Red Card: Over 70% want to scrap offensive behaviour law in consultation

Public consultation into offensive behaviour at football and threatening communications laws find clear public opposition

A CONSULTATION into the possibility of scrapping the Scottish Government’s controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football Act (OBFA) has found a large majority in favour.

Over 70 per cent of 3248 respondents fully supported scrapping the OBFA as opposed to just 24 per cent who remain in full support of the legislation, which bans ‘offensive behaviour’ including the expression of political beliefs at football matches.

The consultation, the results of which were published by Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly, also showed that over 60 per cent of respondents favoured the abandonment of the Threatening Communications section of the legislation, with just 21 per cent still in favour.

Speaking about the results of the consultation, Kelly said: “The people have had their say. It’s time to scrap the SNP Football Act.  

“The SNP were arrogant to bulldoze this piece of legislation through Holyrood in the first place. Every other party opposed it. Academics, lawyers, football clubs and football fans opposed it, yet the SNP wouldn’t listen and used their then majority in the Scottish Parliament to railroad the Football Act through. 

“Having lost that majority, and faced with clear public support for repeal through the consultation process, it would be incredibly arrogant if the SNP do not now think again. 

“I will take the next steps in the legislative process. The SNP should consider dropping their support for this bad law, and backing my Bill.”

James Kelly MSP and supporters show the OBFA the red card following the publication of consultation results

Repeal the OBFA?

Fully supportive                     2310               71.12 per cent

Partially supportive                70                    2.16 per cent

Neutral                                  15                    0.46 per cent

Partially opposed                   42                    1.26 per cent

Fully opposed                        795                 24. 48 per cent

Unsure                                  16                   0.49 per cent

Repeal Threatening Communications component?

Fully supportive                      2017                62.1 per cent

Partially supportive                    155                4.77 per cent

Neutral                                     105                 3.23 per cent

Partially opposed                         52                  1.6 per cent

Fully opposed                            689                 21.21 per cent

Unsure                                      104                 3.20 per cent

Skipped                                     126                 3.88 per cent

Opinion: Why fans' fight against the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is not about sectarianism

The Scottish Government introduced the OBFA, without the support of any opposition parties, in 2012.

Kelly lodged a private members bill earlier this year to repeal the act.

Attempts to implement the legislation, which opponents claim is nebulous, unenforceable, open to abuse and authoritarian, has seen escalating conflict between police officers and football fans.

The most high profile incident occurred in March 2013, when several hundred Celtic fans were kettled by police in Glasgow’s Gallowgate, leading to 13 arrests.

The Scottish Government maintain that the OBFA legislation is necessary to tackle sectarianism and other anti-social behaviour linked to football and that the public supports this effort. In May 2015, a Panelbase poll found that a majority of Scottish football fans supported the OBFA.

UPDATE: This article was amended on 1 November. The headline was changed to make it clear opposition to the OBFA came from a consultation rather than a poll. A section was also added providing the Scottish Government’s view on the need for the OBFA.

Picture courtesy of Brian Hargadon

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