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Sectarianism law long overdue, says Ibrox legend Hateley

By Martin Mawhinney

Mark Hateley believes the new laws set to govern football in Scotland next season will help the game go from strength to strength.

Last month, the Scottish Parliament published proposals for new legislation aimed at tackling sectarianism, which they hope to pass before the end of 2011.

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill has received a mixed reception from the public and within sport.

There is broad support for the sentiment behind the legislation, but some have voiced concerns that it is being introduced too hastily, and should not be restricted to football.

But the former Rangers striker said: “It has been a long time coming. Sectarianism, racism, bigotry . . . these are not good things, not only in sport, but in general life within the community.

“When I first played for England, the National Front were actually travelling on the England plane, and would absolutely hammer the likes of Viv Anderson and John Barnes when they were getting off.

“That’s how far we have come since the mid-Eighties, in saying ‘this is not acceptable — in any walk of life’.”

In Glasgow and beyond, Rangers and Celtic have come to represent much more than simply the biggest two clubs in the Scottish domestic game.

There is so much history and cultural division between the Old Firm that it has been suggested the new law — which includes measures to clamp down on offensive terrace chanting and behaviour at matches and in pubs — could be problematic to enforce.

But Hateley believes there has to be a complete overhaul in the mindset of football — right across the board. “It’s not only Celtic and Rangers — it happens at Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United, in Germany, Spain, Italy . . . wherever you go. You can come and sing your songs, but you don’t have to sing the wrong ones. Look at ‘Penny Arcade’ — that was only introduced at Ibrox last year, and it’s massive now.

“It’s all about education. You teach the kids the way things should be, and they go and teach brothers and sisters. Sometimes, they even teach their parents — and that can only be a good thing.”

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