Category Archives: Sectarianism

Is Sectarianism Still a Religious Issue in Scotland?

As everyone is well aware, it is Scotland’s two biggest football clubs that are seen as the embodiment of the sectarian divide in this country. The pair represent either side of the split. Rangers and Celtic; Protestantism and Catholicism. This has always been the case and it has come to be accepted that football is the vehicle that carries and expresses the views of these two particular sub-sects of Christianity.

This is how it is and how it always was. Rangers supporters are Protestants and Celtic supports are Catholics. This is why there is a bitter hatred between fans and it is the root cause of any violence or sectarian related crime. Only it isn’t. At least not anymore. And this misunderstanding has to be addressed. In order to tackle the problem of sectarianism in Scottish society, it is important that we understand it. Without knowing exactly what it is, it leaves those attempting to solve the problem at a disadvantage. With everyone believing that this is still a religious problem, the country is already on the back-foot in the fight against it.

In a 2011 census it was revealed that 37% of Scottish people claim that they have no religious affiliations whatsoever; a nine percent increase from 2001. This figure has undoubtedly risen since then, too. This shows that labelling any violence as sectarian related is careless at best. This is now a football problem; not a religious one.

Scotland is becoming and increasingly secular society. Religious identity and association is decreasing every year, yet the violence and rivalry is still being classed as sectarian. Writing in The Guardian in 2011, Steve Bruce described the situation in Scotland as two sides with “equally false religio-ethnic identities”.

What was once a genuine religious matter with a footballing face has transformed into the opposite. The religious aspect is still used by fans from either side as a form of defence or attack. For example, where other football teams tend to chant or sing to wind up the opposition, Celtic and Rangers incorporate facets of their religious history, in this case religious, to use against the other.

The caveat to all of this though is this added layer of tension that makes the Old Firm rivalry one of the very best in world football. Few other matches in football can compete with the passion that carries the fixture. It’s why it remains so popular, despite the overall quality of Scottish football being much lower than it’s European counterparts.

The media in Scotland also has a big role in maintaining the narrative of sectarianism in the country. It is a profitable story for the media to tell. A stabbing with a sectarian motive will sell more papers. People are much more interested in a crime if it is labelled as a sectarian one.

Perhaps this is the reason that Scottish society has yet to fully realise that the issue in Scotland is becoming more of a football one and less of a religious one. This claim is backed up by study after study that has been undertaken in the last decade.

This doesn’t however, make any crimes committed any less serious or any more tolerable. A crime is a crime and should be treated as such. It is clear though that the problem is a sporting one, and labelling it as sectarian is, in many cases, inaccurate.

The truth is that in modern Scottish society, ‘sectarian related offences’ are almost exclusively football related. These offences now carry much more of a sporting rationale than a religious ones and people have to realise this if there is to be any progress in the fight against it.

Sectarianism in Scottish Society

Sectarianism is one of the most problematic and divisive issues currently facing Scotland today. The idea of Protestant against Catholic is as much a part of our nationalistic story as any of the other clichéd stereotypes you care to name. It is an unwanted narrative that has managed to attach itself to Scottish culture; and one that is very hard to scrub Sectarianism is the barrier of bigotry and hatred that divides various religious groups throughout the world. In the Middle East, sectarian violence divides Islam in the form of Sunni against Shia. Recently in Myanmar it has taken the form of Buddhists clashing with Muslims.

In Scotland it comes in the form of Protestant and Catholic. More simplistically though, Scotland’s divide can be broken down even further and explained in a more accurate way as ‘Rangers vs Celtic’. Sectarianism appears to have moved on from a religious issue and into a sporting one in Scotland. Whatever it has become in recent times though, it’s patently clear that it has to be studied addressed.

Currently, it is a topic that’s rarely far from the headlines and through the use of mobile technologies and the internet, videos of sectarian songs and chanting at football stadiums or in public places are readily available for all to see. The advent of the internet has taken the issue out of the football stadiums and into the mainstream spotlight.

It’s such a cultural behemoth in Scotland that it has even been brought to the theatre in recent weeks. Playwright Martin O’Connor, who was himself inspired by secondary school pupils in Glasgow, has used the topic for his latest stage show. The production was part of Glasgow’s Tron Theatre’s week long “football colours allowed” programme as a response to the issue of sectarianism.

The past few months has also seen a rise in anti-sectarianism projects, such as this one by North Ayrshire Table Tennis Club, aimed at tackling the problem and helping to kick it out of society. Many of these initiatives are trying to tackle the problem by addressing it at youth level. These are great instances of the positive work being done to help solve the problem in Scotland.

However, it’s not all positive news. In recent months there has been an investigation into the alleged chanting of sectarian songs by football fans; an incident in which two men were arrested and charged under the Offensive Behaviour at ‘Football and Threatening Communications act’. There has also been a rise in the number of arrests for sectarian related offences. In February, there were 37 arrests made during the Old Firm match, 12 of which were for sectarian related offences.

