Police to warn footballers not to inflame Celtic and Rangers fans

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The Independent Online

A range of new measures designed to end the violence linked to Old Firm matches in Scotland were unveiled yesterday, including the creation of a new football intelligence unit to stamp out sectarian threats to players and managers.

A meeting chaired by the First Minister, Alex Salmond, including ministers, police and representatives of Rangers and Celtic, also floated the idea of matches being rescheduled to limit the potential for trouble with stricter rules on alcohol consumption.

The summit follows last week's ill-tempered Old Firm cup clash in which three players were sent off and seven booked, and the Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, and Rangers' assistant manager, Ally McCoist, angrily confronted each other on the touchline.

Police made 34 arrests at the match and 187 across western Scotland, and recorded 40 reports of domestic violence.

Reading a joint statement, Mr Salmond said: "Football is Scotland's national game and at its best combines pride and passion with a sense of responsibility, respect and discipline. There is absolutely no place in football for those who let the passion become violence, and the pride become bigotry, and we commit to doing all in our power to maintain the good reputation of Scottish football."

Following three hours of discussion in Edinburgh, the parties, which included Celtic's chief executive, Peter Lawwell, and his Rangers counterpart, Martin Bain, agreed an eight-point plan designed to end the sectarian violence which has dogged meetings between the clubs for generations.

In future, police could be sent into the dressing room each season and ahead of big games to remind players, management and coaching staff of their legal responsibilities not to inflame tensions between rival fans. There could also be an expansion in the use of banning orders on troublemakers for football-related violence away from the ground or in a domestic setting.

Mr Salmond said recent threats made against Mr Lennon – he received live ammunition through the post and a hoax parcel bomb – showed it was time to consider the creation of a dedicated football intelligence unit. Officers would also be responsible for policing the internet, which has become a hotbed of sectarian bigotry.

Mr Salmond said alcohol, which is responsible for many of Scotland's social problems, was at the root of much of the trouble. But details of the scope and nature of a future drinks ban remained unclear, with the Glasgow Licensing Board having already raised concerns over its implementation.