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"The SPFL is absolutely spineless" | Tom English on lingering sectarianism in Scotland

Sectarianism in Scotland is always at the forefront of conversation in the lead up to games betwe...



Soccer

"The SPFL is absolutely spineless" | Tom English on lingering sectarianism in Scotland

Sectarianism in Scotland is always at the forefront of conversation in the lead up to games between Celtic and Rangers. This week, it has cropped up for a different reason than usual. 

Earlier this week, a group of Rangers fans were banned 'indefinitely' from attending games for racially abusing a Celtic player in a video circulated on social media.

The video in question showed a group of fans on a supporter's bus, singing a song which racially abused Celtic's new signing, Japanese star Kyogo Furuhashi.

In a statement released on Monday, Rangers said that they had banned the fans 'indefinitely' from attending their games and that the supporter's club would not receive an allocation of tickets going forward.

The statement read:

"RANGERS can confirm that an investigation is now complete in regard to a video circulating on social media yesterday.

The individuals involved have been identified and will be banned indefinitely from all Rangers games.

Furthermore, the RSC of which they were members and travelled with to the game, have been banned from receiving tickets for future fixtures."

Rangers have been, and should be commended for their swift decisive action in this matter, but it now opens the door to the question, what about sectarianism?

"I have, and other have been critical of Rangers for not doing enough to combat the sectarian problem among sections of their support", BBC Scotland's Tom English told Off The Ball.

"Routinely we see it, unfortunately. They need to step up more than they have done in the past. I think they have good intentions, but they need to match their word with actions on all forms of racism."

"Sectarianism is a problem, for sure, and they need to step up on that too."

SECTARIANISM Rangers manager Steven Gerrard during the Scottish Premiership match at Ibrox, Glasgow.

"The very vocal minority, they express that pride in their Irish heritage solely through republicanism."

The issue isn't one-side however, explains English - originally from Limerick - who says despite the club's roots in Ireland, he has been left feeling cold by a certain section of fans who cling on to 'old Ireland'.

"A lot of Celtic supporters, rightly so, take great pride in their Irish identity."

"But the very vocal minority, they express that pride in their Irish heritage solely through republicanism. They don't seem to have much grasp on modern Ireland or the problems that modern Ireland faces."

"They sing endlessly about old Ireland. Certainly, as an Irish person living here, when I hear various songs being sung, they certainly leave me cold"

"Going into Celtic, it's supposed to be the 'Irish club' and I go in there as an Irish person and it's like 'this is not a place I'm particularly comfortable in' when sections are singing these songs."

'Spineless' leadership

While the onus falls on the clubs for the actions of their supporters, English says that those in charge of the Scottish league have been far from effective in stamping this issue out.

"The league is absolutely spineless."

"The leadership of the league will take no action against anybody for anything. You're allowed to sing whatever the hell you like in this country."

"You can sing about protestants, you can sing about catholics, you can sing about people being up to their knees in fenian blood, you can sing whatever you like - carry on lads, the SPFL have nothing to say about it."

"It's weak. It's weak leadership."

Speaking in the aftermath of the racist incident, Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou said that protecting Furuhashi is the club's number one priority. He also said that education is not the issue.

It’s not about education and people are more than well aware of what’s right and wrong – just be a decent human being and treat people with respect", Postecoglou told Celtic TV.

“Even for myself, I’ve been lucky enough to walk around Glasgow with my family and you see all the different nationalities and different establishments – whether that’s restaurants, businesses – and it’s obvious that people have come from all over the world to make this city a great city."

Celtic face Rangers in the first Glasgow derby of the year this Sunday, in Ibrox.

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Ange Postecoglou Celtic Racism Rangers Sectarianism Steven Gerrard