Michael McMahon MSP on the Christine Graham allegations

"As Convenor of the Justice Committee Christine Grahame has a responsibility to ensure that the Scottish Government is doing all it can to protect people from sectarianism and racism and any questions raised  about her position on this matter must be cleared up as soon as possible. Given the nature of these allegations and the concerns that such an allegation raise I would urge Christine Grahame to consider her position on the Justice Committee until such times as any investigation into this matter has been completed.

Questions already exist about Ms Grahame's neutrality while considering the so called Bigot Bill as she appears to believe that more Catholics need to be arrested to even things up in society. She clearly cannot be viewed as an impartial participant in the process of scrutinising this controversial legislation and while these allegations remain under investigation she should not be steering the Committee's interrogation of the Government's unpopular proposal"

Anti-Football Bill being shepherded through Parliament by Anti-Catholic?

Jeanette Findlay of the Celtic Trust on the allegations made against Christine Grahame MSP. 

In a potentially explosive development, a former employee of Justice Committee Convenor, Christine Grahame MSP has accused her of holding anti-Catholic views.  Mark Hirst who worked for Grahame for for two periods totalling 9 years and ending with his sacking in September for ‘gathering information without her consent’, has accused Grahame of holding deeply sectarian views in relation to Catholics as well as being racist and homophobic.  He claims she has expressed these views in front of witnesses from as far back as 2001 and that this was well known inside her SNP branch.

Mr Hirst is currently assisting the Parliamentary Authorities and the Electoral Commission who are investigating Ms Grahame over allegations that her parliamentary and constituency office were operating in a corrupt manner with systematic malpractice taking place routinely.

In addition, he has made further allegations to the Scottish Public Standards Commissioner into a number of sectarian and racist comments Ms Grahame has made.  He is also taking his case to an Employment Tribunal backed by his union.

Ms Grahame is accused by Hirst of comments about SNP colleagues who were known to be Catholics such as Michael Matheson, Roseanna Cunningham and Tricia Marwick.  In the case of Marwick she made references to Marwick’s parliamentary activity as being ‘influenced and directed by the Church’.  In relation to Matheson and Cunningham she accused them of being ‘as thick as thieves’ because they were ‘both Catholics you know’. 

Hirst claims that Grahame opposed the re-entry of a former SNP Councillor, Murray Hendrie, who had defected to the Labour Party on the grounds that he was a Catholic and that this was discussed at the Tweedale branch of the SNP.

Hirst accuses Grahame of being influenced negatively in relation to a number of pieces of legislation by whatever position the Catholic Church took.  In relation to Margo McDonald’s End of Life Bill she is said by Hirst to have been furious when Mike Rumbles suggested that an ad-hoc committee be set up to scrutinise the Bill and said, in front of witnesses:  ‘It’s because he’s a f*cking Catholic’.

These and other allegations about Grahame are contained in a blog at

The Celtic Trust and other members of Fans Against Criminalisation will be raising these matters with MSPs as a matter of urgency.  We have already highlighted Grahame’s comments, made during the evidence hearings of the Justice Committee, to the effect that the existing legislation does not convict Celtic supporters in equal numbers to Rangers supporters and inferred that this was somehow problematic and specifically ‘not even’.    If these latest allegations are true then this renders Grahame not only unfit to be dealing with this Bill but potentially unfit to be an MSP.

We call on the SNP leadership to investigate these matters and issue a statement as to their veracity.  We further call on them to halt the progress of this Bill with immediate effect as it is clearly now tainted with a strong whiff of anti-Catholicism.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Michael McMahon MSP to address Fans Against Criminalisation Public Meeting

We’re pleased to announce Michael McMahon MSP will be speaking at our public meeting on Saturday at Whitehill Secondary School in Dennistoun (1-2.30pm).

Michael is a life-long Celtic fan and is the MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill. Michael, like every opposition MSP opposes the Bill and at last week’s Parliamentary debate argued that it would ‘rip through the fabric of Scottish society and leave it tattered and torn.’ He’ll urge the government to think again and offer his thoughts on how we should fight the anti-football Bill.

Details on further speakers to follow.

