Old Firm Stars Will Be Charged with Sectarian Violence If It Happens Again; McCONNELL'S MATCH BLAST - PLAYERS WARNED THEY HAVE TO BEHAVE IN FUTURE CLASHES.. OR ELSE

The Mirror (London, England), November 23, 2004 | Go to article overview

Old Firm Stars Will Be Charged with Sectarian Violence If It Happens Again; McCONNELL'S MATCH BLAST - PLAYERS WARNED THEY HAVE TO BEHAVE IN FUTURE CLASHES.. OR ELSE


Byline: SIOBHAN MCFADYEN

FIRST Minister Jack McConnell yesterday slammed the Old Firm for the shame game which shocked Scotland.

And he warned that Old Firm players and managers could be charged under new laws against sectarian violence if the scenes are repeated.

McConnell was outraged at the behaviour of a number of Celtic and Rangers players, as well the conduct of Hoops manager Martin O'Neill after the Ibrox game descended into chaos.

He blamed both sides of the Old Firm for the mayhem - and the violence which flared up after the game in the streets of Glasgow.

McConnell urged the players not to "step back in time", claiming they incited the violence which led to 18 arrests on Saturday night alone.

He said: "They need to recognise their behaviour can incite the horrible, ugly scenes that were seen in Glasgow on Saturday night. And they need to recognise their behaviour at games - which has been better for the last two or three years - was totally unacceptable on Saturday, and in the future has to be more restrained."

Reports of widespread violence in Glasgow and the west of Scotland in sectarian incidents increased following the game.

The violence followed a stormy match in which two Celtic players, Alan Thompson and Chris Sutton, were sent off.

Parkhead striker Henri Camara and Rangers ace Nacho Novo were also lucky not to see red, while Ibrox players Dado Prso and Shota Arveladze were involved in ugly dust-ups with the Hoops' Neil Lennon and Jackie McNamara.

Rangers player Bob Malcolm was led up the tunnel by police after allegedly making obscene gestures and Celtic manager O'Neill controversially ran on to the pitch to stand in defiance in front of his fans with Lennon.

McConnell went on to say that individuals - even if they are players - could be charged under new laws against sectarian violence in the future.

He added: "Should there be prosecution for violence that clearly had a religious element to it, then clearly that is something the prosecuting authorities would want to look at.

"Let's hope that doesn't happen in Scotland. Our objective is to stop these incidents - not to have the incidents so that we can prosecute them."

And he repeated calls for all connected to the two Glasgow football clubs to unite to end violence.

McConnell continued: "Everybody in the club, players on the pitch, the management teams, those who sit in the boardroom making the decisions, the staff in the grounds - everybody associated with those two clubs has a responsibility to Scotland as a whole for the reputation of our country. …

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