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Sectarianism in Glasgow

Sectarianism in Glasgow takes the form of religious and political sectarian rivalry between Roman Catholics and Protestants. It is reinforced by the fierce rivalry between Celtic F.C. and Rangers F.C., the two Old Firm football clubs.[1] Although a 2003 Survey from Glasgow City Council indicated that people clearly believe "sectarianism is still prevalent in Glasgow", members of the public appear divided on the strength of the relationship between football and sectarianism.[1]


  • Origin 1
  • Religion 2
  • Football 3
  • Orangeism vs Irish republicanism 4
  • Counterarguments 5
  • See also 6
  • Footnotes 7


Originally, Scotland was a Roman Catholic country; however, after the Protestant and Scottish Reformations, Scotland adopted Presbyterianism (the Church of Scotland) as its state religion.[2] Due to economic hardship, many Irish Catholic emigrants settled in the east end of Glasgow, leading to increased competition for employment and housing and, in some instances, antagonism and conflict between competing groups.[2] In addition to this, rife religious discrimination and established social networks augmented the tension between Protestants and Catholics.[2]


Deaths and serious assaults have been directly linked to sectarian tensions within the city.[3][4][5] Many of these have occurred either before or after Old Firm football matches. The murder in 1996 of Mark Scott, a Celtic fan, by Jason Campbell resulted in the formation of the anti-sectarianism charity Nil By Mouth.

In June 2003, after the publication of the Scottish Executive's Action Plan on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland,[6] Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 was implemented. This set out the situations when a criminal offence was aggravated by religious prejudice.[7]

In 2004 and 2005, sectarian incidents reported to police in Scotland increased by 50% to 440 over 18 months. Scottish Government statistics showed that 64% of the 726 cases in the period were motivated by hatred against Catholics, and by hatred against Protestants in most of the remaining cases (31%).[8][9]

In the five years before 2011, annually there were between 600 and 700 charges of an offence aggravated by religious prejudice in Scotland.[10]


Sports clubs are a focal point for religious communities, more so for (Irish) Catholics than Protestants.[2] Sectarianism in Glasgow is visible in the rivalry between the supporters of Glasgow's two main football clubs, Celtic and Rangers, collectively known as the Old Firm. One study showed that 74% of Celtic supporters identify themselves as Catholic, whereas only 10% identify as Protestant; for Rangers fans, the figures are 2% and 65%, respectively.[1] At Rangers' Ibrox Stadium, the Union Flag and Ulster banner are often displayed, whilst at Celtic Park, the Irish tricolour prevails.[1] During the late 19th century, many immigrants came to Glasgow from Ireland, of whom around 25% were Protestant and around 75% Roman Catholic. The foundation of Celtic, a club with a distinct Irish Roman Catholic identity, was crucial in the subsequent adoption by Rangers of a Protestant, Unionist identity.[11] From the early 20th century onwards, it is described by prominent Rangers figures that Catholic players were not knowingly signed by the club,[12] nor employed in other prominent roles as an 'unwritten rule'; however, no official document from the club has ever been produced to prove this.[13][14][15] Particularly from the 1970s, Rangers came under increasing media pressure to change their stance,[16] despite several of the club's directors continuing to publicly defend the position.[11]

In 1989, Rangers signed Maurice "Mo" Johnston, "their first major Roman Catholic signing".[17] Johnston was the highest-profile Catholic to sign for the club since the World War I era, although Rangers were actually signing Roman Catholics before Celtic FC were formed.[18][12] Since Johnston's signing, an influx of overseas footballers has contributed to Catholic players becoming common place at Rangers.[19] In 1999 Lorenzo Amoruso became the first Catholic captain of the club.[20]

One Rangers spokesman used the term "90-minute bigot" to explain part of the problem of religious bigotry among supporters and suggested this bigotry should be dealt with first.[21]

While the majority of Celtic fans are Catholic, some of the key figures in the club's history (Jock Stein, Kenny Dalglish, Danny McGrain) have come from a Protestant background.[22]

In recent times, both Old Firm teams have taken measures to combat sectarianism. Working alongside the

