Sectarianism explained after recent incidents in Scottish football

Dr Daragh Minogue defines sectarianism and explains its impact on football in Scotland

Director of sports journalism at St Mary’s University Dr Daragh Minogue defines sectarianism and explains its impact on football in Scotland.

What is sectarianism and what impact has it had on society in Scotland?

Sectarianism is very difficult to define. The Scottish government haven't even defined it in law yet. At its very basic level sectarianism is a form of discrimination, it's a form of hatred and bigotry based on religion. That's how it is usually defined.

In Scotland, it is really describing the bigotry, hatred and discrimination between Catholics and Protestants.

How did sectarianism become associated with football in Scotland?

That is history. That is linked to the cultural connections of the communities that are attached to certain football clubs. It is more pronounced in certain football clubs than others.

The sectarianism that we've seen between Rangers and Celtic, historically, never really spread to other football clubs in Scotland, to the same extent.

For example, Hearts and Hibernian both have very similar historical origins but sectarianism never really spread to Edinburgh in the same way. There are a number of historical reasons for that.

The reasons I believe it is persisting is because I think football fans can get away with it at football clubs, on the terraces. It is easy to hide in a group.

A lot of football fans find that it is a place where they can go and vent their frustrations. It is very easy for hatred to thrive in that environment.

What laws are in place to prevent sectarianism in Scottish football?

The Scottish Government did attempt to legislate on this. In 2011 they introduced legislation specifically targeting football and football fans but that was repealed last year in 2018 - partly because a lot of football fans felt that they were being unjustly targeted by the legislation.

It looks like the Scottish Government are going to look at this again and introduce a new form of legislation, more general, to tackle sectarianism.

I think it was generally agreed that the legislation that was in place from 2011 to 2018 didn't work and it hasn't tackled the fundamental problem. So it has persisted and it has continued.

A number of football clubs have tried to do this and I would also credit a lot of football fans. The most important people who can police this are football fans.

David Scott, director of Nil by Mouth, talks to Sky Sports News about the issue of sectarianism in Scottish football

They have done a lot. Particularly at Celtic and Rangers, they won't want to see their clubs tarnished by this bigotry. It is an embarrassment for a lot of them. They are proud of their club and they want to support their team but they don't want this bigotry to continue.

It may be that the football fans themselves that will be the ultimate deterrent here by challenging it on the terraces.

In addition the clubs need to take leadership and the Scottish football authorities need to look at the ultimate sanction, perhaps of punishing clubs by playing behind closed doors if it persists.

I don't think fines will work but there has to be a multi-agency response to what is a deep-rooted social problem.

What reasons are behind the recent increase in incidents involving sectarianism in Scottish football?

Education is an issue. The wider political context, there seems to be a lot more intolerance - up and down the country, not just in Scotland.

In England we've seen a rise of racist incidents in society, not just in football. There does seem to be a growing level of intolerance. Some people blame social media for this, fuelling it.

We as academics don't have concrete empirical evidence that can tell us precisely what the cause is. It is complicated.

There isn't a clear, easy answer but is a very complex problem. It won't be solved easily.

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