Celtic and Rangers cast doubt on sectarianism bill

Rangers and Celtic football clubs say the Scottish Government’s sectarianism bill may be unnecessary, in a blow to the controversial legislation.

The Christian Institute is concerned that the bill damages free speech and civil liberty.

In written submissions to the Scottish Parliament, Celtic said the law may criminalise innocent fans and Rangers were concerned that a lack of clarity may clog up the courts.


The clubs support the principle of tackling the incidents of sectarian hatred that flared up during the last Scottish football season. But they question whether the bill has the right approach.

In its submission, Rangers stated that the Scottish Parliament should make clear how it defined sectarianism.

And the club said: “Greater and more consistent enforcement of existing legislation, we believe, will have as much if not more impact than the introduction of new legislation in this area”.


Celtic noted there was “no consensus” about whether new laws are needed, and said that legislation should be the “last step”.

Its submission added that the legislation “potentially discriminates against the football supporter by reason of that person being a football supporter”. The club also called for guidelines to clear up the legislation if it were to be passed.

In their submission, the Scottish Police Federation warned that rank-and-file officers felt the legislation was being rushed. It also said officers would have to be trained at extra cost to deal with the consequences of the legislation.


The Law Society of Scotland cautioned that the new law could even be applied to people watching football in hospitals, or in TV shops.

And the Church of Scotland said the bill would “do nothing to reduce sectarianism unless it is part of wider work”.

A Scottish Government spokesman welcomed the “support of the clubs and others in tackling sectarianism”.


Last month a former senior police officer called for the Scottish Government to put the controversial bill on hold for a year. His call was backed by a leading lawyer and the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland.

In June this year the Scottish Government tried to rush the legislation through in just one week.

The lightning-fast timetable for the Bill was challenged in court by The Christian Institute and CARE for Scotland.

Following the legal action, the Government decided to delay the legislation by six months.

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