It’s an issue that still troubles our society and one which, thankfully, is being addressed through some excellent projects at both national and local levels. It is apparent though, when looking at recent incidents, that there is still a long way to go before it can be claimed that there has been any real success in the fight against sectarianism in Scotland.

A pro-active approach is needed in order to help educate people about the issue in order to prevent the next generation growing up harbouring the same mindless hate and bigotry that is causing so many problems today.

Sports Journalist joins our Team

Tom Wilde is a sports journalist that graduated from the University of the West of Scotland in 2014. He regularly contributes to some very popular sports websites and has a keen interest in many sports; football especially.

“As someone with a great love for sport, the issue of sectarianism is one that is of great interest to me as well as others in the field of sports journalism. It’s very divisive and has some very negative effects in this country, which is sad to see.

It’s great to see North Ayrshire Table Tennis taking a stand on the issue and trying to do their part to help solve what is unfortunately still a big problem in Scotland. NATTC has an excellent record of coaching children in the local area and this is where I feel the work should be done to tackle sectarianism. I believe that education is key and this is an area in which NATTC and its coaches excel.

I am very proud to have been asked to help contribute to NATTC’s anti-sectarian project and hope to be able to play my part in what is a very exciting campaign.“ Tom will be contributing to the blog section of the site and will aim to provide engaging content about the issue of sectarianism.

Reading Material

We have got several copies of Divided City & Walk the Walk which are available for any club member to take home and read. Both novels were developed to educate young people about the consequences of sectarianism and are used by secondary schools to develop pupils understanding of the issue.

Divided City – Theresa Breslin

A young man lies bleeding in the street. It could be any street, in any city. But it’s not. It’s Glasgow. And it’s May – the marching season. The Orange Walks have begun. Graham doesn’t want to be involved. He just wants to play football with his new mate, Joe. But when he witnesses a shocking moment of violence, suddenly he and Joe are involved. With Catholics, and with Protestants. With a young Muslim asylum-seeker, and his girlfriend. With all the old rivalries – and fears …A gripping tale about two boys who must find their own answers – and their own way forward – in a world divided by differences.

Walk the Walk – Gowan Calder

During December 2014, literacy tutors and support workers across Scotland will be receivingcopies of the graphic novel Walk The Walk for use with learners who attend literacy support groups.This book was developed by Scottish Book Trust in collaboration with learners and tutors and written by Gowan Calder and illustrated by Jill Calder, with support from the Scottish Government, as one of the 44 projects created to help to tackle sectarianism.  Walk The Walk will not only help develop literacy skills but will also provide an educational opportunity to explore possible solutions, issues and circumstances that surround sectarian behaviour.

Rab McGowan and Robbie Black are firm friends. Old Firm friends, you might say. The two boys, who live at opposite ends of the same street, have been inseparable since primary school. On this street, The Walk, there is a split between the top end and the bottom end and it sometimes feels more like a war zone than a neighbourhood.As Rab’s cousin Kylie gets ready to marry Robbie’s brother Romeo, tempers are flaring and both families think the wedding is a betrayal of their roots. Can Rab and Robbie get the residents of The Walk to put their differences aside for just one day?

Action on Sectarianism Partnership

North Ayrshire Table Tennis Club and Action on Sectarianism have become partners where we will be using their online resources, sharing articles and finding idea’s to use from their website. Chris Main, recently written a blog for their website on our anti sectarianism project where he detailed how and why we are running our project. . You can view the blog here – We have an @AoSScotland twitter feed on all our projects pages and if you would like to keep up to date with the recent happenings, different projects and the work each community group is doing, please follow them.

AoS website will be the destination website for information and resources for tackling sectarianism in Scotland. By working with community groups, councils, organisations, schools, businesses, government agencies and academics, we have reached out to anyone interested in taking action to bring the best of their knowledge and expertise to Action on Sectarianism.

Action on Sectarianism will not tell you what to do, but it will share with you both tried and tested and innovative resources to build your knowledge and confidence to take action. For others, it will support what they are already doing. For the first time through the AoS Network there will be a place for those who are inspired to take action to connect, to virtually come together to share ideas, information and debate all things antisectarianism.


Scottish society is better informed about the causes of sectarianism, the advice and educational tools available and what they can do to affect change.

Children, young people and adults are better informed about the causes of sectarianism and preventative solutions.

Children, young people and adults are better informed about local educational provision, advice and guidance on sectarianism.

The website gives practitioners and activists the opportunity to share the best of resources and current practice through a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), leading to improved practice interventions.

Practitioners and activists are better informed on the latest policy and practice developments relating to sectarianism, leading to more accurate information and advice for children, young people and adults.

To ensure sectarianism is not framed as a purely male, west coast or football related, providing a national platform and resource to help communities and practitioners address the issue locally.

