Gerry Britton: Bumblebee strips in court, strict liability and Scottish Cup dreams

Gerry Britton celebrates a goal against Motherwell in 2003
Gerry Britton celebrates a goal for Partick Thistle in his playing days
Scottish Cup: Partick Thistle v Heart of Midlothian
Venue: Firhill Stadium Date: Monday, 4 March Kick-off: 19:05 GMT
Coverage: Watch on BBC Scotland, BBC Sport Scotland website & app

"It was the day after an Old Firm game and I was in court."

There are few better placed to talk about Scottish football and the law than Gerry Britton.

A former player and manager, he gave up the game after 23 years to focus on a career as a criminal defence lawyer back in 2010.

However, he could not resist the calling of Partick Thistle, the club he is so synonymous with, the club since May he has been the chief executive of.

Britton's experience over the years has seen him represent football fans across the country in a court room, now he does it sitting in a board room.

Here, he talks to BBC Scotland about bumblebee Celtic strips, strict liability, the club he loves and his Scottish Cup dreams.

'The sheriff is a Rangers fan'

The request for Britton to provide interesting stories from his five years as a defence lawyer doesn't go unanswered. Inevitably for the former striker, football features heavily in his tales.

"Nobody messed with this particular judge," began the 48-year-old.

"I went into the cells beforehand and my client had a Celtic top on. I said to him 'You are for it, the sheriff on the bench is a big Rangers fan. You better go back into the cells and get that top switched with someone else'.

"I then go through to the court and I'm waiting on him being brought through. Next thing he comes up with the bumblebee Celtic away top on. I just shook my head."

Even in the murky setting of Airdrie Sheriff Court and the sombre tale of an altercation at a funeral, the beautiful game still made an appearance.

"There was a rammy at a funeral and it started off with 11 accused," said Britton.

"By the end of the first day four or five got off, then basically I was the only one left with a client. Witnesses kept coming in and saying 'he didn't do it, he didn't, he didn't, he didn't, he did' and pointing to my guy.

"The sheriff was hammering me for days. I then went to Albion Rovers at the start of the season and he is now a director there, I got a fright when I walked into the boardroom."

The lure of Firhill, managerial exits and hot winning streaks

Eventually, the calling from Thistle was enough to tempt Britton to hang up his gown and pull on his training gear once more.

He took up the role of director of the club's academy, a position he held until last year when Ian Maxwell departed to become chief executive of the Scottish FA.

"I loved the job," said Britton.

"That gives you a big adrenaline rush, so to take that away, it had to be something pretty big. For me it had to be football and Partick Thistle."

The former Thistle forward's first few months in the job would have proven as challenging as any trial he would have faced in a court room.

Thistle were relegated from the Premiership in a play-off by Livingston on what was Maxwell's last day, while a poor start to life in Scotland's second tier moved the board to sack long-term manager Alan Archibald.

"Alan epitomised everything about Thistle both as a manager and a player. I also had him as a coach at the academy and he gave us fantastic service," said Britton.

"We are not being naive. We understand relationships sometimes run their course and Alan would admit himself it was time to change things, but that didn't make it any easier."

Life is still tough at Firhill. The Jags are currently bottom of the Championship, however, a recent five-game winning streak has helped propel them back into the mix and to within five points of seventh.

Not only that, but they of course have Monday's Scottish Cup quarter-final against Hearts to look forward to.

"When we went on our recent run that was the highlight for me so far. It was great just to see the impact that has on the supporters and even the backroom staff," said Britton.

"The cup run does give us a nice distraction, but we want to use the positivity of this in the remainder of the league campaign.

"For everyone to get this game is so important. With the prospect of a Hampden game and everything goes with it, it's a fantastic opportunity."

Gerry Britton in action for Partick Thistle against Celtic
Gerry Britton in action for Partick Thistle against Celtic

'We need to self-police'

The phrase strict liability is one that is quickly becoming embedded in the lexicon of the Scottish football fan.

As off-the-field incidents continue to mar what has been a thrilling campaign across the league in Scottish football, pressure is mounting for something to be done to stamp out anti-social behaviour, sectarianism and violence across the game.

As a man who has stood in court defending those snared by the much-criticised Offensive Behaviour at Football act - which was repealed a year ago - the answer is simple.

"I saw first-hand how some supporters end up in the dock," he said.

"Was the legislation doing what it was meant to do? I don't think it was. Taking one supporter out and putting them through a court, does it set an example? Yes, but does it make an impact?

"We have to get to the stage where we say to clubs 'Look, you have to run your ship in the right way and if you don't you're going to be held accountable for it'.

"I think initially fans should self-police. The Tartan Army are an example of that, it then passes to the clubs then ultimately it has to be the strict liability option."

Top Stories