  1. ^ a b c d "Sectarianism in Glasgow" (PDF). Glasgow City Council. January 2003. Retrieved 2006-08-24. 
  2. ^ a b c d "History of sectarianism". Nil by Mouth. 
  3. ^ "Sectarian killer who slashed Celtic fan now up for parole". The Scotsman. 9 January 2010. 
  4. ^ "Violent reminder of sectarianism". BBC News. 1999-09-22. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ Carrell, Severin (2006-11-28). "Catholics bear brunt of Scottish sectarian abuse". London: 'The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  9. ^ "Row over religious crime figures". BBC News. 2006-11-27. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b Armstrong, Gary & Giulianotti, Richard (1 Jun 2001). Fear and loathing in world football. Berg Publishers. pp. 25, 26.  
  12. ^ a b Murray, William J. (2000). The Old Firm: Sectarianism, Sport and Society in Scotland. John Donald Publishers. pp. 60,64,65,189.  
  13. ^ Giulianotti, Richard (1999). Football: A Sociology of the Global Game. John Wiley & Sons. p. 18.  
  14. ^ Gallagher, Tom (1987). Glasgow, the Uneasy Peace: Religious Tension in Modern Scotland, 1819-1914. Manchester University Press ND. p. 300.  
  15. ^ Souness, Graeme & Gallacher, Ken (1989). Graeme Souness: A Manager's Diary. Mainstream Publishing. p. 17.  
  16. ^ Archer, Ian (11 October 1976). "Ian Archer says...". The Glasgow Herald. p. 3. They are the only club in the world which insists that every member of the team is of one religion. 
  17. ^ Laing, Allan (11 July 1989). "Ibrox lands double coup with johnston". The Glasgow Herald. p. 1. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  18. ^ Kuper, Simon (2006). Football Against the Enemy. Orion.  
  19. ^ Kuper, Simon (18 March 2012). "Decline and fall of the Old Firm". New Statesmen. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012. In the past 15 years, both clubs have tried to stamp out bigotry, largely for pragmatic reasons. The IRA guff puts off sponsors and when the market in foreign footballers opened up in the 1990s, the old prohibition on signing Catholics became irksome for Rangers. Many of the foreign players who have since come to Glasgow must have struggled to remember whether they were playing for the Protestant team or the Catholic one. 
  20. ^ "Former Old Firm Italians give their take on derby clash". 7 October 2009. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012. I've been Rangers' first Catholic captain 
  21. ^ Kennedy, Doug (2005-02-14). First steps' on end to bigotry"'".  
  22. ^ Wilson, Richard (2012). Inside the Divide: One City, Two Teams... The Old Firm.  
  23. ^ "Who's getting cuffed today?". Sunday Herald. 24 April 2005. 
  24. ^ "Bigotry puzzle for Old Firm".  
  25. ^ "Neil Lennon bomb police probe fifth suspect package". BBC News. 2011-04-26. 
  26. ^ "Annabel Goldie shows racism the red card". Scottish Conservatives. January 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-27. Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party Annabel Goldie MSP described bullets sent to Neil Lennon and a number of Celtic players as “racism and sectarianism”. 
  27. ^ John Kelly: Scotland's Shame is alive and kicking - News -
  28. ^ "Marches may be banned in Glasgow". BBC News. 2005-02-23. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  29. ^ "Review of Marches and Parades in Scotland" (PDF). Scottish Executive. 2005. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  30. ^ "Police chief: 'too many' marches". BBC News. 2009-10-01. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  31. ^ Secularization: In Defence of an Unfashionable Theory - Steve Bruce - Google Boeken
  32. ^ Bruce, Steve (15 February 2005). "Beware myths that tarnish 'sectarian' Scots". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 2007-01-03. Retrieved 2006-08-24. 
  33. ^ Bruce, Steve (2011-04-24). "Scottish sectarianism? Let's lay this myth to rest – Steve Bruce". The Guardian (London). 


See also

Bruce also found that, less than a third of one percent of murders in Scotland over nearly two decades had any sectarian motive- and those that did were the result of football allegiances not religion or ethnicity.[33]

Steve Bruce, who has studied the decline in religious adherence in Western Europe,[31] says surveys comparing people's ideas about sectarianism with their actual day-to-day personal experience show that the perception of sectarianism is much stronger than its occurrence in reality, and that the city's problems with health, education and social exclusion are of much greater daily concern to most Glaswegians.[32]


According to The Review of Marches and Parades in Scotland by Sir John Orr, of the 338 notified processions in Glasgow in 2003 nearly 85% were from Orange organisations (Orr 2005, p. 67).[29] A report into parades in Glasgow from Strathclyde Police in October 2009 highlighted the increased number of common, serious and racially motivated assaults associated with the marches. These included assaults against the police. There was also a rise in arrests for weapons possession, vandalism, breach of the peace and street drinking.[30]

The Orangemen of Glasgow (members of the Cairde na hÉireann and the West Of Scotland Band Alliance, both of which claim to represent Irish republicans in Scotland. These marches are often a source of tension (and are now subject to stricter controls as a result), with each side accusing the other of supporting Northern Ireland-based paramilitary groups such as the Irish Republican Army or Ulster Defence Association.[28]

Orangeism vs Irish republicanism

In 2011, Celtic staff and fans were sent suspected explosive devices and bullets. [25][26] Subsequently, Dr John Kelly of University of Edinburgh suggested that "Recent events have buried the myth that anti-Irish Catholic bigotry no longer exists."[27]

Research, however, suggests that football is unlikely to be the main source of sectarianism in Glasgow. An audit from the Crown Office in 2006 of religiously aggravated crimes in Scotland between January 2004 and June 2005, found that 33% of these were related to football. Given that 57% of religiously aggravated crimes in Scotland happened in Glasgow, at the very most approximately half of religiously aggravated crimes in Glasgow could have been football related in this period.[7]

In August 2003, Rangers launched its 'Pride Over Prejudice' campaign to promote social inclusion, which has urged fans to wear only traditional Rangers colours and avoid offensive songs, banners and salutes. This involved publishing the 'Blue Guide', known as the "Wee Blue Book", which contained a list of acceptable songs and was issued to 50,000 supporters in August 2007.

Both Celtic and Rangers have launched campaigns to stamp out sectarian violence and songs. Celtic's Bhoys Against Bigotry, Rangers' Follow With Pride (previously called Pride Over Prejudice) and the cross-club Sense Over Sectarianism campaigns have attempted to reduce the connection between the Old Firm and sectarianism.[24]


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