Before the days of cable television it was almost impossible to watch Scottish Football in Sweden. As such, my father would listen to all important Celtic games on the radio. He would go into his bedroom, close the door and listen intently to the crackling, yet passionate voices which tried vigorously to transmit scenes of green grass, screaming crowds, twenty-two men, and a ball, to all the people who lacked the good fortune of being at the stadium. I remember one occasion especially well: it was a Saturday in May, 1998; I was twelve years old and stood in the hall. As I peered through my parents bedroom door, I caught my father kissing the radio as it announced Celtic’s winning goal; the goal which stopped their opponents, Rangers, from winning ten Scottish leagues in a row. He was crying, laughing and yelling, all at once. And after the game had finished, he came down stairs, and we celebrated by putting on our favourite Celtic CD. Dancing, while singing classic Celtic songs, we revelled in ‘our’ victory.
The memory of this day is dear to me, along with many other recollections I have of amazing afternoons which were spent singing (and sometimes crying), first with my father and, later also with his friends. Because when cable TV finally did come to my hometown Malmö in 1999, we formed a network. We joined forces with other people, (though mainly white, heterosexual men of working-class backgrounds), who, like us, loved Celtic, and thus wanted to watch them as often as they could. And together we sang the same songs which my father and I had danced to on that aforementioned day: the 9th of May 1998. In fact, he and I still sing many of those songs on a weekly basis, as do hundreds of thousands of other fans.
Yet, some of these songs, as well as others performed by various Scottish clubs, have become increasingly criticised, and in some cases banned, for containing discriminatory, or bigoted ideas and language; an example of this critical shift can be gauged by e.g. the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill, which was passed by the Scottish Parliament on the 14th of December, 2011, and enacted on the 1st of March of the following year. The bill introduces new legislation which criminalizes offensive or threatening behaviour “likely to incite public disorder at certain football matches, and [which] provides for a criminal offence concerning the sending of communications which contain threats of serious violence or which contain threats intended to incite religious hatred” (The Scottish Parliament, 2011; My italics). This law is quite unique for a number of reasons. First, because it is specific to Scotland. Secondly, because it is a national law introduced to tackle the problem of mainly one city: Glasgow, and its famous rivalry between Celtic and Rangers, known as the ‘Old Firm’. Obviously bigoted rivalries exist all over Scotland - all over the world for that matter - but the ‘Old Firm’ is considered one of the most exaggerated rivalries in Europe. What is more, the law was passed soon after the 2011 Scottish cup final, in which two players were sent off, 13 players were given yellow cards, and Celtic’s manager, Neil Lennon pushed Rangers’ assistant manager Ally McCoist. The BBC reports that “Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond held a summit in Edinburgh with representatives from Celtic, Rangers, Scottish football authorities and Strathclyde Police to discuss ways to combat disorder associated with the fixture between Glasgow's main two rival clubs” (BBC, 2011). Scotland’s justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, claims that “the majority of Scots - 91% - support tougher action to tackle the problem [of sectarianism1]” (STV, 2013). However, the law has been met with resistance from different groups of football fans, who argue that the laws infringe on free expression.