Study Finds 'Culture Of Denial' Exists Around Sectarianism

6 March 2017, 13:03

Sectarian Police

A "culture of denial'' remains around sectarianism in Scotland and football authorities are not doing enough to tackle the issue, according to a study.

Dr Duncan Morrow does not believe sectarianism is the biggest problem facing Scottish society but said it remains a "deep-rooted and serious'' issue.

Having been chair of the group set up to tackle sectarianism, Dr Morrow has now reviewed the implementation of his 2015 recommendations and praised funding for groups in education, sport and drama which are working to deal with sectarianism.

The review stressed that football is not the only area where sectarianism exists but that it is closely associated by the public.

In his initial recommendations, Dr Morrow said the concept of "strict liability'' - making clubs responsible for the conduct of their fans - should remain an option while the SFA and SPFL work on improving behaviour.

The review said: "The football authorities have brought forward proposals to improve their ability to address unacceptable conduct.

"They have worked closely with the Scottish Government Active Scotland policy team to develop initial proposals in this area.

"While these are obviously welcome, I am sceptical that they will be sufficient to change the evident sectarian behaviour in Scottish football, and I remain seriously concerned that the primary concern of the authorities remains to avoid responsibility rather than to take action.''

Dr Morrow wants to measure the effectiveness of supporter liaison officers and other moves made by football authorities.

He added: "We don't see sectarianism and football as the same thing and football is not the only place where sectarianism happens, at the same time studies show the majority of people do associate football as one part of sectarianism.

"For me, there's certainly a wish to minimise the engagement of football with this question and I personally believe that the evidence demonstrates that the connection is much stronger than the football authorities are willing to allow for.''

The review heard responses from a host of bodies including churches, police, football bodies and local authorities, some of which were described as "defensive''.

Dr Morrow said there needs to be a move away from "naming and shaming'' individuals or groups and wants to see sectarianism included in an ongoing review of hate crime legislation.

He said sectarianism has to be dealt with primarily at community level and was critical of the take-up by local authorities in implementing programmes.

Dr Morrow concluded: "Work taken forward over the past few years has demonstrated that this issue can be properly addressed through active leadership and concerted effort, but that requires leaders to stand up and be counted and to use their influence in a positive and constructive way.

"While there is some evidence that this is happening, there is also evidence that a culture of denial exists in some areas, and that this culture remains an obstacle to progress.''

The Scottish Government said it is "very clear'' work remains to be done in eradicating sectarianism.

Community safety minister Annabelle Ewing said: "The Scottish Government cannot eradicate sectarianism in isolation and while we are committed to taking forward the recommendations that are for us, we must also continue to work with local authorities, the third sector, community groups, football clubs and more to foster a Scotland where sectarianism is consigned to history.

"Together we can nurture a modern nation that isn't weighed down by the prejudices of the past. I will now carefully consider Dr Morrow's report and respond in due course.''