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.
Do you agree with the proposed facial recognition scheme for football fans in Scotland? Give reason if possible.
— Rachel Lynch (@Rachel_Lynchx) January 19, 2016
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.
@Rachel_Lynchx complete waste of money, gment money better spent eleswhere. Sfa cash better spent on decent cctv and training of stewards
— dvdbib (@dvdbib) January 19, 2016
@Rachel_Lynchx it'll kill the game stone dead.
— Declan McGuinness (@carfenian) January 19, 2016
@Rachel_Lynchx NO! Football fans are not criminals. We decide to spend our hard earned cash on football, we don't expect to be harrassed.
— PM. (@Paulmcc67) January 19, 2016
— Brian C (@brufez82) January 19, 2016
@Rachel_Lynchx Data protection issues abound. Can database be used for non football related matters. Who pays for upkeep & admin. So no!
— T C (@chrisshields10) January 19, 2016
@Rachel_Lynchx Complete waste of time, money, and effort, and does nothing to address the issue[s] to which it is being touted as a solution
— Brett Walder (@theBretwalda) January 20, 2016
@Rachel_Lynchx Utterly pointless.. Scotland is one of the safest places in the world to watch football. There's no need at all for it..
— Chris O'Neill (@oneill_38) January 20, 2016
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.”
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.
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.