Scottish soccer leaders hold talks over fan misbehavior

Published Feb. 21, 2019 10:24 a.m. ET

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — Scottish soccer leaders have met with government officials to discuss ways to eradicate misbehavior by fans after a series of incidents at matches this season.

The most recent incident came on Wednesday when Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke said he was the target of sectarian abuse by Rangers fans during his team's loss at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup.

A match official, coach and player have been hit by coins in separate incidents this season, while the Scottish Football Association said there have been cases of abusive and threatening behaviour toward officials and players.

Ian Maxwell, chief executive of the SFA, said he recently met with Scotland's cabinet secretary for justice and its minister for public health "to discuss unacceptable conduct in football and how we can work together to address this." A high-ranking police official and the chief executive of the Scottish Professional Football League, Neil Doncaster, were also present in the talks.

In light of the incident involving Clarke, Maxwell said: "We will seek further discussions ... to maintain the momentum for change."

Clarke, who likened the sectarian abuse to living in the "Dark Ages," spent 30 years in English soccer — as a player and then a coach — after leaving St. Mirren in 1987. He spent 11 years as a player at Chelsea, and was also assistant manager there.

"I wake up every morning and thank Chelsea for coming and taking me away from the west of Scotland because my children don't understand this," he said. "Thankfully when I go down there, my children, my grandchildren don't have to worry about this. So, fantastic to be back in Scotland."


Rangers said in a statement that "everything will be done to eradicate this kind of behavior."

"I only saw the interview when I got home," Rangers manager Steve Gerrard said of Clarke's comments. "I wasn't aware of the interview or how Steve felt. He came into my room after the match and he was pretty normal, we had a beer together, talking about football in general. It never got mentioned.

"But the club have made a statement on it and it's a statement that I support. We don't support any kind of unacceptable behavior from the terraces and that's the way it will always be at Rangers."