McArthur asks if SPFL are fit to run football after sectarianism gagging orders

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP today grilled Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf on the Scottish Government’s “misjudged” decision to sign up to gagging agreement with the SPFL in exchange for access to secret data on sectarianism.

The data is only being collected because a Scottish Government-appointed expert recommended it be made public to allow for “genuine debate about the extent of sectarian behaviour and attitudes in football”.

Speaking in the chamber, Liam McArthur said:

“The recommendation of Professor Duncan Morrow couldn’t be clearer. Ministers, football authorities and the police should work together on the monitoring of sectarian incidents. Findings should be, quote, “published annually to allow for a genuine debate about the extent of sectarian behaviour and attitudes in football”.

“The joint Liberal Democrat-Nil By Mouth investigation shows that the government did reach agreement with the SPFL. The football authorities have been collating data for the past 2 seasons - in secret.

“Nobody outside ministers and the police has ever seen it. They never will - unless something changes. Will the minister rip up the secrecy agreement and publish, today, in full, the contents of the sectarianism database?”

He questioned Mr Yousaf further saying:

“What competent government would allow itself to be gagged in this way by the SPFL?

“Serious conversations about options like strict liability are impossible if the figures are kept secret. And that calls into question just how seriously those who have the data are working to lift this curse on Scottish football.

“I would like to hear from Neil Doncaster because the SPFL’s response has, quite frankly, been pathetic. Isn’t it the case that if their response to sectarianism is dependent on secrecy and gagging orders, they don’t deserve to be running the game?”

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