Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Hibs v Hearts: Expert Condemns Fans

Apoplexy unbound on blogs and in the Twittersphere at Craig Brown's contretemps with John Boyle on Saturday.

"One rule for one...."

"Why aren't the police/SFA/politicians getting involved?"

All bollocks.

The police were involved, were on the scene. Brown's post match comments attested to that.

The SFA have now confirmed they will act, as we must surely have expected they would.

Politicians didn't get involved because no policemen had called for Motherwell v Aberdeen to be banned in the build-up to the game.

As far as I'm aware nor did a senior officer publicly call for the government to get involved in the aftermath of the game.

I'm fed up saying that the focus on the Old Firm Scottish Cup replay and the fall out from it came about because of the scrutiny the game was always going to be under. So I'll not say it again.

Anyhow, the contrived outrage at the Brown-Boyle bust-up took the spotlight off a more serious issue raised by this weekend's SPL games.

The Scotsman reports:

Dr John Kelly, an expert 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.

He also said he was shocked to witness Hibs supporters close to where he was sitting hurling missiles - including a slice of pizza and a large cup of soft drink - from their seats towards the Easter Road pitch, and at the sight of dozens of Hearts fans leaping over barriers to goad their rivals after snatching a late equaliser.

The Scotsman can reveal 20 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.

Dr Kelly, who claims to have no affiliation with either Hibs or Hearts, said: "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.

"Tackling ethno-religious bigotry requires all guilty parties are held culpable if genuine solutions are to be found."

He told The Scotsman: "It was certainly not two or three supporters. I am talking hundreds who were all around me, who were singing 'Rudi Skacel's a f***ing refugee'. And there were thousands of Hearts supporters singing about being 'up to their knees in Fenian blood'.

"In many ways there was a great atmosphere, but there is no doubt these chants are bigoted and offensive. The conduct of a lot of supporters was completely unacceptable.

"I watched around 20 missiles being thrown from the Hibs end when a Hearts player went to take a corner, including a slice of pizza and a full cup of soft drink.

"When Hearts equalised, around 30 of their supporters, tried to encroach onto the sidelines and some got on to the pitch."


A Hibs forum is also carrying reports of missiles, including lighters and coins, being thrown in the East Stand which missed their intended targets and instead hit the fans sitting nearer the pitch.

Another forum contribution suggests a father had to stop his young son from innocently joining in with one of the more personal ditties sections of the Hibs support were aiming at a Hearts player.

Some sympathy, then, for Old Firm fans who claim that "it's not just us."

Less for any fans who claim politicians and the authorities should leave football alone or that this behaviour is somehow acceptable because it helps preserve the passion that is football's heritage, defending us from the evil forces who would insist on a sanitised version of the game.

Because calling someone a refugee or singing about fenian blood when Hibs and Hearts are producing a game that had passion enough is not about the heritage of the game. It's about idiots being given a platform to display their ignorance and football's continued impotence in the face of that.

The Scottish game is beleaguered enough. It needs to attract fans, it needs to be inclusive. Condoning by inaction behaviour that is increasingly anachronistic in a modern society, behaviour that would be unacceptable anywhere else, is not the way to attract fans or secure the game's future.

I don't know what the answer is, I suspect solutions will not be easily found or quickly implemented.

But football is now in the spotlight. It need to at least acknowledge that we need to have the discussion.