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...in Glasgow bars over fears of violence.


PUB giants Wetherspoons will black out the League Cup old firm clash and employ extra security staff in all nine of their Glasgow bars on February 1st in a bid to reduce the risk of match day violence.


BRITAIN'S biggest pub chain will black out next month’s Old Firm game over fears of violence.


Wetherspoon’s say the League Cup semi-final – live on BBC Scotland two weeks today – will not be shown in their pubs in Glasgow .


And despite the blackout, all nine of the bars will have extra security staff on duty when Celtic and Rangers meet for the first time since April 2012.


Police are visiting pubs across the country to gather intelligence so they can have officers in the right places if violence breaks out.


Senior officers want to know how many pubs are showing the game, what type of customers they attract and if they have ever had trouble before.


Wetherspoon’s spokesman Eddie Gershon said yesterday: “Wetherspoon’s will not be showing the match in any of its Glasgow pubs.


“The decision was taken about a week back.”


“The police have been to the pubs to advise that the game is on and ask what measures the pubs are taking. On the day of the match, door staff will be in place where required.”


Wetherspoon’s, who have more than 75 pubs in Scotland, say area managers will decide if their bars outside Glasgow will show the game.


Police fear the 1.30pm kick-off time for the February 1 game will give fans time to drink before the match and possibly fuel trouble.


They confirmed officers are visiting pubs to interview staff but insisted it was normal practice before a big game.


One area police are targeting is Ayrshire, where there are large numbers of pubs used by both Celtic and Rangers fans.


Superintendent Neil Kerr of Police Scotland’s Ayrshire Division said: “Officers are visiting licensed premises to establish where the game is being shown. We do this for any high-profile events, including past Old Firm matches.”


Pubs have been magnets for violence on previous Old Firm match days. Nine police were attacked and injured at the Rowallan bar in Thornliebank, Glasgow, after Celtic beat Rangers 3-0 in February 2011, and a female officer suffered life-threatening injuries.


Convicted drug smuggler John Healy, 56, and son Jason, 24, were among six men charged over the violence but the case was dropped after police evidence was lost.


There were 280 arrests after the game as trouble flared across Glasgow. Suspects were taken to stations up to 50 miles away because cells in Glasgow were full.


One of the most notorious Old Firm encounters was the “Shame Game” of March 2, 2011.


Three Rangers players were sent off in the Scottish Cup replay, 12 yellow cards were shown and Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Rangers assistant boss Ally McCoist squared up to each other at the end.


Strathclyde Police detained 187 people throughout the day, including 34 at the game, and 40 more suspects were held for domestic abuse offences.


First Minister Alex Salmond held a summit with Rangers and Celtic bosses days later.


And in 2012, as a direct result of the Shame Game, MSPs passed the controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act.


Police then dealt with a record 119 domestic violence cases after an Old Firm game in March 2012.


Donald MacLeod, chairman of the Glasgow Licensing forum, said most Glasgow bars will show the February 1 game despite the Wetherspoon’s decision.


He added: “Pubs are already required to put strict safety measures in place on match days as a condition of their licence.


“This includes providing properly trained and badged stewards


“The vast majority of fans watching Old Firm games in pubs do so peacefully. Only a small minority cause trouble. Crime in pubs and clubs is down and most incidents take place in the street.


“I’d be more concerned about the easy availability of cheap alcohol in off sales before the game, or even the night before.”


Craig Houston of Rangers fans’ group Sons of Struth said the Wetherspoon’s move was “strange” and “could backfire”.


He added: “Normally, when you get trouble after an Old Firm game, it’s late at night – not when the game is being shown in a pub. If they’re really that worried about customers’ safety they would shut the pubs at night, but I don’t see Wetherspoon’s doing that.


“It seems strange they are penalising fans who can’t get a ticket and want to have a pint and enjoy their game.


“If Wetherspoon’s don’t want football in their pubs, fans can decide where they go in future for a drink. It could backfire on them.”



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Disorder fears prompt renewed calls for midweek Old Firm games

Gerry Braiden

Senior reporter

Monday 19 January 2015


FOOTBALL authorities are facing renewed calls to reconsider the timings of Old Firm games as tensions mount ahead of the first clash between the teams in nearly three years.


Celtic and Rangers meet in the semi-final of the League Cup at neutral Hampden Stadium on February 1, renewing a rivalry which has been in abeyance, on the pitch at least, since April 2012.


But amid predictions of and preparations for disorder around the Sunday lunchtime kick-off, campaigners and MSPs have again called on public safety rather than broadcasting schedules to be the priority when the two sides meet.


Senior insiders within Police Scotland have also made the call in recent weeks.


Dave Scott, of the anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth, previously said the period when the clubs were not playing each other regularly could be used to address issues include timings of matches.


He said: "Ideally you want these matches on a Monday or Tuesday night. People have been to work and need to focus on work the following day rather than having the time for power drinking.


"It may not sit the television companies but timing is an issue."


The imminent clash has also sparked fears of a spike in domestic violence around the game. Since the two teams last met, there have been two academic reports highlighting the correlation between the occurrence of certain football matches and increased reports of domestic abuse.


Dr Damien J. Williams, a lecturer in public health sciences at the university of St Andrews, said his recent report confirmed previous speculation concerning the association between Old Firm matches and reports of domestic violence.


The first game between the pair since the creation of Scotland's single police force, it will also be a major test for the controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football Act.

The law was introduced following an Old Firm game in 2011 but the clubs have been kept apart since the following year when the Ibrox side were liquidated and forced to start again in Scottish football's lower leagues.


Mr Scott added: "You don't want to pre-empt disorder and you can see the half empty stadiums. But history paints a pretty depressing picture.


"This will also be a big test for both the Offensive Behaviour Act and Police Scotland. How do they react to the potential for songs to be heard on television, what is the national approach?"


Over the weekend there were reports Police Scotland would be on high alert surrounding the fixture, with estimates of 1,000 extra officers being deployed.


The force would only say the match would be policed "appropriately" but Brian Docherty, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said his members' key concern was the aftermath of the game, adding he was hearing fears of "going back to the dark old days".


It also emerged yesterday that Wetherspoons, the UK's biggest pub chain, would not be screening the game in any of its Glasgow venues over violence fears.


Police Scotland confirmed officers were visiting licensed premises to interview staff over measures in place but said this was normal practice.


SNP MSP Sandra White, a member of the Scottish Parliament's Men's Violence Against Women And Children committee who has been vocal on domestic abuse, said: "Certainly people would be coming from work if it was a weekday match and they wouldn't consume as much alcohol. The timings would possibly be better in that regard and should be considered for future fixtures.


"I'd call for anyone involved to ensure there's no violence. We know from the past that domestic violence does rise in this type of game."


The Scottish Ambulance Service said it had additional resources lined up for the game, adding Old Firm games generated a 20 per cent increase in 999 calls.



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