Football clubs told to sort out hooliganism
Justice secretary tells football clubs to get a grip of match day violence
Scotland’s justice secretary has warned that the government will pass new laws to curb football hooliganism unless the sport’s governing body takes its own action to stamp out match day disorder.
Michael Matheson called on the Scottish FA to tighten rules on fan misconduct in the aftermath of the violence that marred the Scottish Cup Final between Hibernian and Rangers.
Matheson warned the sport’s governing body's AGM that if new rules are not brought in then the government was prepared to bring in legislation.
The justice secretary said that Scottish football chiefs now had an opportunity to address some of the “negative long-standing issues in the game”.
He suggested the SFA should consider strict liability, where clubs can be punished for the conduct of its fans regardless of whether the club itself is to blame.
Matheson said that the government was prepared to add to the controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, which was passed in 2012 and aimed at curbing sectarian related disorder at matches.
He said: "The scenes we saw at Hampden last week were appalling and the Scottish Government condemns in the strongest possible terms the disorder and violence which scarred the end of the game.
"But from those dreadful scenes there is an opportunity to address some of the negative long-standing issues in the game and I want football to be proactive and seize that opportunity.
"The Offensive Behaviour at Football Act was introduced in 2012 following ugly scenes at a different match and highlights that the Scottish Government - with a mandate to reflect the views of the people of Scotland, and concerns of wider civic society - will act if we don't think football is doing enough.
"We need a transparent and robust scheme to prevent unacceptable conduct and deal with it effectively if it does occur, and encourage clubs to take all action possible to address unacceptable conduct.
"That may be strict liability or a form of strict liability or it may be something else, but the bottom line is we want to see football taking the opportunity to finally address this long-standing issue.
"I hope football can rise to this challenge and finally address this issue, and the Scottish Government is ready to work together constructively on this.
"I am encouraged by the initial response but let me be absolutely clear: the Scottish Government is prepared to act if Scottish football isn't.”
However, the chairman of Scottish Premiership side St Johnstone, Steve Brown, hit out at the minister’s remarks.
Brown said: "It's a bit premature to be honest, I think he's really got to wait until the inquiry to come out. It's quite broad brush to criticise every club in the room, I think unfortunately there's only been three or four clubs that have got involved in unacceptable conduct.
"The vast majority of clubs, especially lower league clubs, have got an exemplary record and I think that was a wee bit out of order.
"Strict liability is so extensive. We were fined £15,000 in a European game because someone got into our stadium and flew a Palestinian flag, that's the extent of strict liability."
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