Published on Tuesday 6th March, 2012 by Celtic Trust
On Monday 27 February, several Trusts including ourselves, Kilmarnock, QOS, Partick Thistle, Motherwell and Rangers met with 3 police officers from FoCUS (Football Co-ordination Unit in Scotland). The Police said they would run buy the main points of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill but wanted the session to be about answering our questions. The meeting was held in the Novotel Central Glasgow hotel and lasted just over an hour.
We made the point at the start that we are opposed to legislation, think it is unnecessary and could inflame the situation. We made it clear we would be doing all we could to have this legislation changed and supporting fans who may fall foul of it.
The police began by giving details about FoCUS. It was created in July 2011 after being asked for by the Joint Action Group to improve co-ordination between forces. They then ran through a brief description of the legislation. One officer explained how being arrested "could depend on the circumstances." A behaviour could be an offence at one point but not another. They didn't come across as very enthusiastic about the introduction of the bill.
They then talked about the Threatening Communications section. It was emphasised that this covered all types of communications (including flags, scarves and banners) and was not restricted to the internet or football.
In ending the police stated that football supporters would see no change in tactics from officers, it would be "business as usual." The emphasis would be on collecting evidence by camera and making arrests at a later date.
The meeting then turned to a Q&A session. The main thrust of questions was regarding the law being unnecessary, and how the police were going to put it into practice.
It was soon discussed that Junior games weren't not covered by the bill despite the fact that one of the largest disturbances was recently at this level.
When then asked what was the point of new legislation, they couldn’t give a sensible logical response, it went along the lines of events of last season justified it. They where then asked which events of last season weren’t covered by legislation that are now. The officers could not give an example.
A major worry for the Trusts of SFL teams was the consistency of policing. They expressed concern that because crowds would be smaller then the police would be more pro-active. Police acknowledged their concerns saying that they wouldn’t notice any difference and that yes there is difficulty in wading into big crowds but this can be sorted later when the particular match is reviewed and arrests could be made later.
It was then asked what were the major changes with the introduction of the bill. The officer referred to the Lord Advocates guidelines. The 2 changes that were mentioned were that songs which reference terrorist organisations and songs which mock footballing disasters were now illegal. The officer said that "bad taste and football related banter" would not be an offence.
When asked about specifics the clearest we could get was no Famine Song and no support of terrorist organisations and you know what songs they are and if you steer clear of them you will be alright.
When pressed on the issue that really this is a catch all, their response was if you sing about your club, the players and just support your team you will be OK.
The final advice was if you think you might be arrested for a song, just don't sing it, however ignorance will not be an excuse so even if you don't consider a song an offence you will still be arrested.
Suppose this was expected the meeting was all about them rolling out the legislation and “consulting” with the fans.
It’s clear from the meeting that there will be conflict as the songs, chants, and banners that we now use and many of us believe to be part and parcel of supporting our team will now be unlawful so we need to be prepared to protect any victims of this legislation and highlight how it discriminates against just Football fans.
absolutely shocking treatment of these passionate Celtic fans by the men in blue. what a shower!!!
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