Justice minister warns football clubs to deal with disorder

Humza Yousaf MSP says government will act if football clubs don't take appropriate measures.

Justice minister Humza Yousaf has told football clubs that if they don’t take steps to end crowd disorder at matches then the government will act.

Yousaf was speaking after Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke and club captain Kris Boyd were both subjected to sectarian abuse during the last week.

He praised both for their bravery in speaking out about the abuse they had suffered and said that action had to be taken to eradicate it from the game.

Yousaf said that measures were already being discussed, including a strict liability rule that would hold clubs responsible for any disorder at their stadia regardless of measures taken to discourage or prevent it.

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He has met with SNP MSP James Dornan, who wants strict liability enforced on Scottish clubs.

Yousaf told STV: “Let me just give a very stark warning. I expect the football clubs, as does society frankly, to put in definitive measures and not to pay lip service.

“If they don’t then let me be very, very clear. At the moment the government is looking at every single option that is on the table.

“I know that there is an MSP that is looking at strict liability. I’ve met with James Dornan and I think we should look at every option, be it strict liability, be it stadium licensing for example.

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“We are looking at every option but it is for the football clubs to tackle this first and foremost.”

The Scottish Football Association and Scottish Professional Football League, both organisations comprised of member clubs, have spoken with the government about problems in the past and Yousaf said they had been left in no doubt about the gravity of the situation and the possibility of rules being imposed on the clubs.

“At the last meeting I had with the SPFL and the SFA, we were pretty frank, pretty robust, and said we want to see action tackling unacceptable conduct,” he said.

“If we don’t see that action, let me be clear, the government will look at strict liability or stadium licensing, which is something that’s within our control.

“We will look at all the options that are available to us and if we need to take action we absolutely will.

“But we would rather see the football authorities and the football clubs step up to their responsibilities, not just pay lip service and make meaningful change.”

While clubs have shown opposition to strict liability in the past, the justice minister explained the consequences of looking at stadium licensing and how it could lead to showpiece games being played behind closed doors.

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He said: “It’s very early around stadium licensing but we can look at the licensing regime to see, for example, is this having an effect on public order? Can we look at this from a health and safety point of view? A licensing point of view?

“We know that some matches in Europe have had to be played without any fans allowed into the stadium. Is that we want to see here that might well make the clubs take this issue more seriously than I think it is being taken at the moment? That is an option that we will look at.”


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