Change of Venue for Saturday's public meeting

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we've had to change the venue for Saturday's public meeting. The meeting will now be held at Whitehill Secondary School, 280 Onslow Drive, Dennistoun, G31 2QF.

Entry is from Onslow Drive and there are parking facilities within the school grounds. For anyone travelling by train the nearest station to Whitehill Secondary School is Duke St and the school is easily reached from Duke St, Cumbernauld Road and Alexandra Parade.

Apologies for any inconvenience and we look forward to seeing you there.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Chris McCann speech at Fans Against Criminalisation demo

Below is a copy of Chris's speech at last week's demonstration at George Square.

Fans Against Criminalisation is a campaign group formed by the five main Celtic fan organisations - the Green Brigade, the Celtic Trust, the Celtic Supporters Association, the Affiliation of Registered Celtic Supporters Clubs and the Association of Irish Celtic Supporters Clubs. The campaign is also supported by supporters clubs and independent buses the length and breadth of Britain, throughout Ireland and all over the world. And as we can also see from this fantastic turnout, our campaign is also supported by ordinary Celtic fans from all walks of life, concerned citizens and fans of other teams who like us oppose the criminalisation of football fans and Alex Salmond's anti-football Bill.

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill was introduced at the end of the last football season. We can trace its roots back to the 2nd of March, 2011. That night at Celtic Park, we played Rangers in a Scottish Cup replay. Mark Wilson scored the only goal of the game but the main talking points were three Rangers players being sent off and Neil Lennon having a touchline spat with Ally McCoist.

The newspapers called it 'Scotland's shame game' and ahead of the May election, the police and politicians sensed they could make some political capital from giving football and football fans a kicking.

Alex Salmond hosted a high-profile Summit involving both clubs then introduced the Offensive Behaviour legislation. At first he tried to rush the Bill onto the statute books but after a backlash he was forced to delay the legislation's passage through Parliament until the New Year. In this period, the Bill has been attacked by legal scholars, by civil liberties groups, by religious figures, by opposition parties, by football clubs and by football fans but still Salmond and his government refuse to do the right thing, to hold up their hands and admit they got it wrong.

The Scottish Government and a friendly media have been keen to portray this Bill as 'anti-sectarian' or 'anti-bigotry'. The reality is that it has nothing to do with sectarianism or bigotry. If it did there wouldn't be such a phenomenal turnout as there is here today to oppose it. After all, it has been us - the Celtic support - that has faced decades of sectarian and racial hatred. It was us who watched in horror last year as our manager was physically attacked at Tynecastle and had potentially deadly parcel bombs sent to him. Bullets were sent to two of our players, Paddy McCourt and Niall McGinn, just because they, like Neil Lennon and many of our fans, are Irish Catholics. We know the horrendous potential consequences of bigotry and we have no truck with it whatsoever.

But the Bill is not about sectarianism or racism. Existing laws already adequately provide the police and the Procurator Fiscal with powers to arrest, charge and convict the bigots. Instead, the new law is concerned not with sectarian behaviour but with offensive behaviour - a completely different and far wider concept. Government Ministers are on record as saying that fans may well be arrested under the new legislation for blessing themselves or for singing a national anthem - both a far cry from sectarian violence. Anything that could offend in the eyes of a single police officer will be fair game for the law. You could even be lifted for offending people that aren't even there, people that aren’t even present in a football stadium. It's an absolute minefield and every football fan in this country will have to tread carefully as they support their team, for fear of being caught up in it. Those who are - that is, fans who a police officer think might possibly have offended someone, can face up to 5 years in jail.

The law will apply only to football fans. Apparently we're to blame for sectarianism. Apparently we're to blame for Scotland's drink and casual violence culture. Apparently we're to blame for drunks going home and beating their partners to a pulp. But as we all know, this is not the case. The reality is that football fans are convenient scapegoats for politicians who lack the ability and the ideas to try and tackle the nation's problems. Instead they prefer to play cheap politics and they think football fans are an easy target. Well we say no longer. No longer are we going to be an easy target. No longer are we going to allow politicians to stick the boot into us.

Fans Against Criminalisation was launched earlier this month to provide Celtic fans with a voice to tell the politicians just that. To tell the politicians that we won't allow them to blame us for Scotland's problems or as cover for their own failings. To tell the politicians that no longer can they give football fans and Celtic fans a kicking. To make it clear to the SNP government that we will not let them criminalise us and if they try then we will fight them every step of the way.

It seems that the Offensive Behaviour Bill is instead Alex Salmond's attempt to score cheap political points by giving football fans - particularly Celtic fans - a kicking. Well today the Celtic support have started the fight back. Today we've sent a message to the SNP and the Scottish Government. We've sent the message, loud and clear, that if they think they we're a soft target, if they think they can criminalise football fans, if they think they can criminalise the Celtic support, then they can think again.

A week ago today Alex Salmond addressed the SNP's annual conference in Inverness. He boasted about there being a record conference turnout, about how 1000 people had turned up to hear him speak in the comfort of a warm conference hall. Well today Mr Salmond, there are twice as many Celtic fans standing outside in the cold of George Square to oppose your anti-football Bill. It's time for you to listen to us; it's time for you to Kill this Bill. 

FAC Public Meeting 12 November 2011 at 1pm

There will be a Fans Against Criminalisation Public Meeting on Saturday 12 November (next Saturday) from 1-2.30. 

Following on from the debate in the Scottish Parliament last week when the Government-sponsored Bill was opposed by every single MSP except those of the Government's own party, it is important that we push on with the united opposition to this unnecessary but very dangerous legislation.

The meeting will be held in St Mungo's Academy, pedestrian entrance on the Gallowgate and vehicle entrance on Crownpoint Road.  There is ample car-parking.

Details of speakers to follow.  Please pass this information around.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

When is a peaceful demo no longer peaceful?

Jeanette Findlay on the George Square protest

George Square is Green and White

The demonstration organised by the Fans Against Criminalisation campaign against the Offensive Behaviour at Football Threatening Communications Act exceeded by far the greatest expectations of the organisers.  Typically the Celtic crowd in George Square on Saturday was around the 400 mark just prior to the 12.30 kick-off but it swelled to nearer 1500-2000 by the time the speakers climbed on to the base of the statue of Robert Burns  - my Granny Reilly must have been spinning in her grave at the thought of me near the statue of that 'old masonic whore-master' as she so colourfully referred to him.  This very large crowd (much larger than the 400-700 estimates given by the biased, sorry innumerate, press) was made up of men, women and children of all ages ie a typical Celtic crowd.  And like a typical Celtic crowd they cheered and they laughed and eventually, on the way back to Celtic Park for the Hibs game, they sang.  This was a peaceful and passionate demonstration which sent a clear and strong message to the Scottish Government that we were not going to allow our young people to be criminalised and all of us branded bigots just to advance the careers of Lord Advocates and Chief Constables, and to take the bad look off the real bigots in this country.  Speaker after speaker spelled out our reasoned opposition to this Bill and our determination to fight it to the end.


Croppies Lie Down...

All good so far, until we arrive at Celtic Park and then it was payback time!  In a breach of assurances given by the police to all the main supporters organisations some weeks before, a heavy and aggressive police presence was visited on the fans who occupy Section 111.  Both before the match kicked off and ten minutes before the end, they invaded that stand in a show of strength designed to let us all know - we can demonstrate as peacefully as we like but they are in control and they are going to take our right to protest and shove it right up to us.  Young people and women were pushed around and had their safety endangered as they attempted to pull one or two individuals who were alleged to have sung the wrong song.  This was nothing like the 'facilitation' role that we in the supporters' organisations have been assured is the main role of the police on match days.  Were it not for the cool heads of the Green Brigade and other fans keeping things calm then there could have been far more serious consequences to their action.

Today both the CSA and the Celtic Trust have met with representatives of Celtic and we will be meeting with the police in the next day or so.  But this has now moved way beyond an issue for football fans;  this was an organised attack on people who only a few hours before had been peacefully demonstrating and it was designed to send a message to all of us 'Croppies Lie Down'.  Every Celtic fan, and every democrat and every citizen who wants to live in a Scotland where the police are democratically accountable should be extremely concerned by these developments.  We in the Fans Against Criminalisation campaign will continue to oppose this Bill - we won't be doing any lying down unless it is on the London Road as an act of mass civil disobedience if that is what we are forced to do.

