For most of this season, Scottish football has been consumed by off-field controversy and fan disorder, which has led to calls for the SFA to finally crack down on the unacceptable behaviour seen in Scottish stadiums.
We have seen coins and bottles being thrown at players and managers, with some supporters even confronting players on the touchlines, and of course, there is also the sectarian singing that has shamed the Scottish game for decades.
Recently, pyrotechnics became the new problem, highlighted in an incident involving Celtic fans at St Mirren when the home goalkeeper, Vaclav Hladky, had to be attended to on the pitch after a missile landed with a loud bang close to him.
There are now calls for clubs to be held accountable for the behaviour of their own fans inside Scotland’s stadiums, with introducing fines, banning orders or partial stadium closures being suggested.
The SFA seem reluctant to do anything substantial, and even politicians seem to not want to get involved in rooting out supporter disorder again after the failed Offensive Behaviour at Football act was repealed by the Scottish parliament.
However, one country that seems to be winning the battle against trouble makers at football is the Netherlands – and the Scottish FA could do well to heed some of their advice and tactics.
Dutch football has implemented strict liability against clubs for some years to combat its own history of hooliganism, and in recent years, politicians in Holland have worked closely with the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB), to help tackle some of the issues now being seen in Scotland.
In 2015, the KNVB, in conjunction with the Dutch government, introduced a new version of the ‘Football Law’, which hands greater powers to the KNVB, and to local mayors to hand banning orders to known trouble makers. The ban is not only to prevent hooligans from the grounds, but they can even ban people from towns where games are taking place.
For example, for the visit of Ajax, Utrecht had to close a stand from where anti-Semitic chants had been heard at their previous home game. The Dutch FA argues that by doing this, you punish the real villains, and it helps to prevent it from happening again.
Anti-Semitic chanting has similarities to the sectarian songs that are heard in Scotland, as socially it’s completely unacceptable, but for some reason, fans think it is harmless to sing these songs for 90 minutes during a game.
Nowadays, partial stadium closures are quite common in the Netherlands. Police say they are seeing the behaviour of fans improving, which is put down to the punishments handed to the clubs, but also because of better intelligence and CCTV cameras.
The SPFL is currently conducting a review of the CCTV systems installed inside all top flight football stadiums in Scotland, and they are pushing for more control over football banning orders.
The main problem in Scotland is the lack of action by the SFA and the Scottish Parliament, who have sat on their hands and allowed this culture of trouble to grow. Until they start taking the problem seriously, nothing will change, and more people will be put of attending games that already struggle to attract crowds.