SFA prepared for long battle against Old Firm trouble

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The Independent Football

Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan yesterday warned it may take a generation to eradicate sectarianism from the Old Firm derby. Regan will today hold a second summit with representatives from Celtic and Rangers, the Scottish government and police to discuss sectarian chanting at the Co-operative Insurance Cup final 10 days ago.

The various parties met at Holyrood earlier this month after an Old Firm Scottish Cup tie at Parkhead witnessed ugly scenes involving players, coaches and fans.

Today's Hampden talks are aimed at preventing a repeat of either episode and Regan has already revealed that derby matches could be played behind closed doors if serious problems with the fixture persist. But he admitted yesterday that the real solution may lie in preventing youngsters being indoctrinated into a culture of hatred in the first place.

Addressing a Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry into football governance at Wembley Stadium, Regan was asked about "that poison, that sickness" of sectarianism by Jim Sheridan, the MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North.

Regan said: "We're actually meeting with the Old Firm, with the police and with members of the Scottish government to discuss what can be done. It can't rely on one body to address it. I think it needs a whole concerted effort on behalf of everybody. It requires the need to start at school level and look at education. It's a big issue, it's one that's been around again for 100 years or more, and we're not going to solve it overnight."

Regan also admitted he faced a long battle to curtail the Old Firm's dominance of Scottish football. "It's not a good thing for the game but Rome wasn't built in a day," he said. "I've been in the post for six months. That's been in place for 100 years and I think it'll take a little bit longer than this financial year for me to change it."

An issue Regan was not prepared to embroil himself in was the current takeover saga at Rangers, but he admitted the SFA would step in were the club forced into administration. He said: "Yes, we should take an interest in these matters but we have delegated day-to-day responsibility to the leagues. We would only get involved if there was a major appeal or a major issue."