After a series of incidents when the country’s lowlifes threw objects at footballers (at least one was a Celtic fan) the media have presented you with a simple solution: strict liability. Strict liability punishes the club whenever its supporters misbehave. On occasion, the home club is punished, even when away fans misbehave, and on fewer occasions, the home club is punished when a completely unconnected ‘fan’ transgresses, as happened to Rangers during a European tie decades ago, when an apparent Celtic fan affixed himself to a post like a Leigh Griffiths scarf.
Coins and bottles being thrown is a depressing reality. As a consequence, anyone with half a brain will want action taken, but I have a problem with strict liability – it is action, for actions sake. It does not work.
Uefa impose strict liability on clubs in European competition. Celtic have routinely been fined hundreds of thousands of euros, without any inhibition on offending rates. No one seriously believes that would change with fines in domestic football.
Is anyone suggesting the outcome of a league title should be determined by points deducted because an idiot threw a coin? And if so, who would be the arbitrator of such a decision? How would you stop a Celtic fan again going to Ibrox to cause problems? You would incentivise this behaviour, which is lunacy of the highest order.
Scottish football resists strict liability because, like most simple solutions to complex problems, it does not work anywhere it is practiced.
We know lots about this behaviour. Many women and girls attend Scottish football, but throwing dangerous objects is a male-only practice. It is a manifestation of male violence, a consequence of many complex issues.
For an instant, the thrower of a coin is the alpha male, albeit a very pathetic one, but he gets a ‘hit’. If his act generates significant media coverage, the instant can become a week. If his club is fined, or the reputation of his fellow fans is tarnished, he does not care. He is a free rider.
Football-attending nutcases who are caught are all repentant in the dock, but object throwers are seldom caught, which is why we have a problem. It is a criminal act without personal consequences. All measures which do not connect the offender with the consequences will fail. The logical outcome to all of this will be greater video surveillance – this is what the police will suggest.
The real question is, what is society’s appetite for addressing indiscriminate male violence? If we want to outsource the problem to football clubs, I suggest its’ not very great.