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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 January, 2005, 15:55 GMT
Team bid to tackle sectarianism
Celtic and Rangers fans
Representatives from Rangers and Celtic will attend the summit
First Minister Jack McConnell is to host an anti-sectarianism summit involving football clubs, church leaders and local authorities.

The summit is part of a drive to combat a problem which Mr McConnell has described as "Scotland's shame".

He will meet representatives of Celtic and Rangers fans on Friday ahead of the Scottish Cup tie involving the Old Firm clubs on Sunday.

Representatives from both Glasgow clubs will sign up to the venture.

The two clubs have had a long-standing commitment to tackling bigotry among sections of their support.

Three different Celtic supporters' groups will meet the first minister and the Rangers Supporters' Assembly, an umbrella group for Ibrox fans, will also attend.

He sees this as an opportunity of getting the views of football supporters on the issue of sectarianism
Jack McConnell's spokesman

A spokesman for Mr McConnell said: "The first minister has had meetings with the clubs, and he thinks they have made some steps forward to tackle sectarianism, along with councils, in terms of banning memorabilia.

"But he sees this as an opportunity of getting the views of football supporters on the issue of sectarianism."

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said: "There is going to be a summit looking at ways of tackling sectarianism, but the details of it will be announced later in the week."

Anti-sectarian campaign group, Nil by Mouth, has welcomed the move.

Its spokesman Peter McLean said: "Nobody is under any illusion, it is going to take a lot of time. No one intervention is going to make a specific difference over a period of time, a number of initiatives can.

Comedian's plea

"The Scottish Executive, through Mr McConnell, has launched an education programme which looks to address a more fundamental approach. But also Mr McConnell sees the Old Firm clash as a focal point for sectarianism and he wants to address that directly."

He added: "There have been good steps by Strathclyde Police who have gone into the football grounds and arrested people. And I think if that continues, or is stepped up, then I believe a change can happen over a period of time."

Celebrity Rangers fan Andy Cameron condemned sectarianism in Scottish football and told fans that refusing to sing sectarian songs does not mean they support their team any less.

In his autobiography, Wait Till You Hear This, the comedian says: "I've never hidden the fact that I am a Rangers fan. I love Rangers and I'll be a Rangers fans when I die.

"But let me say here and now there is no place in football for sectarianism.

"Sure when I was a youngster I stood on the terracing singing The Sash. But it's just a phase and you should grow out of it.

"Just because you don't sing those songs, it doesn't make you any less of a Rangers or Celtic supporter."

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