THERE is no place in football for thugs whose only aim is to cause trouble. They are not football fans, they are not interested in supporting their club. They are simply criminals who are spoiling for a fight.
Today we report on a new crackdown by Police Scotland targeting people suspected of being ringleaders in violence which erupted before an Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle.
The initiative was part of the first ever Campaign Against Violence Day and saw dozens of officers – including senior police chiefs – hit the streets for a special operation.
Such high-profile action is to be applauded, and even a relatively small number of arrests serve as a valuable reminder that hooliganism in any form will not be tolerated. But it is also important to put this into context.
This is not a problem of 1980s proportions and we have to be careful not to paint it as such. Football grounds have never been safer and the vast majority of families will be able to enjoy the matchday experience without seeing any trouble.
If elements of hooliganism are creeping back into the game then action like yesterday’s operation will hopefully stamp it out before it becomes a significant problem.
The new single force has made a good start, with high-visibility action providing reassurance to the public and a warning to the criminal community. Along with the CAV days, we have already seen the new National Alcohol and Violence Reduction Unit working on the streets of Edinburgh as part of their roving role heading to troublespots across the country.
They can only do so much, however. Anyone convicted from yesterday’s operation should not only face hefty punishment but this must be accompanied with an order banning them from attending future games.
It will take the continuing effort of the police, clubs and fellow supporters to work together to ensure the beautiful game is not tarnished again by unsavoury elements. Hibs and Hearts have among the best supporters in the country – their reputation must not be destroyed by a few rogue thugs.