Scotland to appoint permanent racism tsar

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The Independent Online

A permanent "racism tsar" is to be appointed to tackle prejudice in and around football grounds in Scotland. The full-time job will involve work with clubs and schools and is being funded by Uefa and the Scottish Football Association (SFA).

Communities minister Margaret Curran said the Scottish Executive had pledged £75,000 to the project over three years. The Newcastle-based charity Show Racism the Red Card will be advertising the post within weeks and the successful candidate will have a wider brief to address the problem of sectarianism in the game.

Mrs Curran said: "This will provide a tremendous boost for this high-profile campaign and enable it to promote anti-racism work with clubs, players, schools and youth groups across Scotland." An SFA spokesman said: "It is evident that across Scotland racist abuse from individuals needs to be tackled. It is still prevalent at large and small grounds."

But the Scottish Conservatives have questioned whether the post will make a difference. A Tory spokesperson said: "Racism and more especially sectarianism is abhorrent in any walk of life. But we would question whether putting public money into this post is really going to change the bigotted attitudes of some fans. It's an area that is more up to the clubs and the SFA to deal with."

Last December, First Minister Jack McConnell launched a plan to target sectarianism and called for "Scotland's secret shame" to be addressed in the courts and at football grounds.

A cross-party report recommended a law to make religious hatred an aggravated offence. The 12-point plan also called on football clubs to take action against fans for sectarian behaviour, including the possibility of life bans from games.

Show Racism the Red Card was founded in 1996 and uses professional footballers as role models to highlight the problem. They include Celtic striker Henrik Larsson and Manchester United stars Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand.