Scottish Government
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Joint Action Group on Football

The Joint Action Group on football has met for the final time before the new season delivering wide-ranging recommendations to improve the game.

The JAG has today agreed 40 points which make significant progress from the initial proposals set out at the meeting in March.

In attendance were First Minister Alex Salmond, Strathclyde Police Chief Constable Stephen House, Rangers Chief Operating Officer Ali Russell, Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell, SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan, SFL Chief Executive David Longmuir, and SPL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for Sport Shona Robison and Chief Medical Officer Harry Burns were also present.

Mr Salmond described the meeting as 'extremely productive', as a plan of action to drive forward work to deliver the eight commitments agreed at the recent summit was published.

It was also announced that the JAG will continue to meet over the course of the year as work is progressed on the new recommendations and as the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill goes through the parliamentary process. This will include engagement more formally with supporters to build consensus, seek their views, and consider any proposals they may have going forward to future seasons.

The plans announced today by the JAG include:

  • A National Football Policing Unit will be established, enabling the Scottish Police Service to co-ordinate football intelligence and support post-match investigations. This will be backed by £1.8 million Scottish Government funding
  • That all SFA member clubs agree to adopt a single code of conduct for players, coaches and other officials in Scottish football prior to the end of season 2011/2012
  • All SFA member clubs agree to adopt a single code of conduct for supporters of Scottish football to be implemented prior to the end of the 2011/12 season, including a commitment to impose and enforce appropriate sanctions upon supporters involved in football-related offending
  • A Match Commander protocol for briefing players, coaching staff and others be approved and implemented immediately
  • Working with the Licence Trade to develop new local strategies for promoting responsible drinking and safer communities with retailers prior to key football games
  • The Scottish Government and Licensing Board consider creating additional conditions using the Alcohol etc (Scotland) Act 2010 which will enable Licensing Boards to apply variations to opening hours for some or all licensed premises to restrict the sale of alcohol around matches
  • The Scottish Government to consider introducing legislation which will allow a senior officer to apply to a court requesting the imposition of restrictions on licensed premises within an area where disorder is expected to occur
  • ACPOS to develop good practice guidance in relation to Football Banning Orders (FBOs) prior to the commencement of season 2011/12 with appropriate training of officers
  • As part of a comprehensive review of football related legislation, the Scottish Government should consider amendments to legislation relating to FBOs in order that they are used more effectively and additional provisions will be considered which will extend their use
  • The New Year Old Firm derby match for 2011/2012 will be rescheduled to the evening of Wednesday 28 December. The post-split Old Firm derby match will also be scheduled in consultation with ACPOS, prior to finalisations of the post-split SPL fixture list. The post-split SPL fixture list will include one mid-week fixture round
  • JAG partners will work with the ACPOS Domestic Abuse Working Group, building on initiatives to tackle domestic abuse, including the use of appropriate tools to identify and address football-related domestic abuse

Running in tandem with the above, action to target offensive behaviour in and around football games and threatening behaviour on the internet is being taken forward by a Bill going through the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Government Bill proposes creating two new offences - punishable with a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

After the meeting, the FM said:

"This was a positive and productive meeting. All of the partners here today have made a real commitment to turn words into action and the powerful proposals we have agreed highlight our determination to work together.

"The first time the Joint Action Group came together, Scottish football was in the spotlight for all of the wrong reasons. We have now moved on and we must never find ourselves in that position again.

"The new high profile initiatives we have announced today, such as the National Football Policing Unit, codes of conduct for players and commitments to reschedule key matches will make an important difference.

"But this is only the beginning of the process. We have delivered on the eight point plan before the new season begins. The Joint Action Group will now continue to meet over the course of the year to engage with supporters, and ensure the good work we have started continues into future seasons, so we can rightly take pride in our national game once more."

Stephen House, QPM, Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, said:

"When I asked the First Minister to convene this group back in March it was not because of newspaper headlines about player behaviour or TV footage from an individual match. It was because the levels of drink fuelled violence that we were seeing taking place in our communities in and around Old Firm games had become intolerable.

"All the members of the JAG recognise that football is not to blame for the problems of over consumption of alcohol, violence or offensive behaviour - but we have had the courage to understand that these are issues that have attached themselves to the game. We have recognised that football has a role to play in helping find solutions to, what are, difficult problems.

"The fixture was being used as an excuse by far too many people to get full of drink and cause havoc in our pubs, in our streets and, sadly in our homes. That is why the majority of the measures that we have brought to the table are all designed to tackle these elements - the restriction on access to alcohol, the extension of football banning orders and the establishment of the football policing unit will all have a real impact on violence.

Stewart Regan, Chief Executive of the Scottish FA, said:

"The Scottish FA has been encouraged by the progress made during the Joint Action Group process and the report illustrates the steps that have been taken to ensure the events of last season are not repeated. We have also launched our awareness campaign, Focus on Football, and I believe that sentiment will be echoed not just by our JAG colleagues but also by every football supporter in the country as we look ahead to a new season."

Neil Doncaster, Chief Executive of the SPL, said:

"Football is part of the fabric of Scottish society and all members of the Joint Action Group want to ensure Scottish football is a safe and enjoyable experience for supporters. It is important to recognise the positive influence football can have on our communities and use the power of football to address the wider societal issues which have an impact on our game. The SPL will continue to work with other members to implement the JAG recommendations and ensure the 2011/12 football season is remembered for the right reasons."

Ali Russell, chief operating officer of Rangers FC, said:

"We support measures announced today that will make a difference to tackling anti-social behaviour associated with football. Our club willingly plays its part in addressing wider societal issues such as violence, alcohol and bigotry but these issues cannot be resolved solely by football clubs and we welcome the fact this is recognised by government.

"We are 100 per cent on board with the Government's view that football should reflect the best of Scotland. We must also make every effort to promote the many positives aspects of football. The game has much to be proud of and everyone is looking forward to the new football season being dominated by what matters most to the fans - football."

Peter Lawwell, Chief Executive of Celtic FC, said:

"Celtic Football Club is pleased to continue to play its part in the Joint Action Group. As a Club open to all we remain committed to the Group's objectives and we welcome the opportunity to contribute.

"The JAG report recognises that a number of the issues which have arisen in recent years cannot be put solely down to football. These are issues for society in general and must be considered closely.

"We look forward to phase two of the process, where the Club and our supporters' groups will be involved in the consultation process on the proposed new legislation."

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