Scottish Football has a real problem with racist and religious bigotry. Anti-Irish attitudes have pervaded Scottish society since famine times, whilst anti-Catholicism in Glasgow can trace its roots back to the 1700s, when there were more anti-Catholic societies in Glasgow than Catholics themselves!
A racial hierarchy permeated through Scottish society in Darwinian times. Scots began ordering by race, differentiating those from Celtic background as one of those orderings. Gaels from the Highlands who were driven south and settled in Bridgeton were vilified, then the Irish were depicted as apes in the local media, whilst the Church of Scotland ran a campaign to have those immigrants and their offspring deported to Ireland.
In the decades since, right up until the 1960s, we have seen signs on establishments reading “No blacks, No dogs, No Irish.” Sadly, that attitude was also on display in the Jungle when Mark Walters was abused in the 1980s. Fortunately, the Celtic support and wider Scottish society has come a long way since those days. In the main, there is no longer blatant prejudice against people for their religion, ethnic background or skin colour. Scotland is a modern, forward thinking nation. However, not all elements of society have advanced.
There are rumoured to be some lingering issues with sectarianism in the construction industry. Aspects of the media have taken exception to Scotland’s multi-generational Irish community celebrating their heritage and culture. Meanwhile, Scottish football continues to lag behind in terms of its antiquated and bigoted mindset in a number of areas.
Sadly, we awoke to news yesterday that Kilmarnock’s Manager, Alex Dyer, has been the recipient of a letter, which singled him out for racist abuse. It is absolutely disgusting and unnecessary. Talking to Celtic TV today, Neil Lennon said of the matter:
💬 NL on Alex Dyer: “Alex is one of the best football men I know up here. I think it’s shocking he has to put up with any racism. He’s good for the game here and we want this eradicated. He has the full support here from everyone at Celtic.”
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) December 29, 2020
Just last year, Kilmarnock’s Manager at the time, Steve Clarke, broke down in tears when talking of the sectarian abuse that he had suffered at the hands of the Rangers fans. He had told of how he thanked his lucky stars that Chelsea took him away from the West of Scotland because of all the bigoted nonsense that exists. It was an alarm that Scottish Football didn’t wake up to.
It was fitting that Neil Lennon should be asked about racial abuse today. Indeed, he knows more about the bigoted attitudes in terms of race and religion, than any other manager in Scotland. Lennon has had bombs and bullets sent in the post because of the simple fact that he is a Catholic from the North of Ireland, with great pride and passion for his Irish identity. This abuse is multi-layered. It is not simply sectarian as Lennon himself explained in a recent interview whilst managing Hibs:
‘You call it sectarianism in Scotland – I call it racism.’ – Neil Lennon speaking last year on anti-catholic and Irish rhetoric. pic.twitter.com/pfBlVGMG80
— CeltsAreHere (@HereCelts) August 24, 2019
Whether it’s abuse about skin colour, culture, heritage, religion or nationality – this abuse of managers in Scottish Football has to stop. It is not a minor problem or an isolated shout from a nutcase at the stadium. It runs deeper when Managers are being assaulted on the touchline at Tynecastle or bottled in the streets of Glasgow’s West End. It’s a disgrace when Kilmarnock staff open letters of pre-meditated racist abuse. When bombs designed to maim or kill are sent to Managers it has already gone way beyond the pale.
What does it take for Scottish Football to catch up with the rest of Scottish society and join the 21st century?