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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 April, 2005, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Old Firm 'takes on' sectarianism
Old Firm Alliance launch (from left to right) Martin Bain, Jackie McNamara, Barry Ferguson and Peter Lawwell
The Old Firm Alliance was launched by members of both Glasgow sides
Celtic and Rangers have launched a project to tackle bigotry and sectarianism in the west of Scotland.

The two clubs have ploughed more than 140,000 into their Old Firm Alliance initiative, which was officially launched on Tuesday.

The pilot project aims to educate youngsters and the wider community about the ills of sectarianism through a series of football courses.

Two co-ordinators will work with children in 140 schools across Glasgow.

The community-led programme lasting 10 weeks will focus on building and developing stronger ties between those affected by sectarianism.

It will be delivered by a Rangers and Celtic coach with both coming together in the 11th week to deliver an anti-sectarian message to those on the course.

Both Old Firm clubs should be congratulated for working together to educate young people that sectarianism only engenders prejudice, hatred, suffering and intimidation
Patricia Ferguson
Sports Minister

A number of Old Firm Alliance football centres have also been set up within its Social Inclusion Partnership areas across the city.

The programme also includes festivals, match visits, stadium tours and club development.

Speaking at the launch at the Keppoch Campus in Possilpark, Glasgow, Sports Minister Patricia Ferguson said: "Both Old Firm clubs should be congratulated for working together to educate young people that sectarianism only engenders prejudice, hatred, suffering and intimidation.

'Nation of opportunity'

"The initiative will give thousands of children in schools across Glasgow the chance to learn about how sport can encourage healthy lifestyles, raise self-esteem whilst warning of the dangers of endorsing sectarian behaviours.

"Scotland is a modern, progressive and dynamic nation of opportunity.

"We can make our small nation better still by stamping out once and for all the bigoted behaviours and attitudes that tarnish Scotland's name."

The Old Firm clubs have massive potential to reach kids and we have taken that opportunity via this project to really make a difference to future generations
Martin Bain
Rangers FC

The scheme follows Scotland's first sectarianism summit in Glasgow, chaired by First Minister Jack McConnell in February.

Mr McConnell criticised the Old Firm following an ill-tempered Glasgow derby last November where he described the Ibrox match as a "step back in time" and part of "Scotland's shame".

Rangers chairman David Murray branded his comments "ill-informed and disrespectful" for failing to acknowledge the Old Firm's efforts to counteract bigotry on the terraces and within the community.

'Fantastic initiative'

However, there was a clear consensus on Tuesday at the launch of the Old Firm Alliance where both clubs agreed that they had a great opportunity to make things better for future generations.

Ibrox chief executive Martin Bain said: "The Old Firm clubs have massive potential to reach kids and we have taken that opportunity via this project to really make a difference to future generations."

His counterpart at Parkhead Peter Lawwell added that the project would seek to tackle racism as well as sectarianism.

He said: "Celtic FC is delighted to team up with Rangers in developing this fantastic new initiative for kids across Glasgow."

Hearts are setting up an anti-sectarian working party in an attempt to eradicate the scenes which marred their recent cup tie with Celtic.

A section of Hearts fans booed and jeered during the minute's silence for Pope John Paul II before the Tennent's Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden earlier this month.




SEE ALSO:
Children urged to combat bigotry
22 Mar 05 |  Scotland
'Historic' summit tackles bigotry
14 Feb 05 |  Scotland
'First steps' on end to bigotry
14 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Fans and McConnell tackle bigotry
07 Jan 05 |  Scotland
Team bid to tackle sectarianism
06 Jan 05 |  Scotland


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