ALLIANCE Sports Spokesperson, Councillor Michael Long (Castlereagh) , is meeting the Culture, Arts and Leisure Minster, Angela Smith MP, today to discuss the possibility of introducing the Football Offences Act to Northern Ireland.
Cllr Long said that racist chanting by a small section of supporters at a Boxing Day match demonstrated that there was “a rump of so-called fans who are ruining the game’s reputation”.
Cllr Long stated:
“Under the Football Offences Act, ‘supporters’ who engage in racist or sectarian chanting can be banned from all football grounds for a period of time, or fined. It has worked in England and Wales, but was never introduced here by the former Assembly’s sports minister.
“The IFA has worked hard to try to eliminate racist and sectarian chanting in local football, but there are a few fans who are still ruining it for everyone.
“Introducing the Football Offences Act here would ensure that where serious breaches of the IFA’s code of conduct occurs, that effective action could be taken. It would also allow for a more flexible range of appropriate punishments.
“This would be an effective deterrent to prevent those engaging in sectarian or racist chanting from doing so. No genuine fan would have anything to fear from such legislation, and it would ensure a more family friendly atmosphere at matches.
“A recent report from the Minister’s Department suggested that 71 percent of those fans questioned thought reducing the amount of sectarianism at games would lead to greater attendances. 57 percent believed that reducing racism would improve them, and the Football Offences Act would be one way that could answer this call from the fans themselves.
“I asked the Minister to seriously consider extending the Act to Northern Ireland. We have to send out a clear signal that bigotry of any kind will not be tolerated on the terraces.”
Source for statistics: Dept for Culture Arts and Leisure – http://www.dcalni.gov.uk/ContMan/uploads/res%20fan%20finalreport1.pdf