The Ugly Game? The Old Firm, football rivalry and the politics of behaviour

Sunday 1 November, 9.45am until 10.30am, Café Breakfast Banter

Glasgow’s ‘Old Firm’ have the oldest enduring rivalry in club football. Rangers and Celtic emerged as two of the most successful teams in Scotland in the late nineteenth century, and their city rivalry was later intensified by social tensions in the West of Scotland between the Protestant working class and Irish Catholic immigrants, especially after the First World War. Sectarian divisions arguably consolidated each club’s support, ensuring their dominance of Scottish football for most of the 20th century and into the 21st. The Old Firm have thus become emblematic of sectarianism, described as ‘Scotland’s secret shame’, and numerous politicians, church leaders and campaigners have sought to put an end to the offensive songs and chants, from IRA slogans to ‘The Sash’ and the ‘Famine Song’.

Does the Old Firm rivalry still reflect sectarianism in Scottish society, or is ‘football sectarianism’ simply a variation of the normal football rivalry found in other cities across the world? Is abusive behaviour at football matches a harmless ‘safety valve’ for pent up aggression, or an expression of dangerous passions in need of policing? Is there a danger of sanitising football, and ruining the enjoyment of fans in a bid to stifle ultimately meaningless banter?

Speakers
Kieron Brady
equality consultant, Celebrate Identity, Challenge Intolerance; former Republic of Ireland international footballer

Dolan Cummings
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; author, That Existential Leap: a crime story (forthcoming from Zero Books)

Kevin Rooney
politics teacher and head of social science, Queen's School, Bushey; co-author, Who's Afraid Of The Easter Rising?

Chair:
Dr Tim Black
editor, Spiked Review


Produced by
Kevin Rooney politics teacher and head of social science, Queen's School, Bushey; co-author, Who's Afraid Of The Easter Rising?
Dolan Cummings associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; author, That Existential Leap: a crime story (forthcoming from Zero Books)
Recommended readings
Cowardly Rangers turn a blind eye to bigotry

Following Sunday's Old Firm game at Ibrox I find myself with a highly unusual dilemma on my hands, which is this: should a journalist report a supporter for indulging in bigoted or racist chanting?

Graham Spiers, Times Online, 6 October 2009

Amazon withdraws Man U chants CD

Amazon have withdrawn a CD of Manchester United chants from sale on its website because of complaints that some of the lyrics are offensive.

Newsbeat, BBC Radio 1, 4 September 2009

Banning order over Famine song

A Rangers fan has been given two years probation and a football banning order for singing the 'Famine Song'.

BBC News, 16 December 2008

Murray: 'Obsession' is harming football

Sir David Murray believes an 'obsession' with sectarianism and racism is having a detrimental effect on Scottish football, and has called for a focus on the positive aspects of the game.

Martin McMillan, Herald Scotland, 4 November 2008

Defending Rangers from football’s Thought Police

A lifelong supporter of Celtic explains why he’s opposed to the intensified policing of Rangers fans’ chants and behaviour by a gang of moralistic politicians, cops and commentators.

Kevin Rooney, spiked, 27 February 2008

It's Rangers for Me?

There are relatively few serious books about Rangers FC. This is surprising given the current upsurge in sports studies and sports writing. 'It's Rangers For Me?' seeks to fill the gap

Ronnie Esplin and Graham Walker (eds.), Fort Publishing, 22 October 2007

How I rattled the deniers

The venom that greeted my speech on religious prejudice was the work of Scotland's bigoted press.

James MacMillan, Guardian Comment is free, 7 August 2006

No surrender to UEFA bureaucrats

What is UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Body based in Nyon, Switzerland, doing debating the content of Rangers FC's chants?

Dolan Cummings, spiked, 25 April 2006

Festival Buzz

"In a world which is becoming increasingly hostile to non-conformist positions the Battle of Ideas remains the flagship of free thinking."
John Cooper, leading barrister and writer