Summit aims to give Old Firm violence a red card
Measures designed to end the violence linked to Old Firm matches in Scotland were unveiled yesterday, including the creation of a new football intelligence unit to stamp out sectarian threats to players and managers.
A meeting chaired by First Minister Alex Salmond, including ministers, police and representatives of Rangers and Celtic, also floated the idea of matches being rescheduled to limit the potential for trouble with stricter rules on alcohol consumption.
The Scottish Government announced that more than £500,000 will be invested in tackling sectarianism over the next two years.
The summit follows last week's ill-tempered Old Firm cup clash |in which three players were |sent off and seven booked, and |the Celtic manager, Lurgan-born Neil Lennon, and Rangers' assistant manager, Ally McCoist, angrily confronted each other on |the touchline.
Police made 34 arrests at the match and 187 across western Scotland, and recorded 40 reports of domestic violence.
Reading a joint statement, Mr Salmond said: “Football is Scotland's national game and at its best combines pride and passion with a sense of responsibility, respect and discipline.
“There is absolutely no place in football for those who let the passion become violence, and the pride become bigotry.”
Following three hours of discussion, the parties agreed an eight-point plan designed to end the sectarian violence which has dogged Old Firm games for years.
In future, police could be sent into the dressing room each season and ahead of big games to remind players, management and coaching staff of their legal responsibilities not to inflame tensions between rival fans.
There could also be an expansion in the use of banning orders for football-related violence away from the ground.
Key commitments agreed at the Old Firm summit include:
- To consider the potential role of a dedicated football intelligence unit.
- To explore the practicalities of new fixture scheduling opportunities to minimise damage to communities.
- To introduce tough new measures to reduce alcohol consumption before and after games.
- To ensure that all those involved in matches are fully aware of their legal responsibilities.
- A Joint Action Group will be established to develop concrete proposals before the start of the new season.