Scottish football must get its house in order – before Holyrood does it for them

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Ian Rutherford/PA Wire.

THERE will, as is always the case, be repercussions for the imbeciles who caused disorder at the Celtic game against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Sunday afternoon.

Video footage of the Moffat Stand, from where a coin was hurled at former Rangers striker and current Kilmarnock player Kris Boyd as he was warming up at the side of the pitch during the first-half, will be studied scrupulously in an attempt to pinpoint and punish the culprit.

Those responsible for setting off smoke canisters, throwing flares and vandalising seats in both the Chadwick and Moffat Stands should also feel apprehensive in the coming days. The chances of them being identified, banned and possibly even having criminal charges taken against them are high.

The idiots who encroached on the field of play after Scott Brown had netted a dramatic last-minute goal that would ultimately send the visitors eight points clear of their city rivals Rangers at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership should be straightforward to find.

Not least the individual who approached Stephen O’Donnell, the Kilmarnock and Scotland right back, and goaded him.

Celtic have, perhaps more than any other club in Britain never mind Scotland, been public in their condemnation of an element among their support who tarnish their well-deserved international reputation with their ill-considered actions and are proactive in their efforts to bring them to book.

After a league game against Motherwell at Fir Park back in 2013 in which £10,000 worth of damage was caused to the stadium and pyrotechnics were set off, they suspended 128 of their fans from their games, both home and away.

In addition, they temporarily relocated 250 supporters who had season tickets for Section 111 of Parkhead, the area which houses ultra group The Green Brigade.

They also closed the safe-standing section for two games in 2017 for “serious incidents of unsafe behaviour” – flares that had been lit in a league game against Hearts in an inadvisable tribute to the Lisbon Lions as well as an illicit banner in a Champions League qualifier with Linfield.

The scenes that greeted Brown’s last-gasp strike were by no means malicious. They were simply a spontaneous reaction to what is sure to be a defining moment in their season. The fans who left their seats were just celebrating a thrilling conclusion to what had been a tense encounter. Nothing wrong with showing some passion.

However, the use of smoke cannisters and flares is highly dangerous and could blind, seriously injure and possibly even kill – as tragically happened at a Wales international against Romania in Cardiff back in 1993 – somebody in the crowd.

Seeing objects being thrown at a substitute and player being confronted on the park was also unsettling. Examples have to be made in order to discourage such actions in future. The chances are they will be.

Yet, the game on Sunday provided further evidence, as if any was needed, that the measures being taken by clubs, the police and the football authorities aren’t acting as a deterrent to those incapable of behaving themselves. They were hardly isolated incidents were they?

The Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle back in October saw Hearts keeper Zdenek Zlamal struck as he went to retrieve the ball from the crowd and Hibernian manager Neil Lennon hit in the head by a coin in his technical area. The referee and his assistants suffered similar fates. Smoke cannisters had been hurled between stands before kick-off.

The month before assistant referee Calum Spence had required medical attention after being struck in the head by a coin as he ran the line in a Livingston game against Rangers at the Tony Macaroni Stadium. And on and on and on it goes.

There is always a reaction to these actions. Arrests are made, bans are doled out scathing statements are issued. But does anything actually change? As we witnessed yesterday, it doesn’t. If anything, it has got even worse. Possibly because those responsible know they can get away with it.

The calls for strict liability – where clubs are punished with financial penalties, with stands being shut, with games being played behind closed doors and even by having points docked regardless of the measures they have taken or prevent unrest before kick-off or punish those who have caused it afterwards – are invariably greeted with wails of derision.

Why should the club pay the price for the actions of one halfwit? Would it really make a difference given the pondlife you are dealing with here if they knew their club would suffer? Has it worked in European competition?

The fact that Celtic have fallen foul of UEFA no fewer than 11 times in seven years and have had to pay fines totalling £160,000 would strongly suggest that it hasn’t been an effective deterrent.

But something more certainly has to be done. The current SPFL regulations are inadequate. In truth, they have been for years. They must be toughened up by those who run our national game. If they don’t do so they run the very real risk of our elected representatives taking matters out of their hands.

A strict liability bill is currently being worked on by SNP MSP James Dornan. Those who opposed the flawed Offensive Behaviour at Football Act and rejoiced when it was repealed last year will be alarmed by that prospect regardless of how well-intentioned the new legislation is. With some justification. Football should certainly be run by football people, not politicians.

But if clubs have it imposed on them they will only have themselves to blame.