Is It Time to Implement Stricter Sanctions for Football Fans at Games?
On December 10th, Celtic FC fans caused an uproar in the media when they set off flares in the middle of a UEFA Europa League match in Turkey, against Fenerbahce. The Celts ultimately drew that match 1-1, sealing their fate as the bottom finisher in Group A and exiting the 2015/16 Europa League without a victory. But while that ending was a disappointment for the exuberant fans who were present at the match, the aftermath of the game is still putting Celtic in a tough spot.
UEFA Ban on the Way?
A mixture of on-field misconduct and unruly fans has resulted in Celtic facing seven infractions with UEFA since 2011. In the past, those infractions have merely led to fines—some of them quite hefty—but never to a more serious form of discipline.
Now, however, soccer pundits are speculating that the Celts could face a UEFA lockout if they can’t present a better-behaved front—both in the stands and on the pitch. Given Celtic’s current spot at the top of the Scottish Premiership, any sanctions could result in the football club being denied entry into the Champions League second qualifying round after this season.
No Lesson Learned
For their part, Celtic fans don’t seem to have learned their lesson following the Fenerbahce match and the serious threats from the UEFA. At a Scottish Cup match on January 10th, in which Celtic faced off against Stranraer, Celtic fans reportedly tossed flares onto the pitch and participated in offensive chants. The Celts won the game 3-0, but the press for the soccer club afterward hardly focused on praising their performance.
In fact, the biggest story following Celtic’s win against Stranraer was about the comments that Stewart Regan—the chief executive of the Scottish FA—made about the growing problem of fan misconduct in Scotland. Celtic, after all, aren’t the only Scottish teams whose fans have been setting off flares at matches this year—even if they’ve taken the most heat for it from the media. Offensive chants have also been more than just an isolated problem.
Regan has a solution, but it’s not one that Scottish soccer fans—or, for that matter, clubs—will like. The FA leader wants tougher sanctions imposed on football clubs whose fans participate in unacceptable behavior. If teams were to face sanctions, that would likely result in more stringent security at soccer stadiums and less tolerance for fans who are being belligerent or breaking rules at games.
Strict Liability: On the Way for Scotland?
In response to the recent rash of misconduct incidents in Scotland, the UEFA has written to the Scottish FA to propose that a new system for handling misconduct be implemented. The system that UEFA have proposed is their own system for dealing with unruly fans, called “Strict Liability.”
Under Strict Liability, clubs would automatically receive sanctions for instances of fan misconduct. Those sanctions can run the range of severity, from fines to stadium closures that would bar fans from being present at games. In the past, Scottish football officials have opted not to adopt the governance of strict liability. However, with things getting out of hand—and, quite frankly, dangerous—at Scottish soccer games, it might be time for drastic measures. Stewart Regan has said that the UEFA’s Strict Liability rules are indeed back on the table for discussion following the latest incidents with Celtic.
What do you think of this situation? Do you believe that Scottish football needs new rules, regulations, and sanctions to provide a safe environment for players to compete and for fans to observe? If so, is Strict Liability the new rule set that can best fill the void? Or can clubs control their own fans, without the need for fines and stadium closures?
At Soccer Box, we want to hear your thoughts on the matter. Find us on social media to choose your side of the Strict Liability debate for Scottish football! You can find us on multiple social platforms including Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr.