Thursday, 15 December 2011

MSPs questions security arrangements for FAC visit

Today, two MSPs have written to the SNP-appointed Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick to question security arrangements for Fans Against Criminalisation's visit to the Scottish Parliament yesterday.

High Henry, MSP for Renfrewshire South, is questioning Marwick on why we were refused entry to the debating chamber for the heinous crime of wearing t-shirts with letters on them, particularly when other groups have been allowed inside the chamber under similar circumstances.

Michael McMahon, MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill has aslo written to Marwick, asking why special security measures were taken for our group. As we went through the security scans at the entrance to the Parliament, McMahon was approached by the Head of Security and informed that FAC would not be permitted to enter the Garden Lobby (we had no plans to, in any case). McMahon is questioning why every other group who visits Parliament can access the Garden Lobby but football supporters are not allowed to, and asking who gave these orders. He is further asking if it is standard practice for the Head of Security to oversee the entrance of a visiting group, and if the large security presence in Parliament yesterday was laid on specially for the FAC delegation - both appear to be highly unusual.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Today, the SNP-appointed Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick instructed Parliamentary security to prevent members of FAC entering the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament. We intended to do no more than wear t-shirts spelling out the message 'FANS NOT CRIMINALS'.

This illustrates what FAC has long argued - that the SNP government are not listening to football fans and to the country. FAC, along with every other group in Scottish civic society, has pointed out the flaws in the SNP's anti-Football Bill, not least how it restricts football fans' freedom of expression.

The SNP government's refusal to even let us hear their passing of the anti-Football Bill mery emphasises why the Bill has been described as the most illiberal piece of legislation ever seen in the 'People's Parliament'.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Fans Against Criminalisation protest at Parliament

FAC will be protesting outside the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, ahead of the final vote on the Anti-Football Bill. We would encourage all who can make it to come along and make your voice heard from 12.45pm.

There are limited spaces on transport from Glasgow - if you are interested, please email us on

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Q&A with Motherwell's Heavy Hands Empty Stands Campaign

FAC recently caught up with a spokesperson from Motherwell fans' campaign Heavy Hands Empty Stands and asked them some questions about their campaign. We may not fully agree with what they say, but it's food for thought for politicians pushing the anti-Football Bill.

What are your views on the legislation?
The Heavy Hands Empty Stands campaign believe that the Scottish Government’s proposed legislation to tackle "sectarianism" will not make any difference.  There is already sufficient legislation which if properly enforced already covers all aspects of improper conduct by football fans both at and near stadiums.
Legislation, like this one, which is hastily derived for what is perceived as a current major problem is invariably rushed, ill-founded and not properly thought out and does not achieve the desired result.  Indeed such legislation inevitably fails and will criminalise many people whilst not actually addressing the supposed fundamental underlying issues.
Can you tell us a bit moreabout Heavy Hands, Empty Stands? 
The name Heavy Hands Empty Stands was taken from a banner displayed by Motherwell fans earlier in the season at Tannadice when a group of around 50 travelling supporters were knocked back from the stadium without any real reason. The Motherwell supporters involved in this campaign believe that treatment like such will kill Scottish football and this bill could be one of the final nails in the coffin. 
The government and media are portraying the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill as being ‘anti-sectarian’.We feel it has little to do with sectarianism and is actually anti-football. What are your thoughts?
As Motherwell fans we have witnessed and endured the sectarianism of the Old Firm for decades with very little done to address it. We should not however be tarred with the same brush and these laws if implemented will simply cause for football fans immeasurable problems due to the vagueness and draconian nature of the bill. 

As fans of a non-Glasgow club, how do you think you could be affected by the new law?
These proposals will affect all football fans and should be resisted by us all. As a club with a small fan base it easier for us to be targeted. Police officers often dont want to wade into a crowd of 3000 travelling supporters to arrest someone for something they may find "offensive" but when you find yourself with only 300 supporters they may see it as an easy opportunity. 
There was a recent incident at Pittodrie involving the police and Motherwell fans – can you tell us what happened? 
The whole incident was to do with heavy handed stewarding in relation to a group of Motherwell supporters who were standing up but that opens another debate. If your looking for any quotes on the incident there was a very accurate blog which can be found here:  One quote from the article states "Motherwell’s singing section had been standing, singing and generating an atmosphere. Soon after the Aberdeen goal, the stewards moved in towards the group and began to remove members of the group. This proved to be a flash point and the following half an hour saw more fans removed and a collection of ugly scenes between the Stewards and Motherwell fans. Fans were dragged up the stairs towards the top of the stands and one younger member was pulled by the chest and neck to the front of the stand and pulled out"

The Scottish Parliament votes on the Bill next week, what would you say to any MSPs reading in?
I think the majority of MSPs have voiced their opinion against the bill but to all those SNP members out there, we would urge you to rethink your decision. In a time where they have a majority government this could be a serious issue of losing votes in the next election. The laws are already in place, there is no need for this to pass. 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Meeting between FAC and Humza Yousuf MSP

On Tuesday 29 November, FAC met with Humza Yousuf, the Glasgow list SNP MSP at his request.  Mr Yousuf indicated that he wished to enter into discussions with us re amendments to the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill.  The meeting was held in St Mary’s hall and the discussion took place over a couple of hours.

The FAC members present reiterated the reason behind our opposition to the Bill ie
  • No case has been made for separate legislation which only applies to football
  • It is unnecessary in that existing legislation covers all the types of behaviour which the Bill is intended to cover
  • It is unworkable in that it is not clearly written and the guidelines to the Police are no clearer
  • It lacks legal certainty in that it is not clear what types of behaviour would be criminalised

We also indicated our grave concerns about how the Bill has developed and highlighted our view that the destruction of the data relating to the existing legislation (Section 74) has not been adequately explained.  We raised the issue of the credibility of the Convenor of the Justice Committee, Christine Grahame who has been accused of holding anti-Catholic views and who, to our knowledge, has yet to deny this;  and who is also currently under investigation by the Police for matters concerning election expenses.

Mr Yousuf responded at length. He indicated that the Bill was not perfect; that there was no consensus around it; and that legitimate negative points had been raised in relation to the Bill.  However, he argued that the Bill could be amended to make it better and that it was only one strand in an overall Government strategy to deal with sectarianism.  He stressed the issue of public disorder and argued that this was key to understanding how the Bill would be applied.  He asked for interested parties like ourselves to put forward amendments which he could look at as we are now at a stage when only Justice Committee members can put forward amendments. 

In response, we pointed out that there is no significant issue of public disorder in Scottish football to which Mr Yousuf replied that this was due to the high levels of policing.  We did not accept this point and told him that the level of policing of even the Glasgow derby is nothing compared to the levels of policing in other countries.  Even with the levels of policing there are at games, there is no evidence that the police struggle to maintain order.

Mr Yousuf said that he thought one area in which the Bill could be usefully amended was in relation to the part of the Bill relating to the notion of offensiveness.  This is the most unclear and broadly drafted section.  He also stated that previous amendments relating to freedom of speech are likely to be accepted.

Mr Yousuf agreed to follow up our concerns regarding the Section 74 data and the matter of Christine Grahame and her failure to deny the accusations against her.

He asked again for us to forward to him any amendments which we thought might strengthen the Bill.