Strict liability: Only three SPFL clubs support misbehaviour measure

By Stephen Couse & Kheredine IdessaneBBC Sport Scotland

Just three SPFL clubs are in favour of adopting strict liability to deal with fan misbehaviour, a BBC Sport Scotland survey has discovered.

The measure, which would involve holding clubs liable for the actions of their supporters, has returned to the agenda in recent weeks after a spate of incidents in Scottish stadiums.

However, in a poll of Scotland's 42 senior clubs, only Championship sides Partick Thistle and Queen of the South, and Annan Athletic in League Two, said they would back such a move.

A total of 14 clubs said they were against strict liability, 17 were not willing to comment, and eight did not respond.

What is strict liability?
Strict liability is where clubs can be punished for the conduct of its fans regardless of whether the club itself is to blame. It is used by Uefa for European competitions

How did we reach this point?

Hibernian chief executive Leeann Dempster said "nothing is off the table" in dealing with "unacceptable" conduct after two incidents at the club's Easter Road in March.

First, a spectator threw a glass bottle at Celtic's Scott Sinclair during a 2-0 Scottish Cup quarter-final win for the Scottish champions. Then, six days later, a fan confronted Rangers captain James Tavernier at the side of the pitch during a 1-1 Scottish Premiership draw.

After the second of those, SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said the league would take "any appropriate steps".

Those incidents came after Steve Clarke said he was subjected to sectarian abuse from the "dark ages" during his side's 5-0 Scottish Cup last-16 replay defeat by Rangers in February.

Subsequent to that, Police Scotland investigated reports of sectarian singing at a game between Celtic and Hearts at Tynecastle - as well as coin throwing from Celtic fans - and warned of a rise in "sectarianism and consistently thuggish behaviour" at Scottish football.

And earlier this month, it emerged Police Scotland are to look into reports of sectarian chanting aimed at Rangers manager Steven Gerrard by Aberdeen fans.

'They can't bury their heads in the sand' - what they said

Former Aberdeen director of football Willie Miller

It's shame on the clubs if they don't accept strict liability. If you are licensed to host an event, you should be responsible for what happens at your ground. Whatever sanctions the authorities want to place upon any incident, they should be able to do that. It's a case of taking responsibility and not burying your head in the sand.

It doesn't matter if it's a small minority, it doesn't matter if it's the away fans, it's your responsibility, hosting that event, to make sure there are not the scenes we've had lately in terms of players' safety, racial abuse or sectarian abuse. It's down to that club to make sure that doesn't happen. That would be a big step forward in alienating these idiots from our game.

Hamilton Academical vice-chairman Les Gray

Politicians are not going to let this go away. We're going to have a situation with some kind of tariff system in place for punishment. I don't know how that will work. At what point do we need to punish the fan so that it becomes a real deterrent? For me, if a fan throws a bottle that threatens a life or could give someone brain damage, they should be jailed for 12 months.

Why would we punish a club that's doing everything they can to mitigate a position when one person, because of a societal issue, decides to throw a bottle, a punch or worse? It doesn't work. We watched Fifa and Uefa apply these fines to fans and it doesn't change anything. We have to find other mechanisms to make fans accountable for their actions.

Partick Thistle chief executive Gerry Britton

It's a really difficult situation but I am of the view that we have to be self policing. That's the only real way we are going to make a real impact and that's to change behaviour. Taking people in isolation and putting him through the court, does it set an example? Yes. Does it have a real impact? I think it's been shown it doesn't.

We have to get to the stage where we say to clubs 'look you're going to have to run your ship in the right way and if you don't you are the one that will be held accountable'. I think initially fans should. How realistic that is I'm not sure. The Tartan Army are brilliant for it if anyone is up to anything, they'll be the ones to get them out.

A Scottish Government spokesman

There is a collective need across society to have a zero tolerance approach on offensive behaviour. Our preferred solution has always been that football authorities and clubs proactively shape and deliver a solution that is robust, transparent and contains a strong element of independence. However, we are considering what further action could be taken and we will consider a full range of options.


Partick Thistle, Queen of the South, Annan Athletic


Airdrieonians, Albion Rovers, Alloa Athletic, Arbroath, Clyde, Cowdenbeath, Dumbarton, Elgin City, Hamilton Academical, Morton, Peterhead, St Johnstone, Stenhousemuir, Stranraer


Aberdeen, Ayr United, Berwick Rangers, Brechin City, Dundee, Dunfermline, East Fife, Edinburgh City, Forfar Athletic, Hibernian, Inverness CT, Montrose, Motherwell, Raith Rovers, Ross County, St Mirren, Stirling Albion


Celtic, Dundee United, Falkirk, Hearts, Kilmarnock, Livingston, Queen's Park, Rangers

How does Uefa describe strict liability?

All associations and clubs are liable for the following inappropriate behaviour on the part of their supporters and may be subject to disciplinary measures and directives even if they can prove the absence of any negligence in relation to the organisation of the match:

  • The invasion or attempted invasion of the field of play;
  • The throwing of objects;
  • The lighting of fireworks or any other objects;
  • The use of laser pointers or similar electronic devices;
  • The use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit a provocative message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly provocative messages that are of a political, ideological, religious or offensive nature;
  • Acts of damage;
  • Causing a disturbance during national anthems;
  • Any other lack of order or discipline observed inside or around the stadium.

This season, Rangers were fined 16,000 euros after a supporter ran on the pitch and for the throwing of objects during their Europa League group stage game with Villarreal at Ibrox.

And Hibernian had to pay 8,000 euros following the use of fireworks and the throwing of objects in the away leg of their Europa League qualifier against Asteras Tripolis.

And in previous campaigns, Celtic have been repeatedly fined for a range of offences, including fans running on to the field, chants and banners deemed to be offensive, and the use of pyrotechnics.

Additional reporting by Jordan Elgott and Daldeep Kaur

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