Just three weeks ago, the Scottish football season ended with shameful scenes as Rangers and Hibernian fans invaded the pitch and fought with one another. But now new figures have shown fans of the Ibrox club top the table of those charged under the controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football Act.
A Scottish government report has shown that Rangers fans have been hit with 71 charges under the act [25% of the total charged], while city neighbours Celtic faced 27 charges in the same period. It is the second year in a row that Rangers fans have topped the yob league – with last year’s percentage at 30% of those charged in total.[However, these stats do not include the recent hooliganism at Hampden Park during the Scottish Cup Final.]
A total of 287 charges were brought under the act in 2015-16 – a rise of 49% from the previous year – with 22% of the charges related to religious hatred, of that 87% was hatred towards Catholics and 13% towards Protestants.
Of the 214 cases where court proceedings were commenced, 86 have concluded and there have been 73 convictions (85 per cent).
Ibrox was the scene of the highest proportion of charges, with Morton’s Cappielow Park second highest.
Half of the total charges happened within football stadiums, an increase of 4% from last year, while 23% of those charged took place on public transport.
Following the publication of the report, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “The recent appalling scenes at the Scottish Cup final demonstrated that the unacceptable behaviour of a minority of football fans continues to be a problem.
“An increase in the number of charges under the Offensive Behaviour Act shows that the legislation continues to be an important tool in tackling all forms of offensive behaviour, including sectarianism, and sends a clear message that such behaviour has no place in a modern, open and inclusive society.
“I have asked Scottish football to take further steps to address this long-standing issue and I expect to see progress on this imminently.”
Chief Superintendent Barry McEwan, of Police Scotland, added: “Tackling hate crime is a priority for Police Scotland and we are committed to rooting out crimes motivated by prejudice. Last year we ran a highly successful anti-hate crime campaign which reached many people and our commitment to eradicating hate crime continues. Police Scotland, with Crown Office, hosted a joint Hate Crime Conference at Hampden Park in March 2016 at which the First Minister provided a keynote address alongside the Lord Advocate and the Chief Constable, showing our collective commitment to tackling hate crime in all its forms.”
Following the violence after last season’s Scottish Cup Final, Rangers issued an official club statement trying to justify their fans hooliganism by claiming they were provoked and that they took to the field to defend their players and officials – who were allegedly attacked by Hibernian fans after they had invaded the pitch celebrating their 3-2 win over the Glasgow side.
While managing director Stewart Robertson later claimed that he would rather the Rangers support sing the sectarian Billy Boys song than resort to violence.
Police have made a total of 28 arrests so far following the disorder at Hampden with those arrested coming from Edinburgh, Fife and Glasgow. However, more arrests are expected to be made.
Number of fans per team charged under OBA 2015-16
1. Rangers – 71
2. Celtic – 27
3. Kilmarnock – 26
4. Hearts – 25
5. St Mirren – 21
6. Hibernian – 17
7. Partick Thistle – 16
8. Hamilton – 13
9. Motherwell – 9
10. Aberdeen – 8
Read the full Scottish Government report: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0050/00501336.pdf