Reports of the outcomes of any meetings on this issue will be posted here.  In the meantime, we would like to encourage any fan who was personally affected by the police action to make a full complaint at their nearest police station.  We will be happy to offer advice and support if that is necessary.  We have collected a good deal of evidence regarding the police action on Saturday but if anyone wishes to send us any more in confidence then please do so.

And in answer to the question at the top of the page...when the police decide it does not suit their purpose.

Reproduced from

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A personal view on Saturday's protests from Donald Graham

Well here it is, a dreich Saturday in Glasgow, but there is the Celtic game to look forward to, and I still do, despite all the negativity surrounding the team. Something else today though;  the match day routine, or at least for Saturday 3pm kick offs at home, of meeting up with my brother and some guys who I’ve been going to games with since the late Seventies, is going to be delayed , I am going to a demo. Now being a trade unionist and a political animal anyway, I’ve been to a few demos over the years but this one is different for me.   It’s to let the SNP government know that Celtic fans will not accept (I was going to write “will not stand” but that maybe wouldn’t be the case ) being criminalised by proposed new legislation.

We arrived at George Square about 12.15 being slightly worried that we wouldn’t get a turn out due to the weather and supporters having pre match routines;  plus my mate, ever the pessimist, whispering in my ear all the way up on the train 'if 50 turn up we will be lucky'.

I began to get more and more confident about a good turn out the nearer I got to George Square as I saw more and more fans in Celtic colours and a some cracking hoodies and t-shirts with the visually memorable FAC logo and slogans like “I am a football fan not a criminal” emblazoned across them (these are keepers, where can I get one?)

Even my mate was accepting that there was going to be more than 50 by the time we hit Queen Street and as we turned the corner at Greggs into George Square there they were over a thousand fans, perhaps nearer two, prepared to stand together and say YOU ARE NOT CRIMINALISING US.

We manoeuvred our way into the crowd to get a good view and hearing of the speakers (a little criticism here; because there was so many fans that the megaphone being used could have done with being a bit louder I’m sure some at the back wouldn’t have heard all the speeches). The crowd was a good cross-section of the Celtic support young and old, black and white, male and female, different nationalities and various religions and none, I thought to myself yes there going to have to criminalise us all.

There were speakers from the Green Brigade, the Celtic Trust, the Celtic Supporters Association and the Association of Irish Celtic Supporters Clubs, and even a spokesperson from the anti capitalist campers spoke to offer their solidarity and explain their reasons for being there. They all asked the question why is this new law needed; hardly any crimes committed at football these days, even the so called shame game was more about misbehaviour from Rangers players than anything from the fans;  plenty of current legislation to deal with sectarianism, racism and bigotry; is it just that as Christine Grahame stated, ‘to even things up’?

The point was made that our songs are not sectarian or racist. Speakers also asked why was the suggested behaviour only a crime when connected to football.  There were also suggestions that this bill may have more to do with the careers of the Alex Salmond, Frank Mulholland and the Strathclyde Chief Constable Stephen House.   The question was also asked about what happened to the statistics compiled on sectarian crime that have been mysteriously destroyed, yes the ones that show what the real problem is in our society.  The idea that fans are to blame  for domestic violence was also rubbished as statistics show that Christmas and New year are the worst time for domestic violence  - so do we criminalise Christmas? The Supporters Association pledged to support any Celtic fan that is wrongfully arrested under this new law and if it goes through that pledge will be part of the ongoing campaign - a campaign all the Supporters groups and fans attending pledged themselves to continue even if the Bill becomes law.

The meeting finished with loud cheering and applause for the speakers as they made it clear that this was ‘Just the beginning’ and a large number of fans headed up to the game, whilst some of us headed to continue our Saturday football routine (you know what I mean).

Well what next? There was a magnificent FAC banner display throughout Celtic Park before the Hibs game; there is an online petition that can be signed and you can get hold of your MSP, especially if they are SNP and let them know how you feel about the Bill. Well after Saturday I am up for the fight and so is my mate the pessimist.  We can stop this Bill if we can show the SNP how foolish they will look to push it through against the will of almost all football fans, churches, academics, and other political parties.  