“Sectarianism Shame” By Joshua Griffiths

Sectarianism? What is Sectarianism? Sectarianism is the rivalry between two religious parties – Roman Catholics & Protestants, with one of the main and potentially biggest rivalry between Celtic & Rangers FC fans. Sectarianism has led to numerous serious attacks on football fans and police officers; it has also led to death in some occasions. Through-out the past century, sectarianism has brutally affected the citizens of Glasgow and the west of scotland.

It must be highlighted that Sectarainism can affect anyone at anytime anywhere. On January 16h 2012 at 16:42pm, a 16 year old boy was kicked and punched round the head any body area just shortly after the train left from Glasgow Central travelling to Kilmarnock. The British Transport Police said that a bottle was thrown and was smashed during the incident. In 2004 and 2005, incidents reported to police in Scotland increased by 50% over 18 months. Scottish Goverment statistics showed that 64% of the 726 cases in that 18 month period were motivated by hatred against Catholics and 36% hatred towards Protestants.

Northern Ireland is also known for Sectarian volience. Police forces fired plastic bullets and water cannons at riders in the heart of Belfast after being pelted by missiles for the second successive night in the latest bout of Northern Island’s sporadic sectarian violence.

Bricks, glass bottles & fireworks rained down on riot police when they moved in to try and clear the cities thoroughfair. Police said two officers were injured and eight were hurt the previous night when a crowd threw paint bombs, bottles and masonary at the police. Another time a man atttacked the police with a sword and the police retaliated by firing plasitc bullets at him.

Some observers have argued that we need to stop sectarianism in Glasgow. The Scottish Goverment has published its proposals for legislation to tackle sectarianism related to football by introducing tough new prison terms. The bill aims to stamp out abusive behaviour from football fans wheteher they are watching matches at the stadium, in the pub or commenting online. It would be a maximum of five years in prison. THe offensive behaviour at football and threatening communications bill aims to tackle disorder around football matches and clamp down on internet hate posts.

Sectarianism is still evident in our society because just this year (2015) a young 10 year old Rangers fan lost three teeth and was left with a broken jaw after he was hit with a glass bottle as he travelled to his first old firm game. The attack took place around 12.30pm when a Rangers mini bus travelling to the game was surrounded by Celtic fans hurling abuse at them. The news said “ The door on the minibus was opened and a bottle launched inside. It struck the young boy on the face which lead to his horrific injuries.

In 2009, the Dailymail printed an article stating that a protestant’s wife suffered serious head injuries after she tried to save her catholic husband who was beaten by a gang of fans. After the football, Kevin was on his way home walking down the street when he was assaulted by a gang and was kicked the death. Evelyn, 49, recieved a terrible mass of cuts and bruises to her face and head.

Many deaths are caused by Sectarianism buy I don’t see why people get so emotional about whether their team loses or wins, that they fell the need to go and kill or beat up the opposing teams fans. After hearing and reading about many emotional stories I am strongly against sectarianism because it causes a great amount of grief in cities like Glasgo and it can lead to riots, violence and deaths. If I have children I certainly do not want them growing up with so much hatred towards other religions and people who believe or support something different to me.

Thanks for reading.

Joshua Griffiths (s3 student at St Matthews Academy & member of North Ayrshire TTC)

Smashin’ Sectarianism off the Table

North Ayrshire TTC are currently half way through the 2nd year of their anti – sectarianism project and are raising awareness of the work they are doing in Saltcoats, Ardrossan & Stevenston. From February 1st we will have a dedicated area on our website for our anti-sectarianism work with questionnaires, information and links which will be available for everyone to view and complete. Working alongside the Voluntary Action Fund we have realised how many people have been or are affected with sectarianism and how everyone has a different view on this issue, with some people acknowledging it is a big problem in our society and with others saying its not a problem at all.

We have delivered numerous workshops, classroom based activities and handed out over 200 questionnaires in order to see what members of our club and local school children think of sectarianism in our area. Chris Main recently wrote a blog post for the Action on Sectarianism website which details how and why we are going about our work and how a table tennis club can fight such a prevalent issue. If you would like to read this then visit –

From October 2013, North Ayrshire Table Tennis Club have been working alongside the Voluntary Action Fund on raising the awareness of sectarianism and educating our club members on what problems it causes in our local community. Members of our committee attended a number of training days and workshops to learn of the problems of sectarianism and how to tackle it. We ran classroom based activities, facilitated discussions and handed out questionnaires to our club members & school children involved in table tennis, to get them talking about sectarianism and hearing their views on the subject. We held several successful inter school tournaments and training days where pupils from different schools were playing with and against each other.

We held a project finale table tennis tournament on March 27th in which over 45 pupils from Ardrossan Academy and St Matthews attended. This was a fantastic turnout and included pupils who have just started playing table tennis due this program. At the end of our Stand Up to Sectarianism Project, we found the vast majority of our members have a better understanding of the subject of sectarianism and are aware that there is a underlying problem within our community. Pictures of the finale table tennis event can be viewed