Kevin Rooney writing in Spiked notes:
Stephen Birrell, a Rangers fan, was jailed for eight months for expressing his hatred of Celtic fans on his Facebook page. In Scotland, sadly, what people say and write is now sufficient criteria for imprisoning them, as the centuries-old distinction between words and action is abolished.
The Scottish police have persuaded UEFA to announce an investigation into ‘illicit chanting’ by Celtic fans at a home game against French side Rennes. Likewise, Rangers Football Club was recently fined £35,000 and their fans banned from their next European game for singing sectarian songs during a match against PSV Eindhoven. Not to be outdone, the Scottish Premier League has launched an official investigation into the singing of offensive songs by Celtic fans at a Hibs game that took place several weeks ago. Things have now reached such ludicrous levels that last Sunday’s Scottish newspaper reports on the Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Celtic game devoted more column inches to the songs sung by Celtic fans than to the teams’ performance on the pitch.
Hmmm… And far from generating united civil liberties response, the fans of both clubs are falling over themselves to turn each other in to the police:
Far from reducing ‘sectarian conflict’ in Scottish football, the new censorious laws and the accompanying police campaign have led to a dramatic increase in tensions, with fans now encouraged to spy on each other, to take offence at every comment, and to report rival fans to the police. In a very vicious cycle, the more rival fans are coaxed and cajoled into reporting offensive incidents, then the more arrests there are, and the more the authorities can cite such increases in arrests as a justification for tough new laws and sanctions.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty