Archbishop condemns European ruling on anti-Catholic football songs

Archbishop condemns European ruling on anti-Catholic football songs

By staff writers
2 May 2006

Archbishop condemns European ruling on anti-Catholic football songs

-02/05/06

Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow Mario Conti has criticised European football's governing body, UEFA, for its decision not to fine Rangers fans for anti-Catholic singing during the club's recent Champions League matches against the Spanish club Villareal.

The Universe newspaper reports that despite a damning report from its own observer at the matches, the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) committee examining the case decided that no action would be taken against the Scottish club.

The offending behaviours of Rangers fans included the anti-Catholic chants, insults to the Pope and a traditional song ëBilly Boysí which talks about being "up to our knees in Fenian blood."

The UEFA report concluded that such songs were part of "Scotland's social and historical background."

It declared: "After studying the evidence at hand, as well as the statement of Rangers FC, the Control and Disciplinary Body concedes that the supporters have been singing the 'Billy Boys' for years during national and international matches without either the Scottish football or governmental authorities being able to intervene. The result is that this song is now somewhat tolerated."

"Given this social and historical context UEFA cannot demand an end to behaviour that has been tolerated for years."

Football in Glasgow has for many years been divided between the mainly Protestant club Rangers and the mainly Catholic side Celtic ñ together known as ëthe auld firmí. The history of rivalry and bad blood between them has included employment discrimination.

Archbishop Conti condemned the report and its conclusions saying: "The terms of UEFA's judgement are unhelpful, appearing to give up on Scotland as a hopelessly sectarian society."

The Archbishop said that such a view may "inadvertently give encouragement to the bigots".

In a further twist Gerhard Kapl, the UEFA inspector responsible for drawing up the dossier on the Rangers support's conduct, has appealed against his own organisation's decision.

Mr Kapl had originally recommended that Rangers be fined £25,000 and have one stand closed for the next European match it is involved in as punishment for what he described as "discriminatory abuse" committed by its fans.

Some years ago the radical Christian composer James Macmillan caused a stir by saying that anti-Catholic sectarianism was still alive and kicking in Scotland.

The majority Presbyterian Church of Scotland disputed the ubiquity of this prejudice at the time, but renewed its commitment to combating sectarianism of all kinds.

Extreme right wing groups have exploited prejudice and racism in Glasgow and beyond. But church and civic leaders say that community relations have improved very considerably over the years.

Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow Mario Conti has criticised European football's governing body, UEFA, for its decision not to fine Rangers fans for anti-Catholic singing during the club's recent Champions League matches against the Spanish club Villareal.

The Universe newspaper reports that despite a damning report from its own observer at the matches, the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) committee examining the case decided that no action would be taken against the Scottish club.

The offending behaviours of Rangers fans included the anti-Catholic chants, insults to the Pope and a traditional song 'Billy Boys' which talks about being "up to our knees in Fenian blood."

The UEFA report concluded that such songs were part of "Scotland's social and historical background."

It declared: "After studying the evidence at hand, as well as the statement of Rangers FC, the Control and Disciplinary Body concedes that the supporters have been singing the 'Billy Boys' for years during national and international matches without either the Scottish football or governmental authorities being able to intervene. The result is that this song is now somewhat tolerated."

"Given this social and historical context UEFA cannot demand an end to behaviour that has been tolerated for years."

Football in Glasgow has for many years been divided between the mainly Protestant club Rangers and the mainly Catholic side Celtic - together known as 'the auld firm'. The history of rivalry and bad blood between them has included employment discrimination.

Archbishop Conti condemned the report and its conclusions saying: "The terms of UEFA's judgement are unhelpful, appearing to give up on Scotland as a hopelessly sectarian society."

The Archbishop said that such a view may "inadvertently give encouragement to the bigots".

In a further twist Gerhard Kapl, the UEFA inspector responsible for drawing up the dossier on the Rangers support's conduct, has appealed against his own organisation's decision.

Mr Kapl had originally recommended that Rangers be fined £25,000 and have one stand closed for the next European match it is involved in as punishment for what he described as "discriminatory abuse" committed by its fans.

Some years ago the radical Christian composer James Macmillan caused a stir by saying that anti-Catholic sectarianism was still alive and kicking in Scotland.

The majority Presbyterian Church of Scotland disputed the ubiquity of this prejudice at the time, but renewed its commitment to combating sectarianism of all kinds.

Extreme right wing groups have exploited prejudice and racism in Glasgow and beyond. But church and civic leaders say that community relations have improved very considerably over the years.

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