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SPFL and SNP Government in secrecy row over footie sectarianism dossier

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THE SPFL and Scottish Government have been urged to release a secret document which uncovers the level of sectarianism in Scottish football.

The Herald reports that ministers are withholding nearly two years of data on “unacceptable conduct” in footie grounds – supplied to them by Hampden blazers.

SNP administrators say the information was provided by the SPFL confidentially and publishing it would undermine the football governing body’s trust in the Government.

But anti-bigotry campaigners insist the dossier- gathered from the start of the 2017-18 season - should be released into the public domain.

Nil By Mouth has lodged an appeal with the Scottish Information Commissioner to make the records available after being refused access by the Government under the freedom of information legislation.

And the charity’s head Dave Scott has called for transparency as he blasted the SPFL’s hush-hush stance.

He told the Herald: "Scottish football thinks it is a law unto itself and despite the investment of millions of pounds of public money into the game over recent years the SPFL seems to feel it doesn't have to be publicly accountable.

“Duncan Morrow's report called for football to be transparent in its dealings on this issue and it's clear that the SPFL will go to any lengths to ensure this isn't the case.

"Government and Parliament can't allow the SPFL to call the shots and if the commissioner finds in our favour we will be contacting Holyrood's Health and Sport Committee asking it to undertake an investigation into the report's findings allowing a cross-party group of MSPs to fully question the SPFL in public session."

He added: "For too long the SPFL has operated its own system of 'selfregulation' where no-one is ever held to account and the issue of bigotry is swept under the carpet.

“As a direct result the problem of sectarianism within the game festers with a third of all Scottish Premier League managers speaking out in recent months about repeated instances of sectarian abuse toward them, at games.

"The SPFL cannot be allowed to dodge, deflect and deny its way out of its responsibilities for the problem and we are confident the commissioner will rule publication to be firmly in the public interest."

Scottish football has been plagued by sectarian issues this season, with fans, players, managers and officials all being targeted from the stands.

In February, Kilmarnock boss Steve Clarke hit out after chants of “sad ****** b******” were directed towards him at Ibrox.

Just two months later Aberdeen gaffer Derek McInnes was abused with “sad Orange b******” chants during a Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic.

Labour MSP James Kelly said: "The SPFL and the Scottish Government should be up front and open when it comes to the levels of unacceptable conduct being recorded in football stadiums.

"Without this transparency not only are we unable to view a clear picture of the scale of the problem, but we have little idea of what individual incidents are being classed as such."

Scots Tory MSP Donald Cameron added: "There's no point in having freedom of information laws if data like this is kept secret. It's yet another example of the SNP trying to do government behind closed doors.

"What's also concerning is that such secrecy and obstruction just serves to heighten suspicion about what's being kept under wraps.

"In fact, Scottish football fans are among the best behaved in the world, and the authorities should therefore have nothing to fear from releasing this information."

A Scottish Government official agreed that the information should be released but said their hands were tied.

The spokesperson said: “Our strong preference was, and remains, that the SPFL should make the data publicly available.

“However, the information has been provided to us on the condition that it was in confidence.

"That followed discussions between the Scottish Government, Scottish FA, SPFL, Police Scotland and other stakeholders, where the football authorities agreed to collate data on unacceptable conduct in Scottish football for the first time from the start of the 2017-18 season - but on the condition that it remained confidential."

The SPFL was asked whether they would agree to publish the figures and a spokesperson said: "We absolutely condemn all forms of unacceptable conduct at SPFL matches.

“Our focus is on supporting the extensive work that our clubs and the police do to identify and punish the small minority of individuals who engage in this type of dangerous behaviour."


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If the SNP want it delivered it must be totally against Rangers but if their hands are being tied and the SPFL want to withhold it,it must be against the scum as it will be being withheld on the orders of Liewell.

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If the Scottish government have a copy of any report then they should publish it word for word ,

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Call for government to 'rip up' sectarianism secrecy deal with SPFL

The Scottish government has been urged to "rip up" a secrecy agreement it reached with the SPFL over data on sectarianism in Scottish football.

It emerged on Sunday that almost two years' data had been collated regarding unacceptable behaviour at grounds.

The Scottish government was told it would only be able to view the data if it signed a contract that prohibited it from publishing the information.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has been urged to make the data public.

Nail Doncaster, chief executive of the SPL said the matter would be discussed at the next board meeting.

At Holyrood, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said Mr Yousaf should tear up the contract.

He said: "The football authorities have been collating data for the past two seasons in secret.

"Nobody but ministers and the police has ever seen it, they never will unless something changes.

"Will the cabinet secretary rip up the secrecy agreement and publish today, in full, the contents of the sectarianism database?"

Robust data required

Mr Yousaf explained that the agreement had been signed by his predecessor, Michael Matheson.

He said Mr Matheson had written to the SPFL in 2017 expressing his disappointment over the decision to keep the data from the public.

The letter by Mr Matheson to SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster at the time read: "It's difficult to see how the building of public confidence can be achieved without being open and transparent.

"I'm therefore disappointed that the data will not be publicly available and I hope that you will reconsider this decision."

Mr Yousaf said he spoke to Mr Doncaster on Tuesday morning to outline the government's preference for the data to be made available.

"I strongly agree that we need robust data to understand unacceptable conduct at football and take actions necessary to address it," Mr Yousaf said.

"The data is collated by the football authorities, not the Scottish government.

"It was only provided on the basis that it was, and I quote, 'confidential and is not published'."

He added: "However, our clear and consistent preference has been for this data to be published, therefore I've spoken to SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster today to reiterate this once again and we'll follow up in writing.

"He and the SPFL have confirmed that they are committed to discuss this positively at their next board meeting.

"It's only through open and honest discussion, based on robust evidence, that we can work with all of our partners to tackle the unacceptable conduct by a minority of supporters which unfortunately continues to shame our national game."

Potentially actionable

Responding to Mr McArthur's call for the agreement to be ripped up, Mr Yousaf said it would not be possible.

"It's not in my gift to just rip up an agreement with a stakeholder that could be potentially actionable if I do that," Mr Yousaf said.

"Rather, what I've done this morning is spoken to Neil Doncaster through dialogue and conversation, asked him once again to reconsider the SPFL's objection to that.

"In fairness to Neil Doncaster, he took a very constructive approach to that telephone conversation, has agreed that he'll put that forward to the board at the next board meeting and I hope through that dialogue we get to a place where that data can be very readily published."

Mr McArthur added: "It seems inconceivable that the government would sign up to an arrangement that's effectively gagged it by the SPFL.

"The Scottish government's own independent commission asked for this data to be recorded and published annually to inform a proper public debate.

"Serious conversations about options like strict liability are impossible if the figures are kept secret.

"And that calls into question just how seriously those who have the data are working to lift the curse affecting Scottish football."

He added: "I too would like to hear from Neil Doncaster because the SPFL's response has been to date, quite frankly, pathetic.

"If their response to sectarianism is dependent on secrecy and gagging orders, they don't deserve to be running the game."

Mr Doncaster said: "I had a very positive meeting with Humza Yousaf where he formerly requested that a variety of information be made public.

"We will now discuss this as a board before deciding the best way forward.

"During the conversation, we wholeheartedly agreed on the imperative to do all we can to tackle unacceptable conduct and underlined our keenness to play an active role in the cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament on combating sectarianism in Scottish society when it convenes, we believe, in the summer."


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