Here is the article I had published over at Bella Caledonia a little while ago which I never got round to sticking on here.
“The Scottish Cup Final of 1988 was marred when Margaret Thatcher made an inflammatory gesture….she turned up”.
– Only An Excuse
“Maggie Maggie Get tae ****”
– Hampden 1988
“The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”
– George Orwell
This applies equally well to sport.
Like a lot of football fans, I have always been very worried about the idea of banning certain chants, even if I find them disgusting or not. In Scotland this is tied up with sectarian issues. Political songs are not banned but fans often try to cast a political song of a group of opposition supporters as sectarian and consequently get it banned. This is often done because genuine offence is caused and often just to wind-up the opposition supporters.
At the moment Scottish football is full of controversies, intrigues and allegations of corruption and lies. I have no doubt some of the allegations are true. One website in particular is promising that there is more scandal to come. The referee business is going to rumble on and hopefully some big shake-ups will come as a result. You might say we have learned a thing or two from the Godfather of corruption in football which is FIFA itself. Corruption in football is common throughout the world and one of the myths of our little nation (and not only in terms of football) is that “it doesn’t happen here”. Spain, Germany, Italy and other nations have all recently had problems. Why would such things not be possible in Scotland?
Conversely, one of the good things about all this intrigue in the game is that it all helps to cover up the fact that the football is poor.
But apart from these controversies there is something else going on that is a fairly simple free speech issue. Celtic (the team I support) are trying to ban the fans who made the display against the poppy being put on the Celtic shirt for the upcoming matches. The group who made the display made a statement of which this is part….
“Earlier this year, the Saville Report on Bloody Sunday confirmed that 14 unarmed civilians were murdered in Derry in 1972 by the Paratroop Regiment. They were among hundreds killed by the British Army during the most recent phase of conflict in Ireland. More recently, the British Armed Forces have murdered and maimed many thousands more innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. The poppy remembers not just our grandfathers who fought the Nazis but also those who sank the Belgrano and brutally occupied the streets of Belfast and Basra. While we recognise the right of individuals to remember their dead and that many within the Celtic support will wear the poppy in memory of family and friends lost in WW2 and other conflicts, we cannot accept the imposition of the poppy onto our shirts.”
You can read the full statement here.
In the aftermath of it all (incidentally, using the word “aftermath” makes it sound like a disaster of some sort…it was a banner, nothing more) I was quite surprised to see many people on supposedly leftist sites attacking the group and calling them “thugs” and so on. They are not thugs and are in fact known to do work in the community with refugees and so on (no, I am not a member).
Whether you agree with what the banner said or not, and I would like to say that I have no problem with what they wrote, to ban the people who did it is clearly a form of political censorship. This shouldn’t come as a surprise from a club with John Reid as chairman but why is it acceptable to stop such people from airing their views? How could it possibly be acceptable?
By way of illustrating my point I would like to provide another example. Right in the middle of Poll Tax time, Thatcher made an ill-advised visit to present the Scottish Cup trophy to the winners of the 1988 Scottish Cup final.
The match was between Celtic and Dundee Utd and thousands of supporters of both sets of teams had one of these…
Should this display and song have been banned or is it ok just because most people agreed with it? It was actually a great day with a real unity in the crowd… a singleness of purpose if you will – despite the set-up of one team against another that you always have at sporting events.
It was also spoken about in Prime Minister’s question time with Alex Salmond scoring a couple of points off Thatcher a couple of weeks later in Prime Minister’s Questions…
Q4. Mr. Salmond
To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 16 June.
The Prime Minister
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Is the Prime Minister aware of the findings of last week’s Glasgow Herald opinion poll, which showed that the political effect in Scotland of her visit to the Scottish cup final and her epistle to the Caledonians was to increase Scottish National party support to its highest level for 10 years? Will the Prime Minister demonstrate her extensive knowledge of Scottish affairs by reminding the House of the names of the Moderator of the General Assembly, which she addressed, and the captain of Celtic, to whom she presented the cup?
The Prime Minister
I had a very good day in Scotland. Whatever the Hon. Gentleman tries to say, Scotland’s economy and people are benefiting enormously from the way in which the Government are handling them.
Note that last sentence from Thatcher there. I think the people in the Stadium that day were telling her that they weren’t benefitting. Should they have been denied the opportunity to say it?