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Comment & Opinion | Sport

Opinion: Facial recognition proposal is a sign of the times for Scottish football

Scottish football fans may soon have to show their face on entry to grounds [Picture: Getty]
Scottish football fans may soon have to show their face to cameras on entry to grounds [Picture: Getty]

A PROPOSAL that would see the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) seek government funding for facial recognition software at grounds across the country has prompted an angry reaction from Celtic fans.

The potential new measures, which will cost an estimated £4million of tax payers’ money if approved, emerged after Tuesday’s meeting between all 42 SPFL clubs at Hampden and are designed to eradicate the recent poor conduct of fans, particularly of travelling supporters.

I carried out my own poll on Twitter to ask followers – the majority of which are Celtic supporters – how they felt about the motion, and the results were as clear as day.

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As you can see, with 1,061 votes, an incredible 94 per cent of participants said they did not agree with it. Many gave reasons why they oppose it and I agree entirely with the most commonly-raised concerns, as below.

Since the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act was launched in 2012 it has been criticised by supporters, not just of Celtic, but almost all clubs in Scotland.

It is widely reported on social media that Celtic fans, us Irish ones who arrive to Glasgow by plane or boat included, are routinely searched by authorities en route to Parkhead, now we may have to put up with this too?

What next? Microchips so you can be scanned before you enter a stadium? Fans outraged by the proposal have a right to voice their anger, as Kevin Graham from the Affiliation of Celtic Supporters Clubs has done.

He said: “Scottish football is safe to go to, it’s certainly not as bad as many other European countries, and this is sending out completely the wrong message to the watching world.

“It paints Scottish football out to be a lawless place that can’t be controlled and that is certainly not the case.

“In a time when fans are already criminalised by the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, this is just another addition at a wholly unnecessary expense that won’t attract fans back to the game.

“There is already a heavy presence of police officers at games who are paid by the clubs to be there and equipped to identify and act on any wrongdoing.”

Celtic FC fans [Picture: Getty]
The proposal is one thing almost all fans of Scottish football can agree on [Picture: Getty]

The SPFL want to spend millions on this scheme, when I’m sure many could find better ways for that money to be spent. Fans across Scotland are already filmed by CCTV at games, and then there is the presence of stewards and police. I really don’t think there is any need for a mug shot too.

I have been traveling to games in Scotland for years and never once have I been arrested or brought any trouble to any ground.

The small minority of people, i.e. the six per cent on my online poll, may ask ‘if you have nothing to hide then what’s the problem?’ but it goes beyond that, it feels like an invasion of privacy when all the large majority of us want to do is watch some football.

Many children and pensioners still attend games and I wouldn’t be surprised if numbers started to drop off if this is enforced. No parent is going to feel comfortable with their child having their mugshot taken and stored, and pensioners will wonder what the world is coming to.

It genuinely feels like the governing bodies are trying to turn away and upset the most important customers in the business – the fans.

Nothing has been agreed or decided as of yet. But this isn’t just something for Celtic supporters to fight, but a topic for fans across the country to debate and, in my opinion, fight against if it does gather further momentum.

Right, rant over.

On the field, Ronny Deila will be delighted with the 8-1 win over Hamilton on Tuesday night and also with the signing of Danish defender Erik Sviatchenko on a four-and-a-half-year deal from FC Midtjylland.

Celtic manager Ronny Deila [Picture: Getty]
Celtic manager Ronny Deila [Picture: Getty]

Dare I say it, but the Celtic manager looks to be getting his ship in order.

The Hoops are now six points clear of Aberdeen at the top of the Scottish Premiership and after a mid-week win like that his eyes will be firmly on the domestic treble.

With Anthony Stokes off on loan to Hibernian, Deila can finally put his own stamp on the squad. Here’s hoping we lose a few other deadwood players this month too.

But although Tuesday’s game was the type of entertainment and thrill we were all looking for, off-field issues are still concerning the fans.

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2 comments on “Opinion: Facial recognition proposal is a sign of the times for Scottish football”

  1. Peter Blythe

    If it makes going to football safer, surely it is a good thing. It's a matter for the Scottish authorities and the Scottish taxpayers. When I travel abroad I accept the rules and procedures of that country, Rachel should do the same.

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    • Andrew Blyth

      Going to football in Scotland is about as safe is you can get, with way over the top health and safety precautions and small armies of police for games like Hamilton vs Aberdeen where there isn't going to be any trouble. All this is going to do is annoy fans and, as Rachel said, invade their privacy. In a time where the Scottish game is dwindling they want to push innocent fans away? It's simply unacceptable, prepare to see more empty seats around grounds up and down the country.

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