An evaluation of Section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 - Research Findings

An Evaluation of the implementation and impact of section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012

Changes in behaviour and atmosphere at matches since the introduction of the act

The survey of football supporters showed some evidence of concern about what supporters see and hear at matches. For example, a slight majority of supporters in 2014 (55%) reported sometimes being offended by things other supporters shout, chant or sing at matches, although 50% also thought that "people go to football matches to let off steam and what they say should not be taken seriously".

The 2014 survey asked people about the things that they were offended by at football (not limited to behaviour that is included under the Act). These findings were broadly in line with the focus of the Act - religion, terrorism, and the glorification of death and injury.

The highest proportion of those surveyed (90%) found singing songs which glorify or celebrate the loss of life or serious injury offensive, while 82% said they found songs in support of terrorist organisations offensive, and 85% said they found songs, chants and shouting about people's religious background or beliefs at football matches offensive.

In terms of actual experience of some of these behaviours at matches, 28% of supporters said they had heard negative reference to a person's religious background during at least one game in the 2013/14 season. This was higher than the proportion that had heard negative reference to a person's country of origin (19%), sexuality (19%), gender (10%) or skin colour (8%).

The reported prevalence of these verbal behaviours was broadly stable between the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons. There was an increase, however, in potentially offensive non-verbal behaviours in 2013/14 - especially letting off flares, throwing of missiles and the displaying of offensive banners.

Perhaps a better measure of long-term changes in behaviour were questions that asked fans to judge the prevalence of certain behaviours in relation to 'previous seasons.' With the sole exception of letting off flares, in both surveys, supporters were likely to view each specific type of behaviour as being less common than in previous seasons, as opposed to being more common.

Fans and stakeholders in the qualitative research mostly held similar views, with fans of Rangers and Celtic in particular noting a marked decline in certain types of offensive behaviour at home games.


Email: Ben Cavanagh

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