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Sunday, 22 September, 2002, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Old Firm must act

Ian McLeod deserves a round of applause for his efforts to silence the songs of bigotry at Celtic Park... but he'll forgive me if I stop short of the full standing ovation.

To his credit the chief executive has made some sort of move in the wake of the chants which went up in the BBC live game at Motherwell during the minute's silence.

These shouts, incidentally, came from outwith the stadium where supporters were on their way into Fir Park probably unaware that there was a silent tribute in progress. But that's a plea of mitigation which hardly excuses bigotry.

For decades both Celtic and Rangers have been guilty of applying a slap across the wrists to those of jungle tribalism mentality who attach themselves to their clubs.

This of course is not unaligned to the fact that these same morons have had the turnstiles at Parkhead and Ibrox rattling like machine guns.

In fact the Old Firm have become football giants on the back of bigotry.

It HAS got better. Or if you like, less bad.

Rangers signed Mo Johnston and took a gigantic leap out of the dark ages. Now they have Catholics in their team who bless themselves as they come on the pitch and nobody blinks... although in the case of some old faithfuls in the former enclosure at the dug-out that's probably because they are turning away.

Peter Lovenkrands and Johan Mjallby
Celtic and Rangers are blighted by bigots
And slowly but surely a fair percentage of Old Firm fans are looking at the bigger picture and realising that there has to be more to life than singing songs about three hundred year told battles and potato famines.

But still the clubs won't take that deep breath and go for it.

Does it help, for example, that Rangers chose a new second strip which is orange? And who are they fooling when they claim it to be tangerine?

And will the bampots in the Parkhead support in the next televised game they are winning comfortably start singing; "Are you watching, tangerine scum?" Actually, that would be quite funny.

Celtic have done well in writing to 50,000 season ticket holders telling them to stop chanting IRA songs, but failed at the last hurdle in terms of actually promising to ban those who continue to insist on doing so.

Bigotry is society's cancer. Not just football's.

In fact the late Jock Stein used to insist that the Old Firm was the release of pressure which stopped Glasgow becoming another Belfast. And no-one is saying that if you eliminated the Glasgow clubs from West of Scotland life the insanity of it all would go away.

What happened to Neil Lennon made me fell ashamed to be part of the society of this country. Religious fanaticism has no place in an educated, civilised community.

No-one ever said it was going to be easy. Ian McLeod, the Celtic board of directors and their counterparts at Ibrox have to take on a job which was disgracefully ignored by generations of boardrooms in the east and and south side of the city. In fact these same boardrooms were the working places of men as bigoted as some of the worst supporters.

Money may be the root of all evil but neither does it guarantee that you are not a buffoon.

We need more action on the issue from the clubs and we need it now.

Rangers and Celtic have to do more to crush sectarianism because long ago they must have realised that neither the Pope nor Prince William of Orange is likely to score the winning goal in a cup final.

See also:

17 Sep 02 | Scotland
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