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Hate Crime and Public Order Act: Old Firm could see ‘deluge’ of complaints

On Monday, 1 April, the Hate Crime and Public Order Act came into force in Scotland which means it is now an offence to behave in a way that could stir up hatred or be seen as abusive towards a protected group or characteristic.

Protected characteristics include age, disability, religion and sexual orientation and the Old Firm Derby this weekend is set to test the strength of the new law if previous clashes are anything to go by.

Hate Crime and Public Order Act
The Old Firm Derby has featured unsavoury chanting from both sides for several years – Photo by Icon Sport

For as long as time itself, the Old Firm Derby has been littered with chants centred around religious beliefs. Celtic are a staunch catholic club while Rangers are historically protestant – two undeniable facts that have effectively shaped this rivalry for nearly 150 years.

Over the past couple of years, the clubs have attempted to water down the rivalry by limiting and then banning away supporters at each stadium. Although they are set to return next season, the match on Sunday at Ibrox will have solely Rangers fan in attendance which means they are the ones at risk of breaching the new Hate Crime and Public Order Act.

Concerns over Hate Crime and Public Order Act ahead of Old Firm Derby

Across the opening couple of days of the act being in force, police received nearly 4,000 complaints relating to the new law. MSP, Murdo Fraser, has expressed his concerns and ‘fears' ahead of the Old Firm Derby and has predicted that police will face a ‘deluge' of new complaints during and after the match.

His comments come after Rangers legend, Ally McCoist, added fuel to the fire by saying that he is prepared to break the new laws at the Old Firm. On TalkSport, McCoist said:

“I can guarantee you, next Sunday at Ibrox, I, along with 48,000 will be committing a breach of that hate bill in the particular Rangers vs Celtic game we are all going to. It is madness.”

In response to this, Mundo Fraser said:

“What this points to is the level of uncertainty there is about the reach of this law and the concerns that were expressed in the run-up to the law being enacted by the police, and that the police would find themselves deluged by lots of spurious and vexatious complaints.

“I think there’s a real concern we are going to see that on the back of the Old Firm match this weekend just as we’ve seen it at the start of this week. I suspect very few, if any, will ever lead to prosecutions but police will need to spend their time looking into this matter when, in my view, they should be dealing with much more serious offences.


Andy Delaney

Andy is a freelance sports writer with ten years of experience covering major sporting events across Europe. He has also been a season ticket holder at Old Trafford since 2008 and has visited over 40 football stadiums in the United Kingdom and abroad following the Reds.

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