GREAT MOMENTS IN SCOTTISH FOOTBALL
Willie Rennie, Richard Leonard and James Kelly discuss how to repeal OBFA
I MAY be wrong, but, I reckon that picture shows when it happened, when the plan to scupper OBFA (the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act) was hatched. In the grand litany of Baldrick's cunning plans, this one is right up there.
I have never deviated from my belief – OBFA was bad law, badly-drafted, hurriedly-introduced, subject to insufficient parliamentary scrutiny. However, that said, it was, at least, an attempt at necessary law. I say again, and will keep saying this until something is done about it, but, the repeated refusal of the Scottish football authorities to act to stamp-out sectarianism within the game rather mirrors Ian Archer's legendary critique of the Ibrox following.
The “suits” along Hampden's sixth-floor corridor are as big, if not a bigger: “permanent embarrassment and occasional disgrace” to Scottish football than even the Angry Bears and the other ultra-loyal elements in the Rangers' support.
As I have repeatedly posted, since this blog began: if the will was there within Hampden, Ibrox or Celtic Park, bigotry and sectarianism would be all but eradicated from Scottish football. I doubt if we will ever eliminate these nasty elements from Scottish life in general, but, football can, but will not act.
I don't know how, but, surely there are some means whereby the Scottish Government could impose sufficiently-harsh sanctions on the SFA, to force them to act. Of course, given the prevailing attitude within Holyrood, that even if the SNP-led government was able to bring in an act whereby every single man, woman and child in Scotland received an annual tax-free income of £100,000 per annum, and along the way poverty, poor housing, a crumbling infrastructure and all the other ailments of Scotland were eradicated – Wee Wullie Rennie, Little Dick Leonard, the sanctimonious Patrick Harvie, Colonel Yadaftie, and her mouthpieces of Terror Tompkins and WATP Murdo Fraser would be on their feet opposing the move and yelling: “SNP BAAAADDD!!!”
Earlier this week, we learned that SPFL match delegates have been repeatedly reporting examples of offensive football at matches to the league's High Heid Yins. We also learned that all of these reports have been swept under the carpet. You must need crampons and an ice axe to get across that carpet by now.
I have said before, adopt zero tolerance, hit them hard and it will stop. When will the Hampden High Yins grow a pair and act?
ANOTHER point I have frequently made, when commenting on OBFA, is that, while received wisdom is that most of the problem revolves around the Bigot Brothers – offensive behaviour at football matches is not an Old Firm monopoly.
When, in a previous life, I covered St Mirren on a weekly basis for the Paisley Daily Express, I always enjoyed the banter when the Renfrewshire Derbies against Morton came around.
Marko Rajamaki of Morton
But, let's be honest here – the entire North Bank at Love Street belting out, to the tune of Neil Diamond's 'Daydream Believer': “Cheer up Rajamaki.....”, their parody ending with the line: “.....A fat Finnish bastard and a shite football team;” well, that has to be offensive.
I remember chatting to Rajamaki about it; he was genuinely perplexed: “Why me?” He asked. I like to think he was chuffed, when I explained singling him out demonstrated how much the Saints' faithful worried about what he might do to them.
Then, of course, there were some of the stunts pulled by the original and best incarnation of Paisley Panda – hanging a giant 'pine tree' air freshener behind David Wylie's goal. OK, even Wylie laughed, some of the 'ton fans didn't. That could have caused bother and, to some, was offensive.
The original and best Paisley Panda - with his son
I have said before, the most-vicious fight I ever saw at a football match was at an Arthurlie v Pollok game at Dunterlie. The two protagonists could have doubled for Jack and Victor, but, the hatred was real. And don't get me started on some of the stuff I have seen and heard when the fans of Auchinleck Talbot and Cumnock Juniors meet to exchange fraternal greetings.
Mind you, arguably the best insult ever thrown at Beechwood or Townhead Park was a simple one-liner, when a Cumnock fan, who was shouting the odds, was answered back by the Talbot player he was abusing. Unperturbed by this development, the 'Nock fan advised the Talbot player to: “Shut up and tell yer mother to pay her milk bill.”
Then there was the Glenafton supporter who, outraged beyond reason by the linesman repeatedly flagging for offside whenever the Glen attacked, told said official – who was apparently a doppelgänger for Gollum: “See you, wi' a boady like that, ye're the waste o' a heid.”
Of course, being allowed to go along to a game and vent your spleen, perhaps after a fraught week at work, is a time-honoured Scottish tradition. It's all a matter of where we draw the line. I got the impression, at least one of the drivers behind the repeal, had no trouble having that ditty with the line about being: “Up tae oor knees in some kind of blood” banned. But the same earnest politician felt not being able to chant: “Up the 'RA was a breach of his civil liberties.” In the end, whitabootery had a lot to do with the move.
Finally, on this subject, I remind you of that Somerset Park legend: 'Enclosure George.' Now, to be fair to George, who was an accountant, and would not say boo to a goose, something strange seemed to come over him around 3pm on a Saturday, when he stepped into the Somerset Park enclosure. At least, his contributions were seldom abusive.
Alan "Rambo" McInally - allegedly got his own back for being barracked by 'Enclosure George'
But I did like the probably apocryphal story of how a group of Ayr players, reputedly Alan McInally, Robert Connor and Robert Reilly, one Monday morning, turned up at George's work, gathered round his desk and heckled him, before asking: “Aye George, how do you like getting verbal abuse at your work?”
Might take a wee while, but, there's a possible answer to offensive behaviour at football – allow the players to retaliate in kind.