Comment: Budge was right to speak out over fans

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Hearts and their fans have been a bright light in 
Scottish football since the club almost died earlier this year.

The continuing exuberance of the supporters who rallied to save the club and the flair of their young team have helped make the Championship, despite being a second-tier contest, the most exciting in Scottish football.

But some truths still have to be faced when it comes to recent games between Hearts and Celtic.

The behaviour of a small minority of fans, including supporters of both sides, has been an absolute disgrace. Sectarian chanting, widespread vandalism, threats of 
violence and actual violence are a stain on our national game.

Scottish football fans are a hardy bunch and not easily offended. But the vast majority of decent fans have been appalled by the behaviour of a hooligan minority who stubbornly cling to both clubs. What someone visiting a football ground for the first time and witnessing the disorder at this weekend’s game would have made of it does not bear thinking about.

All too often, these problems are effectively ignored, not publicly talked about by the clubs, or effectively dealt with by the police, for fear of inflaming the situation.

But someone has to stand up to the idiots if they are not to be allowed to spoil what should be one of the showpiece occasions of the national sporting calendar.

Ann Budge’s intervention will be welcomed by the vast majority of decent fans. It was crucial, given the recent history of these matches, that she acknowledged that there is fault on both sides. To do otherwise would have resulted only in a pointless blame game.

The only way to tackle this problem is to first acknowledge there are issues on all sides, then to identify the troublemakers and take decisive action, just as Hearts have done by banning for life one of their so-called fans. The only alternative is to let the problem continue to fester.