FAC THE BILL and refuse to be criminalised for supporting your team. Join the fight.        

Donald Graham, Celtic Trust

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Guest Lines

London-based teacher and civil liberties campaigner Kevin Rooney recently contacted Fans Against Criminalisation to offer his support to the campaign. His libertarian views may not be something we all agree on but we're happy to publish Kevin's thoughts on the Stephen Birrell case and the proposed new legislation. It's food for thought for fans and politicians alike.


Stephen Birrel doesn’t like Catholics, he doesn’t like Neil Lennon and he doesn’t like Celtic supporters. Not that unusual in certain parts of Scotland, but what is unusual is that last week Birrel was jailed for saying so. His crime was to join a Facebook page and share his unpleasant views with the rest of us:

“Hope they all die. Simple. Catholic scumbags. Haha.”
“Proud to hate Fenian tattie farmers”.
“They’re all ploughing the fields, dirty scumbags. FTP…”

And there was more in that vein. It’s not recommended reading and despite the lure of Facebook no-one actually has to read it. This guy is not a pleasant individual and obviously not likely to turn up on many  lists of people we would most like to have dinner with. But no threats were made, there was no incitement to commit acts of violence and Birrel did not actually harm anyone. Sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you. He was effectively shouting nasty names at Catholics from the safety of his bedroom. Sad... yes – but a crime? Well these days – yes . Birrel was sent to prison for eight months and banned from attending any football games in the UK for five years after being charged with ‘religiously aggravated’ breach of the peace. In short, a religious hate crime. 

This prosecution and others like it are taking place even before the new Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland)Act is passed by the Scottish parliament -  a law that if passed will introduce prison terms of up to five years for offensive chanting at football games or communications on the web.

The idea of sending someone to prison for expressing their personal hatreds seems bizarre in a society that claims to allow freedom of speech, but in the frenzied atmosphere being whipped up around the new laws, a judge  sitting in a Scottish courtroom feels emboldened to dole out prison sentences for name calling that are on a par with violent assualt.  Even before the new and much anticipated offensive behaviour law comes into force we already have the criminalisation of words and thoughts in Scotland.

And nor is Birrel the only victim of this draconian new mood. Last month my nephew Brendan travelled all the way from West Belfast to see his beloved Celtic play only to be arrested while entering the ground for shouting ‘Up the IRA’, a slogan still found on many gable ends in his home town.   Brendan was held in prison all day and overnight before being charged with ‘religiously aggravated breach of the peace’.  The addition of ‘religiously aggravated’ turns a chant that has been normal behaviour for a section of Celtic fans at games for many years into a serious crime with serious consequences.  

And then there are those Celtic fans whose banner  mentioned the ‘huns’, a term used by Celtic fans (and even some Rangers fans) for many years to describe the Rangers football team and its fans. A term that has been criminalised in the rush to label every expression as a symbol of sectarian hatred. These fans have also been arrested and charged with a hate crime – a case that has been postponed several times leaving the fans unaware of their fate.

For months I have warned that politicians are using the controversy around the targeting of  Neil Lennon to blur the distinction between words and deeds in a way that is a serious threat to free speech and civil liberties.  But few champions of civil liberties have taken to the streets – finding the principle of free speech apparently easy to sacrifice when it comes to uncouth football fans who upset their liberal sensibilities.

Some Celtic fans have also taken issue with the attempt by politicians and the authorities to lump a range of football chants and slogans under the headline ’sectarian’.  A great new organisation, Fans Against Criminalisation, has gone to great pains to point out that many Celtic songs are not sectarian but political. They are right – whether it’s traditional Irish rebel songs in support of a United Ireland or the ‘Up the IRA’ slogan that landed my nephew in jail – these ‘communications’ are not anti-Protestant but anti-British rule in Ireland. 

