Repealed! The Offensive Behaviour at Football Act officially GONE!

CELTIC Supporters attending tomorrow’s Title Party match at Easter Road have something to celebrate alright and it is not just the chance to wrap up the Magnificent Seven in a Row by beating Hibs. The Offensive Behaviour at Football Act was officially repealed at midnight last night.

A repeal bill, passed by a majority of MSPs last month – all the rest of the parties versus the SNP – reached royal assent on Thursday and came into effective from midnight on Friday.

The football law prohibited behaviour that could have incited public disorder, discriminated against racial groups and any other behaviour that a “reasonable person” would have found offensive.

It was hastily introduced after Rangers players imploded in a 1-0 Scottish Cup replay defeat to Celtic at Celtic Park when indiscipline saw three of their players red carded, the referee manhandled and then a touchline confrontation between their assistant manager Ally McCoist and the Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

Celtic players or supporters did absolutely nothing wrong that night, Neil Lennon responded angrily to a hateful whisper from the sleakit McCoist yet it was the Celtic support who were to be the biggest losers as a ‘Shame Game’ summit was hastily called by First Minister Alex Salmond and the wheels were set in motion for this piece of bad legislation to be rushed through.

I remember driving up to Ross County for an evening kick-off last season – Celtic won 4-0 with a rich of three late gaols – but it was rather off putting to have these police officers filming us with their wee camera as we watched the game. What happened to the presumption of innocence?

It proved controversial among football fans with many feeling it was used to criminalise behaviour which would not be illegal outside of a footballing context.

Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly, who proposed its repeal at Holyrood, described it as a “watershed moment for the Scottish Parliament”.

“From the point of its introduction, the Football Act did nothing to tackle sectarianism because it was such cheap law,” Kelly stated.

“It was a political device the SNP government used to pretend it was doing something, when in fact it was doing nothing meaningful at all.

“Fans up and down the country led an inspiring campaign, showing just how damaging the Act was for everyday football supporters.

“While the Football Act’s repeal should be celebrated, the Scottish Government should take this as a wake-up call.

“It should now look again at its strategy to tackle sectarianism and start investing in communities and education.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman commented: “The Scottish Government is playing its part in tackling all forms of abusive and offensive behaviour whenever and wherever it occurs.

“We have made unprecedented investments to support anti-sectarian projects and recently provided a further £515,000 to continue this work over the next year.

“Lord Bracadale’s upcoming independent review of hate crime, commissioned by ministers last year, will also help to ensure Scotland has robust legislation in place to tackle all forms of hate crime.”

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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