Of course my defence of a nasty bigot like Birrell will be hard to take for some.  And of course his sentiments are different to someone singing a political song.  But it is vital that all fans join together to defend the principle of free speech. The reason that we are in this situation today is that we have allowed Celtic and Rangers fans to be criminalised and demonised in the most extraordinary way over many years. I don’t like anything Birrel says or represents but like Voltaire I defend absolutely his right to say it without being locked up and branded a criminal. If Celtic fans accept the treatment of Birrell or worse still if we call for the arrest and prosecution of rival fans, then we invite these laws to be used against all of us.

Alex Salmond can now claim the dubious distinction of presiding over one of the most authoritarian and illiberal pieces of legislation in Western Europe. Anyone who remotely cares about basic civil liberties should howl with rage at the imprisonment of Stephen Birrell and should stand up now to defend free speech and the right of football fans to be offensive whether on Facebook or at Ibrox or Celtic park.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Fans Against Criminalisation will be holding our first public demonstration against the Bill in Glasgow's George Square on Saturday, 29th October at 12.30 (assemble 12 noon).

George Square is the historic seat of civic government in Glasgow and has been Scotland's place of protest for a century or more. In 1919, the military were deployed to break a mass protest outside the City Chambers while more recently it has been the rallying point for Poll Tax and anti-war protests. 

It is now time for Celtic fans to unite and show Alex Salmond that, like the Poll Tax was for Thatcher, the unnecessary, unworkable and discriminatory Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill could be his downfall. Come along and support Fans Against Criminalisation and send Salmond and co. the message that we will not be criminalised. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Fans Against Criminalisation Launch Statement

A new campaign group, Fans Against Criminalisation, has been formed by Celtic fans to campaign against the first part of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill.

Following the so-called ‘Shame Game’ last March, the police and the Scottish Government called Celtic and Rangers to a summit to discuss a range of societal problems they claimed football was responsible for. Since then, the ills of society have been laid at football’s door and football fans have been blamed for everything from sectarianism to drink-fuelled domestic abuse. The government and a hitherto compliant Scottish media have portrayed the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill as ‘anti-sectarian’ legislation.

The reality is, however, very different from the political rhetoric.

There is very little criminality at football matches – indeed, there has been no serious disorder in a Scottish stadium for over thirty years. The very small number of offences committed inside Scottish football grounds is a symptom of the nation’s wider problems with alcohol and bigotry, rather than a cause.

The Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill does not tackle any of the nation’s problems. As a range of bodies from the Law Society to Nil By Mouth argue, there are existing laws that ably tackle sectarianism and other hate crimes. Instead, the proposed new legislation criminalises football fans for being football fans. The new law applies only to us and leaves football fans all over the country liable for arrest and imprisonment. Justice Minister Roseanna Cunningham suggests fans may be arrested for anything from making the sign of the cross to singing a national anthem. A whole range of acts routinely carried out by fans at football matches could be considered ‘offensive’. Any fan arrested under this new legislation will likely be subject to the nightmare of a football banning order and numerous court appearances before their case is even heard. Those convicted can be sentenced to 5 years imprisonment.

As Celtic fans, we have even more reason to be fearful about the Bill, given Justice Committee Chair Christine Graham’s view that the law should be seen as an ‘evening-up’ process, allowing the criminal law to capture Celtic fans as well as those of our city rivals.

Rather than any serious policy debate, the Scottish Government has instead engaged in political grandstanding. Football fans have barely been considered or their views consulted as Alex Salmond tries to accelerate the Bill onto the statute books.

But fans will no longer remain silent on the issue and our voices must be heard. The Green Brigade’s recent protest at the Inverness match was given huge backing by the Celtic support and has been followed by similarly well-received protests at other grounds. It now also seems that other commentators and members of civil society are starting to see through the Scottish government’s rhetoric and realise that the Bill is a poorly crafted piece of legislation that is both unnecessary and undesirable.

Fans Against Criminalisation will not allow the ills of Scottish society to be laid at the door of football fans, or football fans to be treated as second-class citizens, subject to a ludicrous law that applies only to us. We will not stand idly by as fan culture and football fans are criminalised. Over the coming weeks and months we will be mounting a campaign against the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill.

You can help support the campaign and keep up to date with news and events by following us on twitter (@FACKilltheBill) and on facebook(

Fans Against Criminalisation